Empowering youth through city farming

Stora Skuggans 4H farm, Stockholm, Sweden

SDG 3: Good health and well-beingSDG 4: Quality educationSDG 5: Gender equalitySDG 8: Decent work and economic growthSDG 10: Reduced inequalitiesSDG 11: Sustainable cities and communitiesSDG 15: Life on land
4H is an international youth organisation with activities in city farming, animal care, sports, cooking and theatre, amongst others. In Sweden the organisation, and the local 4H-clubs, have worked with city farms since the 1970s, with focus on self-sufficient sshopping centre-scale farming. One of the most important goals of the farm are inclusion and that all members are able to participate in farm activities. Stora Skuggan 4H farm is one of the largest cooperations of city farms in Sweden, with a total of 37 4H-farms spread all over the country.

The organisation wants to create inclusive meeting spaces and activities where all children and youths are welcome. The vision of the organisation is that all children and youths will develop a strong sense of commitment and responsibility to respect the surrounding environment. There is an extensive need for urban activities that reach children from all areas, including more economically challenged areas. For example, young girls in the suburbs lack affordable spaces to hang out and the organisation give them an opportunity to spend their leisure time in a welcoming environment. The organisation emphasise that their activities offer an important contribution to society, as few spaces and activities for children are both non-performance and non-commercial based. The aim of creating this space in this kind of the setting is to help children with an unstable social background develop a sense of belonging.

 Good practices & solutions

As a volunteer organisation, the local 4H-club at the city farm engages youths in farming, animal care, nature care and ecosystem knowledge. The 4H city-farms are open for all children and youth. Active members range between the age of 6-25 years. The members and visitors of the farms are girls, to a large majority. One method developed within the 4H-farm is called“mini-leaders”. Becoming a Mini-leader is the first part of the farms’ leadership program, where children from the age of 11 begin to help out at in various ways, for example hosting visitors, and train younger members at farm activities. They also work with ecosystem awareness by engaging and informing other children. Another method applied is the“4H recycle visit program”where children in the ages of 4-8 can through actively follow the life cycle off eggs; from hen to egg and from eggshell to compost and from composted soil to growing crops, giving seeds to feed the hen that produces new eggs.

Outcome & opportunities

These two methods are only two of many that has resulted in a warm, including, accepting and welcoming social environment at the 4H-farm. 4H is a safe place for visitors and members, especially for children with socio-economic burdens at home or in school. The inclusive work of the organisation enables unique social contacts between children and youth of different ages. The members feel needed, which is different from only participating in“consuming activities”or performance focused sports. The engagement of children in the 4H farms has had great impact of the children’s life in general, both at home and at school. There are several examples where children with very poor school results and presence in school activities have changed in a positive direction after participating in 4H-farm activities and becoming part of their community-like environments. Children with a difficult or unstable home environment, have also found support in the Mini leaders, as well as the employed staff at the 4H-farms.

Lessons learned & recommendations

Children and youths develop important life skills when needing to take responsibility from a young age. Through the methods used to engage children and youths, personal development is promoted through“learning by doing”. The physical activity and nature experience that 4H city-farms gives, are powerful and important for developing transferable skills to other contexts. The environment in these activities enables the young participants to discover their strengths, both physically and mentally, and learn about healthy life habits. The programmes run by the 4H-farms also give children and youths in urban contexts an opportunity to learn more about, and develop an interest for, agriculture, animal care and environmental issues.

Related SDG targets
  • 4.5 By 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations
  • 5.5 Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life
  • 8.3 Promote development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium- sized enterprises, including through access to financial services
  • 11.7 By 2030, provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities
  • 13.3 Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning
  • 15.5 Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity and, by 2020, protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species
Further reading

Photo: © 4H

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Project: Urban Girls Movement