The increase in demand for spaces for agricultural production during times of crisis is well recognised (Cities, Poverty and Food, 2010) and this phenomenon can be verified in Portugal. This paper focuses on the access to urban land for agriculture and the need to revisit Land Use Planning to become a facilitating tool for long-term consolidation of UPA.

This paper is an original essay drawing lessons from two paradigmatic Urban and Peri – Urban Agriculture [UPA] Portuguese experiences. They are relevant examples of UPA as a response to the economic crisis, by their expansion through time (more than 10 years), their size (more than five hectares) and number of urban farmers involved (more than 200 people). They provide insights on how urban planning should deal with an emerging phenomenon. In addition, this paper raises critical issues on the agricultural rural law and the Portuguese Constitution (2005) that opens up innovative possibilities for a Portuguese normative framework to facilitate access to urban and peri-urban agricultural land in cities.

Last but not least, this paper proposes three types of land zoning, based on users profiles, family income, land property (public or private), potential outcomes from social inclusion to income generation and job creation. The introduction of urban agriculture zoning into existing land use planning and normative framework appears as a key instrument for turning vacant urban spaces in cities into sustainable productive and /or inclusionary areas.

The three pronged approach designed for this research: [1] desk review of international literature, [2] critical analysis of existing laws and relevant constitutional articles and [3] in-depth analysis of two paradigmatic examples leads to the conclusion that the existing economic crisis and its social and economic devastating effects is at the same time an opportunity to rethink and renew the Land Use Planning and Policies in Portuguese cities. The process should be open to all relevant public, private and community actors and conducted by representatives from each sector. Agricultural Zones of Social Inclusion, as suggested in the paper might be a powerful way to help out this much needed debate.