Sara Rankin, the researcher from Cali who promotes urban agriculture as more than just producing food

Sara Rankin was born in Cali and she is a researcher from the Sustainable Food Systems team at CIAT. This Champion has worked towards understanding the food system in Cali to develop a municipal public policy on food safety and sovereignty that meets the specific needs of this territory, among other goals. In this process, she has been able to meet one of the hidden pearls of the food initiatives in Cali: urban orchards, which are increasingly popular.

Por Sylvia Pineda | Oct 16, 2019


“Urban orchards” or “urban agriculture” refers to farming crops within the city, mainly for household consumption, which offers availability and access to healthy and nutritious food to those engaged in this activity. However, other activities are being undertaken around farming crops, and for Sara, discovering them has been one of the main highlights of her research in Cali.


Sowing has become an excuse for the community members to talk, reconcile, and recover common territories; for children to understand where food comes from; to devise activities within the community; and to recover crops, such as taro, which used to be part of the traditional diet in Cali. Sowing intertwines the knowledge of different generations and some former owners of the land they occupy in the city. It is a meeting space for family, neighbors, nature, community work, traditional knowledge, as well as food safety and sovereignty. Urban agriculture has become a vehicle for new interactions.

Sara Rankin

Research Assistant at CIAT

The outcomes of urban orchards are varied. This is not a matter of just feeding oneself better, but also to contribute to the reuse of elements in the space, harvest rainwater, reduce heat islands, generate new food governance models to act as an educational tool to strengthen the respect and fondness for the countryside. The collaborative work performed in this type of spaces, the community relationships that start, and the direct results of the process have an impact on the community and create greater solidarity, increase cohesion and empowerment to achieve common goals.

Some government policies, organizations, and social stakeholders undertake urban agriculture as an option to produce healthy food, while strengthening their relationship with the environment, reconstructing social fabric, and fostering new territorial planning perspectives; this should also be Cali’s target.

For these initiatives to continue growing, they require a legal/policy framework that cuts across temporary governments and recognizes food as a driver of social and economic development at the city-region level. Determining what kind of economic policy is required to guarantee food as a right backed by sovereignty, without this becoming a threat for the main production and economic sectors, is a huge challenge for cities, just as it is for researchers to determine how to supply better tools to efficiently face the challenges of building new societies.

Implementing such projects is crucial for dietary improvement, as it will allow vulnerable populations to access production, consumption, and marketing alternatives of fresh and healthy produce. This will be done continually improving the living conditions of people, while reducing the impact of malnutrition over time.