May 30, 2014

Even A Little Bit Goes a Long Way: The Role of Green Spaces in Resilient Cities


By Eva Fillion, EcoAgriculture Partners 

I decided to leave the air-conditioned office this afternoon to eat my lunch outside in a nearby park.  Even though the air was heavy with humidity and hazy heat, I found the park packed with people on their own lunch breaks.  The scene reinforced the fact that many of us appreciate green spaces and seek them out in our dense urban environment. But, especially in cities more susceptible to climate change and whose economies depend more upon the land than here in Washington DC, what services beyond aesthetic and recreational value can these spaces provide?

A case study presented by Hamidou Baguian of Burkina Faso at last year’s ICLEI Resilient Cities Congress (the 2014 edition is currently taking place in Bonn) serves as a fitting answer to this question.  The study, featured in the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative’s latest report on integrated city regions, hits upon an important way that cities serve as multifunctional landscapes and focuses on the rapidly-growing city of Bobo-Dioulasso where the effects of climate change are apparent and hard-hitting.  The city, which relies heavily on agriculture, is predicted to suffer from increasing temperatures and unpredictable rainfall with devastating effects on the growing season.  Climate-related changes in Bobo-Dioulasso also include more frequent and more severe storms and flooding which will further exacerbate the already struggling economy and infrastructure.

In an attempt to mitigate these effects, local and municipal governments in Bobo-Dioulasso have teamed up with local communities to preserve greenways in the city and border zones that serve as “green lungs,” providing ecosystem services (such as shade and edible fruits) as well as opportunities for agriculture and recreation.  With the support of various levels of government Bobo-Dioulasso is linking agriculture and ecosystem management to serve the multiple purposes of conservation, economic development and improvements in food security.  Our green spaces in DC may look very different from those in Bobo-Dioulasso, but the existence of such spaces all around the world are key to developing resilient, sustainable cities.

Learn about urban areas worldwide that are taking the step towards resilience at the Resilient Cities Conference and ECOSOC Integration Segment in May 2014.


Photo:  Guillaume Colin & Pauline Penot on Flickr

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1 Comment

  • Peta Jones
    May 31, 2014 at 4:04am

    To what extent is this linked to the urban farming movement ? Also, to what extent are ARCHITECTS taking on board the need for apartment blocks to grow their own food and thus bring about many good environmental effects in cities. The technology for doing this has been available for decades, but in expanding cities (such as Delhi, for instance), all one sees is monolithic blocks for housing people and not plants and not facilities. The incorporation of some means of growing food plants would recycle many wastes, including water, in situ, and the incorporation of basic facilities such as offices, markets, shops, clinics, would reduce the need for the transport of people. The formation of cities came about as a way of saving on transport, but one has to wonder now if the whole idea of cities was not misconceived.