Two interconnected questions are addressed in this paper: (i) why urban agriculture (UA) and food-related initiatives take usually years to materialise in Portugal; and (ii) why resilient initiatives do not scale up and shift from practices to local food policies. We argue that existing initiatives are viewed as single events and therefore garner quite limited long-term political commitment and support. Based on interviews with food champions and a literature review, four Portuguese UA initiatives are analysed and these highlight the constraints that hinder their scaling-up. We conclude that drivers to lead to scaling-up are a combination of factors, with an enabling environment the most relevant one. On the other hand, constraints are related to limited democratic governance and poor policies, insufficient funding and weak participatory processes. Such findings are quite in line with existing literature. The limited integration of Portugal within the international UA and food debates might partially explain why UA is still struggling to find its proper place in Portuguese cities and their peripheries. Raising awareness among decision makers is critical to scaling-up UA initiatives and turning them an integral component of local food systems. A national observatory able to gather relevant data and produce knowledge, assess and monitor on-going initiatives may be the key step to gather different stakeholders together, that can then better advocate and then lead to higher political support, not only in Portugal but in any country where UA and food issues are emerging.
- local food policies
- urban agriculture