Abstract: Urban Agriculture Interventions in Refugee and Immigrant Communities: A Scoping Review (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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32P Urban Agriculture Interventions in Refugee and Immigrant Communities: A Scoping Review

Thursday, January 12, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Odessa Gonzalez Benson, PhD, MSW, Assistant Professor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Sophee Langerman, MS/MSW, Student, University of Michigan

Urban agriculture has become an important avenue for community development, food security and economic stability in response to increased urbanization. Researchers and practitioners recognize the role of urban agriculture as important interventions for building community strength and connectivity. Urban agriculture has been applied especially for refugee and immigrant communities who are at-risk to feelings of social isolation, experiencing financial insecurity, and barriers to accessing healthy foods. Given the multidisciplinarity and expansiveness of urban agriculture, the foci of studies have been multiple and broad, and the sites of study have been global and diverse, spanning the Global North and Global South alike. Thus, a coherent body of scholarship that integrates multi-disciplinary perspectives is yet lacking.


This scoping review aims to synthesize interdisciplinary literature on impacts of urban agriculture in immigrant and refugee communities. Urban agriculture was defined broadly for this search, and included terms such as “community gardening”, “backyard gardening”, and “rooftop gardening”. A search using SCOPUS retrieved 251 articles, which were then assessed using inclusion and exclusion criteria based on the population and intervention or impact. A total of 44 articles were included for full review. Articles were coded for the specific aims, the data source and methodology, and research findings. Then, articles in the sample were analyzed in terms of the type, scale and geography of intervention or impact, as well as the extent of community participation in the intervention.


In terms of the impacts of urban agriculture for refugee and immigrant communities, findings suggest three domains of impact: individual (ie. physical health, wellbeing), sociological or community (ie. traditional knowledge sharing, reconciliation, memory, empowerment), and ecological (ie. biodiversity). Second, findings point to patterns in geography and scale of intervention, pointing to differences between the Global North and the Global South. The Middle East, North Africa and West Africa regions were home to the greatest number of large-institutionalized interventions, while small-sized interventions and medium-sized interventions, as local or family initiatives, were largely in the Global North in countries such as the United States, Canada and Australia. Third, the majority of articles in the study did not address participation as a component of intervention.


Findings suggest that urban agriculture is an important tool in the immigration and resettlement process. Recommendations for further advancement in these areas include interdisciplinary research and practice modalities that recognize impacts on both persons, communities and the environment. Findings also point to issues of diversity and equity, calling for further research on urban agriculture as intervention particularly for marginalized communities, such as immigrants and refugees.