37 Urban food security in an urbanising world: lessons from Singapore

Food security is often viewed and discussed from the perspective of the rural sphere - food scarcity, access to effective markets & nutrition. This side event aims to kick start discussions around food security in the urban environment that presents a different set of challenges

Organizers: Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority, Republic of Singapore; Duxton Asset Management

Abstract

Food security is often viewed and discussed from the perspective of rural food insecurity - food scarcity, poor access to effective markets, nutrition, and rural poverty come to mind. This side event aims to kick start discussions around food security in an urban environment where fast growing cities and demographics present a different set of challenges. Singapore was ranked the world’s second most food secure country after the United States by the Global Food Security Index in 2015, despite not having any significant primary food production resources in the country. What can the world’s fastest growing cities such as Jakarta, Lagos and Dar es Salaam learn from Singapore’s experience? Participants will discuss the policies Singapore has put in place to ensure resilience in its food supply and safety, as well as how various stakeholders from the private sector work together with the public sector on achieving this.

Key speakers

H.E Yaya Olaniran, Ambassador of Nigeria

Tan Poh Hong, Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore

John Young Simpson, Duxton Asset Management

Martin Lavoo, Sustenir Agriculture

Main themes/issues discussed

Food security is often viewed and discussed from the perspective of rural food insecurity - food scarcity, poor access to effective markets, nutrition, and rural poverty come to mind. This side event kick started the discussion around food security in an urban environment where fast growing cities and demographics present a different set of challenges. Singapore was ranked the world’s second most food secure country after the United States by the Global Food Security Index in 2015, despite not having any significant primary food production resources in the country. 

Participants discussed the policies Singapore has put in place to ensure resilience in its food supply and safety, as well as how various stakeholders from the private sector work together with the public sector on achieving this. Member countries and stakeholders learned from Singapore’s success, research, and met policy makers and private sector representatives to develop direct relationships.

Summary of key points

  • H.E Yaya Olaniran, Ambassador of Nigeria: Opened the session by stating that technology and innovation is key to urban food security. In 2015, Singapore was rated number 2 in terms of effectiveness, in their agriculture sector.
  • Tan Poh Hong, Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore:  Remarked that self-sufficiency within Singapore is important, with government funding being an essential component to help smallholder companies and promote R&D. The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore provides tech support, training, workshops to encourage good ag practices within Urban Farming. The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore also does study trips with farmers, bringing them to other countries to improve their knowledge of technology in the sector. Farmers must use farmland more efficiently to achieve higher productivity. 
  • Martin Lavoo, Sustenir Agriculture: Is a young entrepreneur working in the agriculture sector, hoping to attract youth to work in agriculture. Sustenir Agriculture leverages technology to reduce the requirement for training. By taking risks within agriculture, Sustenir is able to innovate on certain products, and improve the abilities of urban farming. Being high-tech helps them stretch the imagination of their consumers and customers. This also inspires youth to pursue agriculture. It took years to develop a cohesive brand and company. Sustenir Agriculture empowers their employees to help spread the word. Martin Lavoo noted that without investment, urban farming won’t be able to grow.
  • John Young Simpson, Duxton Asset Management: Stated that governments must prioritize stable, predictable and transparent regulatory framework and legal systems to attract sustainable investments in agriculture. Simpson also stated that land tenure is fundamental to food security. Agriculture extension is essential for Singapore farmers to adopts new urban farming techniques, and adopt agriculture technologies. Urban farming in Singapore has a strong vision on climate-smart urban food production.

Key outcomes/take away messages

  • There is a place in the system for urbanized farms, without replacing traditional farming with virtual farms
  • It is important to help and encourage local smallholders versus competing against them
  • The farm of the future should be intensive, automated, leveraging on technology – creating an agriculture sector young people want to come into