Urban farming is so common in Chongqing that it is part of the city’s landscape. From small pieces of land on the side of a road to mud hills on giant construction sites, every piece of earth is good to be farmed. Unlike in the West, where well-educated urban residents are turning to urban farming as a hobby or as part of a hip, modern lifestyle, urban farming in China instead points to the heart of several issues surrounding rapid development and, at times, forced urbanisation. China faces the need to alter its economy away from an over-reliance on exports and towards an economy that has a healthy domestic market of its own. While China’s urban population is developing consumer habits already, China’s rural population exists largely at subsistence level, and contributes almost nothing the consumer economy. The Chinese government understands that if this population were moved in to cities then it would no longer be self-sufficient, and would therefore depend on - and contribute to - this consumer ecosystem. Urbanisation then, is one of the most important tools China has in strengthening its economy. Of the four municipalities of China, Chongqing is the only one that holds a significant rural population - around two thirds of the municipality’s 30 million residents are rural - and as such, Chongqing is leading the way for urbanisation in China.
Chongqing plans to urbanise half of its rural population within a 10-year period, meaning a full 10 million residents will need to transform their lives from that of a rural existence to that of an urban consumer between the years of 2007 and 2017. While some rural residents move to the city out of choice, others are relocated to the city by the government, and many of these are ill-equipped to deal with city life. They may have little or no formal education and a great deal of residents struggle to adapt to urban life. Instead of joining the commerce economy, some return to what they know; farming, and they do this wherever they can find unused land.