The ‘Healing City’: Social and therapeutic horticulture as a new dimension of urban agriculture?

Andre Viljoen, Magda Rich, Karl Rich

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNConference contribution with ISSN or ISBNpeer-review


    The healing effects of nature and natural environments have been known for centuries. Recent studies suggest that the incorporation of horticulture into therapeutic activities benefits people with diverse social and health problems. This knowledge has engendered the development of a large number of facilities offering horticulture‐based therapeutic activities, mostly in rural areas in Western Europe and the US. However, as a significant majority of their potential beneficiaries live in urban environments, the rural location of these facilities might significantly lower their accessibility for certain disadvantaged groups.

    Developing a network of public areas used for urban agriculture for therapeutic purposes could thus be an important policy strategy that combines the accessibility to city‐based services with the health benefits of nature‐based therapeutic activities and social and environmental benefits of urban agriculture. In developed countries where populations are rapidly ageing and policies ensuring the provision of affordable good quality healthcare will be increasingly needed, horticulture‐based therapeutic activities might offer an interesting alternative.

    This paper discusses the possibilities of practicing therapeutic horticultural activities as a new dimension of urban agriculture. It raises questions to be addressed in order to develop strategies that would successfully integrate therapeutic horticulture activities in urban planning using the concept of Continuous Productive Urban Landscapes. The paper further highlights the use of participatory systems methods of group model building as a means of collecting data and developing decision tools with diverse sets of stakeholders to successfully implement such policies in practice.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationLocalizing urban food strategies. Farming cities and performing rurality
    Subtitle of host publication7th International Aesop Sustainable Food Planning Conference Proceedings
    EditorsGiuseppe Cinà, Egidio Dansero
    Place of PublicationTurin
    PublisherPolitecnico di Torino
    Number of pages14
    ISBN (Electronic)9788882020606
    Publication statusPublished - 7 Oct 2015


    • Urban Agriculture
    • social and therapeutic horticulture
    • Urban Planning
    • Group model building


    Dive into the research topics of 'The ‘Healing City’: Social and therapeutic horticulture as a new dimension of urban agriculture?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this