The ‘Healing City’
: Adaptation of care farming principles in dense urban areas

  • Magda Rich

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


In 2007, for the first time in history, over half of the world’s population lived in cities. Growing levels of urbanization challenge planners to identify ways that ensure a good quality of life and promote healthy outcomes for urban residents. Green care, a set of nature-based therapeutic approaches targeting people with diverse physical, mental and social issues, has the potential to provide locally accessible and sustainable therapeutic services to residents in dense urban areas, but its feasibility and practicality in such settings has not been fully explored.

In this project, I investigated the feasibility of green care provision in dense urban areas. Through a mixed methods approach, I first identified care farming as the type of green care most feasible for sustainable implementation in urban areas and investigated its current availability to urban residents. An assessment of current care farming practices in the Netherlands, UK, and Norway confirmed the rural bias of care farming and gaps on urban-based research in this space.

To address this gap, I studied the possibilities of the spatial and formal integration of urban care farming within urban structures, investigating the feasibility of care farming for older residents in dense cities and using Singapore as a case study. Singapore combines high population density, abundant greenery, and the growing challenge of population ageing. This part of the study used an array of diverse research methods, including interviews, document analyses, facilitated discussions and in-person mapping of the physical environment. I focused on three main facets of urban care farming to explore its potential in Singapore: the social and therapeutic context, the potential environmental impact, and the planning aspects.

Results from the case study revealed that high levels of interest in locally oriented gardening activities exist among the older population, signifying unmet, latent demand for care farming services. While urban care farming would not have a significant impact on the provision of most prioritized ecosystem services in Singapore, it could still improve the urban environment by creating a network of new community social platforms, reducing runoff storm water, and improving local biodiversity. At the same time, institutionalizing the practice of care farming would require greater regulatory support from planning authorities in terms of land zoning and access policies to foster a more sustainable urban care farming network across the city.
Date of AwardFeb 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorAndre Viljoen (Supervisor) & Helen Smith (Supervisor)

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