Sustainable Development Goal 11 (otherwise known as the ‘City Goal’) is: ‘Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.’ There are a myriad of ways to interpret and implement this goal and of course many cities in which to do this, but this particular piece focuses on the City of Johannesburg (COJ) in South Africa.
COJ is a vibrant, bustling city with a complex history and even more fraught future. Home to almost six million inhabitants of diverse backgrounds, challenges and outlooks, the local government finds itself needing to think more strategically about how public goods are used to drive social, economic and ecological goals. Public spaces, a type of public good and part of the urban commons in COJ, have historically been and continue to be sites of contention due segregative policies, competing interests and issues around longer-term urban planning. At the policy level, public spaces appear in a number of key documents but there is scope for further work to be done around defining what they mean in relation to other public activities, especially those relating to the SDGs. Target 11.7, or ‘By 2030, provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities’ explicitly sets out to enhance green and public spaces, with a focus on safety, inclusivity and accessibility.’
In imagining how these enhanced public spaces might look and the types of participatory programmes that might shape the way they are used and perceived, it’s clear that food can play a central or supporting role in many instances. Part of the discussion around food involves urban agriculture, the burgeoning discipline and movement featuring increasingly in conversations about food security, co-created spaces and other forms of development. While urban agriculture implementation is already fairly prolific in COJ, it has not necessarily been fully embedded in the public spaces locale nor in institutional imaginings and processes of how this might unfold (with one or two exceptions). Urban agriculture of course does not take place in a vacuum; rather it is deeply intertwined with all dimensions of the food system. This means that work relating to urban agriculture should apply a systems thinking lens where processes, programmes and stakeholders are carefully considered in relation to each other, as well as applying the principles of equity, equality and democracy to solve for inclusivity.
Based on the policy landscape analysis of both public spaces and urban agriculture and the contextual understanding that both these facets of public life are currently neither optimised nor sufficiently linked, Jozi Luhlaza (meaning Green Johannesburg in Zulu) works at the intersection of public spaces and urban agriculture, seeking to highlight cases of Best Practice, encouraging shared knowledge, co-developing microcosms of activity all around the City and building institutional-public capacity to take these programmes forward.