Bangkok, Thailand, 28 Jan 2013 -- FAO and P.N. Agricultural Science Foundation of Bangalore, India today opened a regional workshop to strengthen urban and peri-urban agriculture (UPA) in Asia. Some 50 participants from more than 11 countries, including national and provincial government officials, food and agriculture experts, university professors and representatives from the private sector gathered for the 3-day meeting Bangkok’s Plaza Athenee Hotel.
By 2050 two-thirds of the world’s population is expected to live in urban areas; that’s more than 6 billion people and it will be not be easy to provide food for so many unless people in cities begin some kind of urban farming. The situation is particularly acute in Asia where cities have grown at a faster rate than any other region. In fact, Asia has urbanizing at unprecedented speed during the past 20 years.
In his opening remarks to the workshop, Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific said, “Thirteen of the 20 most populated urban areas in the world are now in Asia. Asia is urbanizing at unprecedented speed. Though still predominantly rural, this upward trend is expected to continue for many years to come. In this decade alone, it is anticipated that two-thirds of the growth in the world’s cities will occur in Asia, raising its urban population by another 411 million. Migration, primarily rural to urban, is a key driver of this growth. However, together with natural growth, reclassification of rural areas is also an important contributor: every year millions of people become city dwellers by this way even without movement, as their communities transformed into cities because of rapid urbanization.”
Konuma added: “As the cities rapidly expand, so do the food needs of urban families. The urban poor were hit hardest by financial and food price crisis in recent past as urban consumers were exclusively dependent on food purchases. Changes in life style and dietary habit have further contributed to increased urban malnutrition and non-communicable diseases.”
Urbanites have to deal with the rising cost of food, including social and economic costs. Thailand’s Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives Yukol Limlamthong, told workshop participants, “With increasing population issues, such as problems of food insecurity, poverty and malnutrition are further gaining significance. Man urban dwellers live in slum areas where such impacts are even higher. In the Asia-Pacific region, an estimated 571 million people are now living in slums – around a third of the total urban population. Though hunger and malnutrition are often considered as rural problems, the urban poor re also at risk. There is low access to agricultural production and the majority of poor urban households are primarily dependent on purchasing food items. This makes them especially vulnerable to loss of income, price shocks or bottlenecks in the food supply.”
Strengthening Urban and peri-urban agriculture is one way to develop resilient food systems. Urban households who farm in the city to supplement their diets and their income are generally more food secure and benefit from a more diverse diet. Urban and peri-urban food production also helps increase the availability of healthy and affordable foods such as fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs and dairy products for a larger number of urban consumers.
Chanvit Tarathep, Deputy Permanent Secretary Ministry of Public Health, said: “This workshop is a good and important step as a starting point towards strengthening urban and peri-urban Agriculture towards Resilient Food Systems in Asia. This will support healthy foods and result in improving Nutrition status of our countries. We shall further review the needs according to the countries’ contexts and see how we can proceed to the next step. In this way, multi-agency collaboration; both nationally and regionally will be required.”
To be successful urban farming requires both a multidisciplinary approach and multi-stakeholder involvement - a multidisciplinary approach to address not only the production but also ensuring the safety and nutritive value of the foods produced as well as diets. A multi-stakeholder approach is important because of the need to involve a wide range of people from different levels of society in order to develop successful resilient food systems in cities, including new technologies and techniques for production, processing, marketing and waste management.
Today’s workshop brings together multiple stakeholders from various countries of the Region with differing country and provincial situations to review experiences on UPA in Asia and to identify and support best practices from countries across the region. Priorities and key potential investment areas and activities that can strengthen UPA will be explored and recommendation will be made to establish mechanisms to coordinate the various stakeholders and partners. The workshop will also share country experiences including horticulture, small livestock, fish-culture, and homestead farming to improve nutritional status, quality and safety aspects.
Based on the recommendations of this workshop, priority interventions to promote UPA at regional and country levels would be agreed by the participants for follow-up action to strengthen UPA so as to ensure more resilient food systems for Asia. FAO is currently supporting such initiatives in Cambodia, Mongolia and in some municipality areas of the Philippines.