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Thousands of Farms Unprotected by City Officials

Grade 8 Essay Contest

Submitted by:  Mariana Furloni, Escola Americana do Rio de Janeiro

From a teacher’s perspective, it is very rewarding when students are able to apply what they have learned in class to other situations, especially “real world” issues or problems.  Last quarter, eighth graders investigated several topics related to urbanization and the impacts of urban sprawl in social studies. They took part in simulations of what city council meetings might look like, analyzing and evaluating the pros and cons of different decisions regarding urban planning. Although we mostly focused on examples from US and Canada, students ultimately had to write an essay analyzing one local urban issue in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Moreover, they were required to recommend actions that should be taken to address these current problems.  Here is one of the essays developed by students: Thousands of Farms Unprotected by City Officials By:  Sofia Morell

The city of Rio de Janeiro is currently neglecting the protection of over a thousand farm lands, mainly in the west zone, from development and urbanization. City officials do not realize there are many family owned farms very close to the city that could be easily destroyed. Although this seems like a complex problem, city officials have many options to preserve the farms including urban boundaries/smart growth and limiting urban sprawl.

One of the many ways the city of Rio can protect farm lands is by setting up urban growth boundaries along the urban core (the downtown of the city typically with older buildings), urban fringe (towns/suburbs just outside the urban core), and the rural fringe (farmland and open spaces surrounding the urban fringe). The farmland is found in the urban fringe; however, putting all of these boundaries would secure the safety of the farmland and allow the citizens of Rio to expand upwards and not outwards. People would be banned from developing outside of these boundaries, but can use smart growth techniques. Smart growth is controlling urban sprawl by redeveloping rundown areas and developing as much space as possible. Infill is a smart growth initiative and can be easily implemented in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Infill is remodeling run down or placing new development in those run down/empty areas. Mixed-use development is another smart growth initiative which is placing businesses and housing in one place. Although it seems a bit extreme to completely ban all urban sprawl outside certain areas, this was a way Portland, Oregon protected their farmland in 1973. They used all the smart growth techniques and urban sprawl was still able to continue. Absolutely no farm land would be lost or destroyed and this recommendation would be a great way to protect the vast amount of farming land that the people in Rio rely on.

A second option the city of Rio de Janeiro could consider is limiting development in certain rural fringe areas, but allowing it in others. This is a great option because it would allow already existing farms to be protected and protect fertile land that would be great for farming. Other areas that don’t have great soil or are not being used, can still be developed and Rio would still be able to grow. Again, Portland, Oregon strongly took this option under consideration when figuring out how to protect their own farming areas. This option is a less extreme change than the first one, but it would be just as a effective because the farms would finally be protected.

City officials in Rio de Janeiro need to find a solution to this problem of unprotected farmland as soon as possible. If something is not done, then many family owned farms won’t have a source of income and goods that Rio relies will no longer be farmed. The recommendations brought up, and others, should be reviewed by city officials and they should come to a possible solution.

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