Multisectoral and Transdisciplinary Coalition to Spearhead the Development of a Cohesive Network of Local Limited-resources Urban Community Farmers for Sustainable Agriculture Using the Capital City of Puerto Rico as Case Study

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2014: $250,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2018
Grant Recipient: Metropolitan University
Region: Southern
State: Puerto Rico
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Maria Calixta Ortiz
Universidad Ana G. Méndez

Annual Reports

Information Products


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: demonstration, focus group, mentoring, workshop
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems
  • Sustainable Communities: community planning, infrastructure analysis, leadership development, partnerships, public policy, quality of life, urban agriculture

    Proposal abstract:

    Puerto Rico has an unsustainable food system that needs urgent attention with an array of viable solutions. The island does not have enough land to support its 3.6 million people with an omnivorous diet; agriculture contributes less than 1% to the GDP and the island imports 85% of the food it consumes. Furthermore, 93.8% of the population is considered urban and 45% is under the poverty level. Urban agriculture can be one of the solutions to these challenges if emerging urban farmers receive appropriate attention and support. Many promising urban farming initiatives in small size holdings run by limited-resource and community-based farmers have emerged in the last few years in Puerto Rico's urban centers, although they remain isolated examples with a lack of systemic connectivity and public policy support. The aim of this project is to facilitate the cohesive socioeconomic development of urban farmers by local governments, with a focus on existing limited-resources farmers in small size holdings in disadvantaged neighborhoods, to strengthen the food system and increase urban dwellers' resilience against the challenges of the 21th century e.g. climate change, lack of food security, economic instability, insufficiency of locally produced agricultural commodities, among others. Despite the benefits of urban farming, urban farmers confront many multifactorial obstacles. This project brings together a coalition of multisectoral institutions with their interdisciplinary experts to find solutions and help spearhead these farmers' socioeconomic development. The research approach includes delimiting the study area to two wards of the urban center of San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, as a case study, and working in four interrelated and interactive components that integrate quantitative and qualitative multi-methods for better systemic results. The components are: Physical-Spatial & Land Use, Environmental Quality & Agricultural Technology, Socioeconomic Development, and Community Engagement-Capacity Building Needs. The three cooperating farmers for this project will be involved in each component as key collaborators and beneficiaries. The components are under four well-defined objectives described in the next section under Objectives/Performance Targets.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Construct a robust and easily replicable methodology for communities to support the different array of productive urban farmers -especially existing under-served or limited-resources and community-based farmers-, including criteria to identify available and apt properties that could be developed for a productive and environmentally restorative urban farming system in their jurisdictions.


    An important product/perfomace target of this objective is a Physical-Spatial System Matrix Map with Conceptual Model of the Municipal Farming-Food System for sustainable systemwide and resilient planning.


    2. Define and address the local socioeconomic, political, and institutional framework that fosters or hinders urban farming from a supply and demand perspective.


    3. Identify and address local educational challenges and needs in order to ensure successful capacity building and stewardship to our main target framers and the local jurisdictions.


    4. Catalyze education through the development, publication, presentation, promotion and dissemination of a bilingual (English and Spanish) policy and practice toolbox for communities to be available to download from the web for education in formal and informal settings, and for adaptation in other jurisdictions in the United States and Latin America. It will provide guidance for a comprehensive planning process with recommended public policies and education strategies for capacity building and cooperation for the socioeconomic development of limited-resources urban farmers and the advancement of urban agriculture systems for sustainability.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.