At a time when urban areas are plagued by high pollution, extreme natural disasters, a bustling metropolis in South Korea is making amends. The capital city of Seoul is challenging the popular opinion of urban spaces being unhealthy.

It all started in 2012 when the city government launched their first scheme on urban farming with the aim to make the city’s residents and environment healthy. Since then, the city has come a long way with the government leaving no stone unturned to encourage the citizens to take up urban farming actively by:

  • Helping secure patches of urban land for farming
  • Providing relevant training
  • Organizing exchange programs with rural areas
  • Setting up farm support centers for the citizens

With 10 million residents Seoul is a highly dense city, but that has not hindered the growing popularity of urban gardens, as not just horizontal but vertical gardens on walls and rooftops of buildings have become an accepted farming practice.

With social and ecological benefits, urban farming has also proved to be empowering both economically and health-wise. Encouraging local production and distribution, the practice has helped create employment opportunities and led to a healthy population. A strong sense of community has been created with people collectively engaging in farming activities. Speaking about the urban farming project, Lee Byung-hun, a city official in charge of the project said, “We refer to these participating groups as urban farming communities. The main focus of these projects is not supplying food; it’s about the social experience the urban farms can bring to residents. We’re also providing hands-on gardening experience and environmental education to children at urban farms set up next to kindergartens.”

Ecologically speaking, the gardens are helping increase green cover in the city, bringing down carbon emissions and air pollution. With much scope for innovation, communities are looking to introduce rainwater harvesting and solar power in their farming initiatives.

Since 2012, the urban farms in Seoul have seen a good deal of progress. In October 2020, the city government announced a scheme to further increase land under urban farms by adding another 40 acres to its existing 202 acres of urban farms by making an investment of close to US$216 million until the year 2024.

Also read: Seoul unveils plan to create 1 million urban farmers