Pay Drechsel, scientist at the Colombo-based International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and co-author of the study, published in Environmental Research Letters in November, says urban and peri-urban agricultural areas worldwide are larger than the total area under rice cultivation in South Asia.
The paper recognises a global trend of food production taking on an increasingly urban flavour, with an estimated 456 million hectares — an area about the size of the European Union — being under cultivation in and around the world’s cities, challenging the rural orientation of most agriculture research and development work.
South and East Asia comprise 49 per cent of urban irrigated croplands and 56 per cent of the non-urban irrigated areas globally. These two regions account for 26 per cent of urban rain-fed croplands and 22 per cent of non-urban rain-fed croplands.
Drechsel says, “The study documents that 70 per cent of households in developing countries are engaged in some kind of farming and food production and challenges the notion that food production, far from being a rural phenomenon, is commonly occurring within cities.”