Side Effects of COVID-19 around the Globe

Eka Yulianti, the urban farmer in action tending to newly planted spinach plants. The Jakarta Post/ Vela Andapita.

COVID-19, the pandemic that halted the world. The world was not prepared for a virus with a force as destructive as we have experienced. The pandemic has been going on for more several months now, and in that time there have been some drastic changes that people around the world have come to adapt to. One of those common side effects has been the spread of growing what you need in what ever space you have available. Urban agriculture has gained a greater importance during this time.

Stay at Home Citizens Evolve into Urban Farmers

In a period of precautionary measures taken at every step to avoid spreading a deadly disease one of the most effective ways in combatting COVID-19 is to simply stay home. In Indonesia, their time at home sprouted farming in ways that very limited on space. There one researcher from the Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI) believes that urban agriculture for their country could very well be a solution to food security (The Jakarta Post, 2020). Urban farming is meant to be a small scale operation however, if you have every other neighbor growing or raising produce and live stock that might just make a big enough change to change a nations demand from depending on the big agricultural industries. Several alternatives for urban agriculture in limited spaces included:

  • Developing an integrated rice-fish farming system
  • Hydroponic rice systems
  • Container planting
  • Vertical planting
See the source image
Farming in Uganda has taken to the skies. CITI I/O/ Nils Adler.

Becoming Independent through the Pandemic

As the surge of COVID-19 cases rise throughout the world it began to strain the world’s food supply. In severe cases a nation may have not been able to supply all of its citizens with the necessary nutrition they need. In Kampala, Uganda’s capitol, the area is highly dependent on exported produce. It is safe to assume that during this time the capitol suffered greatly. The government pushed for its citizens to begin growing what they need. An agricultural researcher David Omoding, believes that through this effort of cultivation in such short time a they were able to yield an estimated 65% of vegetable produce in Kampala alone (Cornell Alliance for Science, 2020). The complete turn around of urban agriculture is a big factor for the residents in the area. It goes to show that there is always more that can be done within the community. The city of Kampala is seeing great success in their urban agriculture that they want to continue this trend even after the pandemic ends. See how Ugandan’s have taken urban agriculture into their own hands in Rooftop Farming: Why Vertical Gardening Is Blooming In Kampala

What has COVID-19 done to Urban Agriculture back home?

As the pandemic continues its toll in the U.S. so have the endeavors of urban farmers. The supply and demand chain of America’s food supply took a hit during this pandemic as any other country, and as seen around the world this nation’s citizens rose to the challenge of food insecurity. It is during times like these in which going back to our roots has made an positive impact. Personally I know this pandemic has enhanced the urban farmer in me. Around this time I usually only have one vegetable garden going, however with the extra time at home and less income I took it upon myself to grow as much as I can. This includes a system of vertical drain tubes I have around my house that houses a variety of veggies/herbs including; lettuce, peas, tomatoes basil, tomatillos. This growth of urban farming is also being back federally, the USDA has announced $3 million in grants for the development of new urban agriculture production projects, (USDA, 2020). The backing of the government during the pandemic is a fruitful sign that urban agriculture can and will make an impact on the world. The only variable at play is the willingness of citizens to get up and get their hands dirty.

References

Urban Farming a Solution to Food Security Issues During A Pandemic. (2020, October 28). Retrieved November 18, 2020 from https://www.thejakartapost.com/paper/2020/10/27/urban-farming-a-solution-to-food-security-issues-during-pandemic.html

Urban Agriculture Thriving in East Africa During COVID-19. (2020, August 3). Retrieved November 18, 2020 from https://allianceforscience.cornell.edu/blog/2020/08/urban-agriculture-thriving-in-east-africa-during-covid-19/

USDA Announces Grants for Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production. (2020, May 6). Retrieved from November 18, 2020 from https://www.fsa.usda.gov/news-room/news-releases/2020/usda-announces-grants-for-urban-agriculture-and-innovative-production

2 thoughts on “Side Effects of COVID-19 around the Globe

  1. The increase of home gardening and urban farming due to Covid-19, either because of food shortages or supplementing food due to lack of income, has certainly been a more positive outcome of this pandemic. I like that you mentioned how many countries and regions are adapting to the small spaces that they have to farm in. This seems to be the common reality of urban agriculture as many urban areas are highly built up, lacking wide open space that are required for the modern industrial agricultural practices used throughout the U.S. The small space farming systems you mentioned like rice-fish farming, hydroponic rice systems, container planting, and vertical planting are all interesting adaptations. I would like to go a little further into each to provide an explanation of them.

