Ghent is the second largest municipality in Belgium and has about 248 thousand inhabitants. It is located in the province of East-Flanders, in the North of the country, at the confluence of the rivers Scheldt and Lys. In the Middle Ages, Ghent was one of the most important cities in Europe, second only to Paris in size, and especially famous for its wool industry. Nowadays, Ghent has the third largest port of Belgium, attracting companies from the steel and car industries, but also more research oriented firms. However, one of the most important sectors creating economic growth in Ghent is tourism. Tourists are mostly attracted by the medieval monuments and architecture in the city, but also by its festivals.
The municipality of Ghent comprises not only the city but also the surrounding towns of Afsnee, Desteldonk, Drongen, Gentbrugge, Ledeberg, Mariakerke, Mendonk, Oostakker, Sint-Amandsberg, Sint-Denijs-Westrem, Sint-Kruis-Winkel, Wondelgem and Zwijnaarde. In 2012, the population density was high with 1,589 inhabitants per km². Although Ghent is densely populated and has a large built up area, still 36% of the land is not built upon and used for forests, parks and agriculture. 17% of the area is used by agriculture (2,633 ha), of which about half is used for arable farming and half for grassland. Within the larger area around Ghent (arrondissement) the population density is lower (568 inhabitants per km²) and much more land is not built upon (69%).
Within Ghent itself and in the surrounding municipalities several projects have been initiated that promote short food supply chains, such as community supported agriculture, community gardens and local food teams (in this system especially vegetables and fruits are collected and brought into the city centre where people can pick up their weekly supply). Next to those, Ghent presents itself as the veggie capital of Europe and stimulates sustainable food consumption as well. The government agreement of the new progressive coalition in Ghent for 2013 till 2018 explicitly mentions creating policies and space to stimulate urban and peri-urban organic agriculture and local short food supply chains. The research that will be done in Ghent especially focusses on the issue of creating space for sustainable food supply, which is a challenge in the context of Flanders with its high population density, and stimulating the multifunctional use of land in and around the city.
For more information, please see the Ghent City Region Report
on Agrifood dynamics and governance
, and Case studies on Allotment Gardens
), and Short Supply Chains
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