Design Principles


An important aspect of urban social agriculture is that each project is highly context dependent. Who is farming and why? What’s the size? How are costs covered? Whose land is it? How much sunlight reaches the site? What happens to the harvest? Are people farming to support their livelihood, to connect with nature, learn skills to become more employable, connect with their neighbours, or other reasons? These and many other factors: location, size, security and ownership of the land, availability of water, soil health, sunlight, wind and rain, the density, demographics and socio-economic profile of the surrounding community, regulatory and legal frameworks, individual and institutional support levels, mechanisms and motivations, and many others vary widely and add to the challenges of comparing one project to another and for one project to learn from the others. And visions of scaling up the number of such projects are clouded by the unsuitability of templates, models, frameworks and other standardisations to assist in the face of such complexity.

Yet, each project does have some common activities: growing and harvesting food, planning, recruiting and retaining participants, maintaining the farm site, and running programmes of some sort – from events to workshops to farm stalls and much more. Based on the experience of the SAUFF Trust, reviews of available research and engagement with academics and farmers alike, the potential existence a set of common elements shared by all urban social agriculture projects was identified.

In 2018 the Global Risk Governance Programme at the University of Cape Town funded support for more formal research by the SA Urban Food & Farming Trust in the development of a set of design principles and indicators for social urban agriculture projects, applicable in any urban context from under-developed nations of the global South to the developed nations of the global North. Pilot applications of the design principles and indicators are underway. These principles and indicators allow for a more effective structuring of social urban farming projects, programmes and practices, clearly indicate the causal links between these activities and their outcomes or impacts, contextualise these aspects within the Sustainable Development Goals, and identify the role of different stakeholders in making this happen. Relevant across contexts and geographies, these design principles are intended to help bring scale to social urban farming across the cities of the global South and beyond.

For more information on this project, contact Kurt Ackermann (