    Vertical Planting –
    Vertical farming is a system in which plants are grown in a vertical structure where the planting containers are layered one on top of eachother. This system can be implemented inside or outside. Because of its vertical nature, vertical farming systems do have the ability to save a great deal of space while also generating a great deal of food. Issues relating to this system include the cost and labor to create the physical structure and also the possible need for artificial light as lower layers of plants may not receive adequate light. Here is an article about some of the downsides of vertical farming:
    https://globalecoguy.org/no-vertical-farms-wont-feed-the-world-5313e3e961c0

    Container Planting –
    This farming system uses containers instead of planting directly into the ground. There are many benefits to container gardening, especially in an urban setting as you can avoid any soil contamination and also working in raised beds or containers can be easier labor and more accessible. Containers can also be moveable allowing plants to be transported to better locations from season to season. The UC Master Gardeners have a great article all about container gardening, which includes details about choosing containers, the plants, and possible maintenance.
    UC Master Gardeners article: http://mgsantaclara.ucanr.edu/garden-help/container-gardening/

    Hydroponic Rice Systems –
    Hydroponics is a form of plant growing in which no soil is used, instead plants are grown in water mixed with nutrients. Hydroponics has similar benefits of both vertical and container farming as it often takes up less space and plants can be moved around. In addition, water is often saved in hydroponic systems as the small containers means that there is less evaporation. Similar to vertical planting, hydroponics also has issues relating to costs and maintenance. Using hydroponics for rice farming has not been implemented in many larger farms but in studies and on smaller scales there have been some promising results. This is exciting as rice production consumes a great deal of water and rice is a large staple in many people’s diets around the world.
    Benefits/Issues of Hydroponics: https://ag.umass.edu/greenhouse-floriculture/fact-sheets/hydroponic-systems
    Review of Research on Hydroponic Rice Systems: https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/feasibility-study-of-rice-growth-in-plant-factories-jrr.1000119.php?aid=23453

    Rice-Fish Farming Systems –
    A rice-fish system is a farming practice in which fish and rice are grown at the same time or alternatingly. The benefit to farmers is that they can diversify their income by selling both fish and rice and their consumers enjoy the health benefits of eating both. Fish can also eat weeds and insects that may harm the rice crop. Fish also add nutrients to the water and reduce the need of additional fertilizers. But there are also downsides as rice-fish systems require higher levels of water and fish can also harm the roots of the rice.
    Article – “Culture of Fish in Rice Fields” (Review of Research on Rice-Fish Farming): http://www.fao.org/3/a-a0823e.pdf

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  2. I completely agree with you on the fact that because of the pandemic, people have had to turn to other methods of food production such as urban agriculture. In addition, the emergence of the virus has revealed the extreme fragility of large cities and as the pandemic has increased in severity, it has become known that cities were poorly equipped to deal with the results of a forced lockdown. Large and densely populated cities like Los Angeles are heavily dependent on outside resources for sources of energy, water, and food. As a result, city wide lockdowns and businesses shutting down have led the general public to develop an increasing awareness of the vital importance of the various ecosystem goods and services that allow a city to function and that urban inhabitants benefit from such as food availability.
    At the local level, the lockdown has prevented citizens from moving around the city and disrupted their normal routine, and the shutdown of bars and restaurants have impacted food consumption habits and have led to consumers changing their consumption and eating habits. For example, prior to the start of the pandemic my family would buy fruits and vegetables from various supermarkets such as Costco, Albertsons, Vons, and Ralphs when we would go grocery shopping. However, because a significant number of people have either been furloughed or laid from their jobs they have had to get creative and figure out different ways to provide their family with a source of healthy and nutritious food and not rely on frozen and processed foods. As a result, my family has begun a small urban garden in our backyard and since June have been producing vegetables such as lettuce and tomatoes and various herbs.
    On the economic side of things, when the pandemic first started in mid- March, people began racing to their nearest shopping market to hoard goods especially long lasting foods. As a result, supermarkets began to sell larger amounts of edible goods such as frozen foods, packaged foods, dairy products, and bottled water. However, although the preparation of meals at home can be seen as a coping mechanism to the city wide lockdown, low income, newly unemployed, and homeless people are the most likely to encounter issues associated with food insecurity with limited or uncertain access to enough food. Numerous studies have explored the potential of urban agriculture in terms of food security, diversifying the types of food in a person’s diet, alleviating poverty related issues, serving as a source of employment and income, circulation of resources within a community, and waste management. The issues associated with urban food production falls within the context of edible green infrastructures and embraces the context of ecosystem services.
    Overall, the results of various urban agriculture case studies supports the claim that urban agriculture produces a higher crop yield than traditional forms of agriculture and can possibly relieve some issues associated with food insecurity and is less susceptible to global climate change. Although there a limited number of urban agriculture systems, possibly in the future with a coordinated effort from policymakers, urban planners, researchers, engineers, and urban farmers it would be possible to expand farming activities to allow for the integration into the urban landscape and to move towards the development of a more sustainable food system with safe and affordable fresh products.
    https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/12/12/5012/htm

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