Embedding agroecology’s soil care principle in the urbanised society: the case of Flanders

Hans Vandermaelen, Michiel Dehaene, Chiara Tornaghi, Elke Vanempten

Research output: Contribution to conferencePublished abstract


In recent years, challenges such as climate change adaptation and dealing with the biodiversity crisis have drawn
the attention of the urbanised society on the importance of soil stewardship. We believe agroecological farmers
and food growers could play an important role, as the care for living soils is a fundamental principle in
agroecology. However, current urbanisation dynamics deeply affect this potential. In the context of the food
disabling city (Tornaghi, 2017), living soils are actively destroyed, and soil care is not mandatory, not common,
nor structurally valued or supported. To overcome this deadlock, we need to (re)value the metabolic agency of
agroecological practices within dynamics of urbanisation.

In this paper, we examine to what extent soil care is embedded in the regulation of land use and soil use in
Flanders (Belgium). We use an agroecological farmers perspective to think beyond the residual embedding of
soil care, and to begin to re-politicise the soil issue. We develop a critique of the post-political nature of existing
policies and recent attempts to put the soil issue back on the agenda. Our analysis shows that the attention for
soil care in the regulation of land and soil use in Flanders is limited, fragmented and not coherent. We conclude
that urbanism and food planning can play an important role in enabling soil care, but this will require active
engagement in the re-politicisation of soils. We make the case that such politicising work could start by giving a
voice to agroecological farmers and food growers within soil policy arenas.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished - Nov-2019


  • B410-soil-science
  • Agroecological urbanism
  • Food-disabling city
  • Land use
  • Living soils
  • Soil care
  • Soil policy
  • Urban agroecology


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  • AESOP-SFP Conference

    Elke Vanempten (Participant)


    Activity: Participating in or organising an eventOrganisation and participation in conference

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