Cities and food: the future of agriculture development

By 2050, 66% of the world’s population will be urban, and that’s going to have a big impact on food systems. The rapid growth of cities is driving the development of new urban food policies, in which cities can take more responsibility for food security and nutrition.

More than half of the population of the world already lives in urban areas and we expect that 66% of the world will be urban  in 2050. "This evolution has many and important consequences on the sustainability of the food systems", says Professor Nicolas Brica, researcher in Urban Food Systems. Dr. Brica was addressing the side event “Urban Food Policies and their role in sustainable food systems,” during the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) this week.

Many of those involved in the issue see urbanisation as opportunity. Cities concentrate problems, but they also concentrate resources that can be used to build more sustainable food systems. They are able to innovate and are becoming more aware of the role they can play on urban food policies. 

Until the 1970’s food policy was really focused on self-sufficiency; on the task of feeding a growing population. In the ‘90’s globalisation brought with it more consumer-driven and market led policies. Food was delivered to the people that needed it and in this very consumption-led approach; urban centres played a new role: that of a market.

In recent years cities have taken more responsibility for consumption, taking decisions on how to feed themselves and how to govern food-rated issues. There is still a long way to go for many cities in achieving food security,  nutrition and in promoting sustainability. They are trying to create balance and alignment for what is going on in the rural areas around them, both in the hinterlands and in the broader national and global landscape.

Cities, within the same country, can have a louder and more collective voice if they form networks that can lobby at national level to raise awareness of their issues. “In the US the food policy task force has representation from more than 17 cities and has a voice on how agriculture affects cities in the Federal Farm Bill, something which otherwise would not have been taken into account,” says side event panelist Jess Holiday, from the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food (IPES).

An important step in implementing urban food policies was the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact, signed in 2014. So far more than 130 cities, from megacities to secondary cities, have signed the pact which is an important mechanism for developing cooperation amongst cities. It is based on the principle of the right to food, sustainably and equitably. Its six main areas of action are governance, food production, food supply and distribution, sustainable diets, social and economic equity and food waste.

Talking about food needs a participatory process, so we need an interdisciplinary and a multi-stakeholder approach. The answer? Food governance!

Food governance brings together all the stakeholders from the food system:  producers, consumers, but also agro-food processors and also people involved concerned about social issues, nutrition,  and others we may not usually work with when we talk about agriculture. After all, it is people who are affected by environmental hazards and by the health problems associated with consumption, and people who have to put up with waste at their doorstep.

A governance approach that brings together all the different administrative levels, from local to regional and national levels, helps create a more coordinated policy so that everyone is working to the same vision and objectives.

Creating food governance is really about getting everyone’s concerns on the table and that’s a good place to start.

This blogpost was written by Anca Bîltac, #CFS43 Social Reporter-- anca.biltac(at)

Photo courtesy:FAO

This post is part of the live coverage during the 43rd Session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS). This post is written by one of our social reporters, and represents the author’s views only.

19/10/2016 20:24


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