Asia’s urban population has tripled in size and increased by over one-half a billion people over the last three decades. Three decades from now Asia’s population will have tripled once more, increasing by over one billion people. Most of the new population will reside in the cities and on their fringes (Angel et al., 1993). In developed countries a variety of urban policy measures have been put forward to accommodate natural increase and net in-migration to metropolitan areas (Geyer and Kontuly, 1996). One of these is to slow or stop metropolitan sprawl by confining development to contiguous areas adjoining built-up spaces (Downs, 1994). Containment, of course, necessitates higher internal densities and the eventual diversion of the overflow as growth occurs to other similarly constrained spaces within the larger region. As such, containment is but one formulation of a broader array of approaches for compact development examined in this book. But how well would this approach—containment—fit the very different circumstances of cities in the developing countries of Asia? The consequences of this approach for agriculture in and around these urban regions are the subject of this chapter.
The urban-rural divide has already begun to dissipate in the extended metropolitan regions of Asia (Wang, 1997), as it has in the United States and other developed countries (Clark, 1990). Urban functions now extend into non-metropolitan spaces (Yeh and Li, 1999) and agriculture is now a vital fixture within urban landscapes, especially domestic agriculture in low-income settlements (Yeung, 1993). Both spaces are now more interwoven with global markets than ever before (Gilbert and Gugler, 1992). In Asia there is a critical relationship between agriculture and urbanisation, with flows of goods and services, capital and labour between country and city, and between both of these spaces and distant markets (Bhaduri and Skarstein, 1997). Understanding this dual role—urban/rural and local/global—is essential for establishing efficient and effective policies for the use of agricultural land inside and adjoining metropolitan regions.
This is not an easy task. Domestic agriculture, lodged within the informal sector, provides direct sustenance and barter possibilities for both urban and rural residents.