Urban Farming in Helsinki and in the Context of Developing Countries

By: Ulpu Kojo

Urban farming movement that is thousands of years old is now extremely topical in Helsinki and as well as in all big cities all around the world. The manifestations of the urban farming are versatile. We can see urban farming on window sills, in balconies, in yards, in pot gardens, in cultivation bins on yards of the block of flats or on idle lands, which are found in the city area. Urban faming is traditional operation, which supplements the agriculture of the countryside. It is a globally wide phenomenon. It is practiced by more than 800 million people and it is estimated that 15-20 per cent of the food of the world is produced in towns (Kaupunkiviljely 2012). A Finnish environment organization called Dodo ry (registered association) promotes and is responsible of the urban farming in the three biggest cities in Finland: Helsinki, Turku and Tampere. Dodo focuses in the development of areas in Kalasamata, Keski-Pasila (Kääntöpyörä), Vallila, Viikki and Teurastamo (located near Sörnäinen) in Helsinki at the moment. There are some differences in cultivar, cultivation and also use of land in those urban farming places of Dodo. Those are due to different reasons such as site-specific characteristics. Dodo gives versatile instructions to the urban farming of the different scales to all interested citizens in Helsinki. For example, for an urban area certain cultivation varieties are suitable.

The operating principle of Dodo is described on their web page:

”We urban farmers of Dodo hope that the urban farming possibilities for all city residents would make the cities more comfortable, inhabitant kinder, coal freer and less oil dependent. We hope that every citizen could have an experience of how and where the food grows. We are looking for new ways to produce food in the city: in roof gardens, in edible parks, barrens and on asphalt fields. Urban farming is a way to take a stand on the state of the environment directly in a concrete operation to us.” (Kaupunkiviljely 2012).

Many matters are among themselves in the constant interaction in big systems such as cities or urban farming action in cities all over the world. There are many different stakeholders who are affected by the development of the urban farming system (movement). Those stakeholders are Dodo farmers, individual farmers, citizens, farmers in rural area near Helsinki and in Finland and the City of Helsinki. Urban farming movement, which is growing and expanding affects to the City of Helsinki by many ways. It can also affects to the dominating objectives of the future regarding urban planning, building planning, different social communities in the cities and the formal way of urban living.

Urban farming activities have being supported in Helsinki by many ways. First, Dodo is a really active organization, which has been developing its operation continuously. Second, The City of Helsinki promotes urban farming. The city commissioners of Helsinki have founded the group of the urban farming, which inspires inhabitants to become urban farmers. The objective of the group is that green roofs are built on the town, kitchen gardens and fruit trees are planted to the yards of blocks of flats. Furthermore, it hopes that the citizens will cultivate on the balconies. It wants to have more allotments, kitchen gardens and summer huts along good communications to the area of the city. The urban farming group of the council has been working in cooperation with Dodo ry. The Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment of the Uusimaa Province in Finland has even awarded the 2012 Uusimaa environmental prize to the eco-support activity developed and coordinated by the City of Helsinki. City of Helsinki launched an eco-support activity in 2006. Eco-support has rapidly developed into an important means to promote environmental awareness and responsibility. Eco-support relies on eco-supporters, who are City workers trained to guide and inspire their colleagues to act in environmentally friendly ways. Helsinki’s eco-support concept has proved very successful, and the concept has been copied by many other cities and organizations. (Helsingin kaupunki 2012).

Urban farming organized by Dodo is able to affect the town dwellers’ life and satisfaction in Helsinki and in Finland. Stakeholders get excited by the matter and appreciate it like Ville Relander, the project manager of Food Culture Strategy in Helsinki who has supported Dodo’s action in Teurastamo, commented the project in this way: “Dodo’s urban farmers are pioneers of the fine business and we are enthusiastic from the fact that we can support the development of urban farming and near food”. (Kaupunkiviljely 2012).

