Sustainable farming in West-Africa

May 30, 2022

URBANE: sustainable business model development for agro-ecological farming in West-Africa

Today more than half of the planet’s inhabitants live in cities and this urbanization is projected to increase further. The world-wide migration of rural people to cities is particularly prominent in West-Africa. This leads to increased practicing of peri-urban agriculture: this is “…agriculture within and around cities that compete for land, water, energy, and labor resources that could also serve other purposes to satisfy the requirements of the urban population” (definition United Nations). While this generates new opportunities like jobs and increased income from food production, it also brings pressures towards intensification of farming with attendant environmental and human health risks.

The European Union has now granted new research to investigate and develop sustainable solutions to these problems that can also be scaled-up. The URBANE project will address the challenges of sustainable agriculture for food and nutrition security in the context of ongoing intensification of peri-urban agriculture, as well as providing the necessary framework for safe application of sustainable solutions in different contexts.

European-African consortium

TU/e scientists Henny Romijn, Boukje Huijben and Rianne Valkenburg are teaming up with  a European-African consortium consisting of 28 partners from the public, private and non-government sectors hailing from Italy, Belgium, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Greece, Cyprus in Europe, and Morocco, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana and Benin in West Africa. The consortium will be led by Cyprus-based research institute CyRIC.

To achieve its aims, the project will be built around the principles of agroecology, meaning it will use nature-based solutions to restore degraded environments. This will deliver significant socioeconomic benefits and ensure resilient & safe food. By adopting a transdisciplinary and collaborative ‘One Health’ approach, the research aims to achieve optimal health outcomes for people, animals, and plants in their shared environment.


URBANE will build on the extensive experience in agroecology of its partners in Africa and Europe.  Its One Health approach and concept will be demonstrated through six country case studies in West Africa, while the scope for its transferability to other regions will also be studied and facilitated through specific tools.

New business models

The TU/e researchers will be in the lead for the development of new business models that support the transition of peri-urban farming towards agroecological farming concepts and practices. New sustainable and inclusive models will be worked out that support the URBANE approach, do justice to the local contexts, and include assessment of future upscaling potential to ensure long-term sustainable impact.

The research entails a strong cooperation between the Innovation, Technology Entrepreneurship & Marketing (ITEM) group and the Technology, Innovation & Society (TIS) group of the department Industrial Engineering & Innovation Sciences (IE & IS). The core will be formed by two new complementary PhD projects, building on insights from amongst other studies on sustainability transitions, sustainable business models, development studies and innovation management literature.

The project with a total budget of €6.69M starts July 2022 and will run for four years.