Sandrine Simon

Biographical note

With a background in ecological economics, Sandrine Simon has worked on environmental policy tools, participatory governance systems, water management and alternative development paths. She has recently published “Histoire d’Eau” (l’Harmattan Maghreb) and “Reviving Indigenous Water Management Practices in Morocco” (Routledge). She lectured at the Open University (UK) and then worked at the EuroMediterranean University of Fes, Morocco. She is currently based at the CeiED of Lusofona University, Lisbon. Her research focuses on Urban Agriculture and Territorial Education.  

Areas of academic and scientific interest

  • Ecological Economics
  • Systems approaches
  • Human-ecological interactions
  • Participatory governance
  • Resilient cities
  • Water management
  • Alternative development paths

PhD project

Urban Agriculture as a participatory learning platform – Lessons learnt and potentials towards territorial education and improved food security.

While cities cover 3% of all land areas on the planet, they consume 75% of the world’s energy, generate 80% of CO2 emissions, use large quantities of water and create an enormous amount of waste and pollution (UN, 2018). Throughout time, historical ties to the localised food production system have been disrupted: globalised food systems have encouraged unsustainable industrial production processes that have, beside generating pollution and reduced biodiversity, damaged our health and created massive dependencies. This has impacted upon food security (and our cultural links to food), a conclusion that has become even more evident during the current Covid-19 pandemic which is questioning our reliance on globalisation.

According to the World Food programme, the Covid-19 pandemic could see more than a quarter of a billion people suffering from acute hunger by the end of the year unless swift action is taken to ensure that food supply chains keep running. In this research project, we argue that things should not necessarily ‘go back to pre-pandemic conditions’ and, rather, that food systems need to be re-thought, globally and more locally for food security to realistically be improved in a less globalised world. Whilst some people have started working on changes related to ‘work places’ and big cities as a consequence of the pandemic, we suggest to focus on another major preoccupation related to cities: the emerging issue of ‘territorial education’ – that is: how people perceive and understand their city habitat and what knowledge and skills they need to actively participate in the creation of this living environment. We suggest to focus on this in the particular context of how cities as a habitat can better meet the food needs of their inhabitants and how food security can be collectively constructed by citizens as a ‘pillar’ to their participation in improving their city and to social cohesion.  

In short, this research projects suggest to ask the following questions:

  • Can we transform cities into self-regulating, sustainable and resilient systems?
  • How can urban planners, together with citizens, become part of this transformation?

The objective of this research is to contribute to finding ways of making cities more sustainable. In particular, the aim is to increase cities’ food security, citizens’ sense of identity and belonging and to improve urban planning by integrating social urbanism values and social learning processes into it. The particular way in which we suggest to focus on this is to explore how Urban Agriculture projects could serve as platforms i) for the participatory creation of knowledge and skills in various target groups, ii) for the improvement of decision-making process and iii) to identify ways to assess the circularity of the food system processes and its contribution as a barometer in urban planning.

The ‘platforms’ would be located in the ‘living labs’ (both urban farms and green building transformed for agriculture) made by various UA sites where participatory learning is facilitated in view of making sense of the initiatives and of integrating them into the cultural history of the stakeholders and of the site. An international dimension will be integrated in this project by drawing lessons in circularity from Canada and from internationalising social learning on UA through the extension of various experimental sites into online interactive learning platforms.