In an international and interdisciplinary research project, partly funded by the European Union, the possibilities were explored of having specialized horticultural production around East Asian cities benefit from urban growth. Anywhere in the world, farmers around cities have to cope with two contradictory trends. The inhabitants of the rapidly expanding cities like Hanoi and Nanjing not only enjoy eating fresh vegetables but also ‘eat up’ some of the most productive farmland where these vegetables are grown for new housing estates and other urban functions. After analysing and comparing the general speed, directions and mechanisms of physical expansion in both cities over the last decade the research team focused on one pilot area in each city. In these pilot studies it became clear that, next to many farmers who were not able to make much money from agriculture and are therefore quite happy to shift to urban jobs, there is an important group of knowledgeable and ambitious market gardeners, who do make a good living out of horticulture. How could urban planners take the skills and ambitions of these people into consideration and cooperate with agricultural planners, while designing and developing urban growth? Several workshops were held and examples from Europe and other parts of the world were discussed with all stakeholders to see how productive open spaces could become an integral part of the new urban areas. For both pilot areas different scenarios were made to make the stakeholders see the possible effect of combining urban interests with those of sustainable, specialised agricultural production that should be attractive for urban residents to encounter on a daily basis. We conclude that this project has made the planners in both cities aware of the advantages and possibilities of working together in the further expansion of Hanoi and Nanjing towards the integration of highly productive green spaces with serious farmers in the further expansion of Hanoi and Nanjing.
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