Food, farmers, and the city: Conflicting practices and discourses of urban agriculture in Hanoi

Authors: Thi-Thanh-Hiên PHAM*, Université du Québec à Montréal, Sarah Turner, McGill University
Topics: Urban Geography, Food Systems, Asia
Keywords: Food garden, food safety, urban planing, Asia
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 45
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Food safety is among the most important ongoing concerns for urban residents in Vietnam’s large cities. Agro-chemical contamination of local fruit and vegetables and distrust of food and chemical products originating from neighbouring China are daily discussion topics. Home vegetable gardens are thus gaining popularity in Vietnamese cities as a means to access safe food. Yet urban agriculture studies in Vietnam and in the Global South in general, reveal knowledge gaps concerning spatial variations of food gardens across cityscapes, gardener motivations, and possible tensions with urban regulations. In this paper we focus on vegetable gardens on urban-designated land in the rapidly urbanizing periphery of Hanoi. Fieldwork, including interviews with resident gardeners and officials and garden mapping, was conducted in six wards with different degrees of urban density. We find that rapid changes in the city’s peripheral urban form are providing unanticipated opportunities for residents committed to urban agriculture, while gardener motivations focus predominantly on health-related benefits and food safety concerns, contrasting with key motivations found elsewhere in the Global South. However, this practice is not always tolerated by local Hanoi authorities due to tight state control, and is labelled a hindrance to urban civility, modernity, and ironically, even ‘greenness’. Hanoi’s urban agriculture faces a precarious future, raising important questions regarding how residents can sustain access to safe food.

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