The Urban farming areas organized by Dodo has become so popular during the last few
years in Helsinki. There are long queues for getting own place from there. However, the new plantations are established and earlier ones are extended every year. You will find additional information about Dodo in the Internet. If you want to have additional information about how to join in urban faming projects of Dodo you can get it by contacting urban farming coordinator Joel Rosenberg, kaupunkiviljelijat@dodo.org, tel. +358 (0) 46 532 9526. You can also get more exact information about the urban farming projects, which takes place in different cities in Finland from him. There are many properties in the urban farming, which are related to the sustainable culture such as citizens can enjoy a sense of belonging. Urban farming cannot be used to solve all the big global problems of the food production such as effect production, fertilization, weed poisons and long transport distances. It’s more like a hobby and lifestyle. But however, it is a step to right direction. In Finland, we have a saying; “Big currents increase from small brooks”. Urban farming increases the community between the inhabitants, improves the satisfaction of the city and creates the possibility to produce own local food. It can start to mean better quality of food and slower or even happier lifestyle for citizens. Citizens of all ages could probably start to have a stronger connection to the nature. If individuals started to look at their life with new eyes by new ways urban lifestyle could become more sustainable as a whole in the future. Urban farming can change the values, ideologies and behavior of the people.

The urban farming operation is so on a good model in Helsinki. Unfortunately, many cities of developing countries have not as a good situation as City of Helsinki has. There are a lot of bigger problems such as famine, lack of the public health service, pollution problems, floods, corruption and also lack of political will. Often official urban planning has not been drawn up at all. The land ownership matters and use matters are complex. Metropolitan cities of Africa have increased over hundred year old plan from colonialist time. The quality of infrastructure is poor and not working properly. The cities are often crowded dirty labyrinths. At the same time, local people are moving to the towns from the rural areas. The reducing to a slum and the poverty of the towns are currently beginning to be bigger problems than before in many big cities of the world. Many metropolitan citizens are suffering of problems such as lack of money and lack of food in developing countries. Urban farming could be an important solution. This is because it can guarantee a regular and more versatile diet from each one of them to the poorest people of cities. It’s also a pro-environmental way to product food. Urban farming could guarantee a regular and more versatile diet to the poorest people of towns. Why is it so difficult to make it happen? For the present, the solution has not been found.

Perhaps the model to the butter titmice takes for example from Finland where the urban planning has been made to work. Who is able to influence those movements in the developing countries? At least, different development co-operation actors could start to do projects to promote urban farming and the idea of green cities around the world. During those future projects could give versatile instructions to the urban farming of the different scales to the local people. The change could be achieved step by step as much as possible. And if there is going to be a time for making urban plans it would be known what is needed at least for achieving green cities.


  • Helsingin kaupunki, Helsinki’s eco-support activity receives an environmental prize. 6.11.2012. <http://www.hel.fi/hki/helsinki/en/news/helsinkis+eco+support+activity+receives+an+environ mental+prize>. Read 6.11.2012.
  • Helsingin kaupunki, Hallintokeskus. Helsingin valtuutetut edistävät kaupunkiviljelyä – kasvimaa myös kaupungintalon terassille. 8.6.2012. <http://www.hel.fi/hki/halke/fi/uutiset+ja+tiedotteet/hallintokeskuksen+tiedotteet/helsingin+valtuutetut+kasvimaa++kaupungintalon+terassille>. Read 6.11.2012.
  • Kaupunkiviljely. 2012. <http://kaupunkiviljely.fi/>. Read 1.11.2012.
  • Ympäristöongelmat ratkaistaan kaupungeissa, Dodo ry. 2012. <http://dodo.org>. Read 27.10.2012.


Picture 1. Kalasatama, Helsinki, Finland 2012. <http://kaupunkiviljely.fi/wp-content/gallery/kalasatama/img_9492_2.jpg>. (copied 7.11.2012)

Picture 2. Vallila, Helsinki, Finland 2012. <http://kaupunkiviljely.fi/wp-content/gallery/vallila/kylvaja.jpg>. (copied 7.11.2012)

Picture 3. Bulawayo, Zimbabwe 2012. <http://www.agfax.net/radio/detail.php?i=456&s=b>. (copied 7.11.2012)

Picture 4: Nairobi, Kenya 2012. <http://allafrica.com/view/group/main/main/id/00020275.html>. (copied 7.11.2012)

Picture 5: Quito, Ecuador 2012. <http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/nourishuva/>. (copied 7.11.2012)