85 Food Systems in an Urbanizing World

Cities as drivers of transformation in food systems for livelihood improvement, job creation, nutrition security and environmental sustainability


  • World Bank
  • FAO
  • Member State – Mayor or Ministry (e.g., South Africa, Singapore, China)


The World Bank and FAO have both recently produced two flagship reports related to the future of food systems, respectively “Food Systems in an Urbanizing World” and “SOFA 2017”.  These reports address many of the issues presently being discussed by CFS, including rural-urban transformation, nutritious food systems, job creation, climate-smart food systems and urban food insecurity. They both discuss how the growing engagement of municipal and district government represents a major transformation in how we will need to think about and work on food issues with a new set of local government and civil society actors at urban levels. This side event communicates the salient findings of these key reports and focuses discussion on the emerging policy, institutional and governance issues that will shape food policy in the future. Particular attention is focused on the challenges of integrating food into urban development agendas (and thus, multi-sector coordination), on developing mechanisms to coordinate urban food policy and programs with national agriculture policy, to strengthen institutional and human capacities of local government and to develop effective governance mechanisms that allow a new set of civil society and private sectors actors to engage in and lead these agendas.

Key speakers/presenters

  • Maria Cristina Boldorini, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Republic of Argentina to FAO
  • Tan Lee Kim, Deputy Chief Executive Officer/Corporate & Technology, Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore
  • Torben Nilsson, IFAD Senior Global Engagement Specialist
  • Preeti Ahuja, World Bank Practice Manager for Latin America and the Caribbean Region in the Agriculture and Food Global Practice
  • CHAIR:  Jamie Morrison, FAO Strategic Programme Leader, Food Systems Programme (SP4)


The megatrend of urbanization carries tremendous opportunities but also challenges for all actors participating in agriculture and food value chains. In order to support effective governance mechanisms and create rural-urban synergies a rethinking of the institutional landscape is necessary.

The event discussed issues of food security in an urbanizing landscape and on how to address rural-urban linkages to enable sustainable, inclusive and efficient food systems. Country experiences and lessons learned from Singapore and the Republic of Argentina complemented the key messages that were shared from FAO’s recently published flagship report SOFA as well as from two latest reports by IFAD and the World Bank on the drivers of rural transformation and urbanization. Participants discussed the importance of a multi-sector coordination and a joint policy, institutional and governance development agenda at rural and urban levels.

H. E. Maria Cristina Boldorini, Ambassador and appointed Permanent Representative of the Republic of Argentina to FAO, WFP and IFAD: Opened the round of presentations by introducing the “El Mercado en tu barrio” (The market in your neighborhood), an initiative of the Ministry of Agroindustry and the Ministry of Production of Argentina. The program provides quality products at affordable prices to the most vulnerable neighborhoods by shorten the food value chain due to a direct linkage of producers and consumers. Ms Boldorini emphasized the high priority Argentina dedicates to the topic of urbanization and rural transformation and that a functioning intercommunication between the national and provincial governments as well as local municipalities is essential to promote the program.

Tan Lee Kim, Deputy Chief Executive Officer/Corporate & Technology, Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore: Reported that food security within Singapore is based on a multi-sectoral approach in which a collaboration between government, industry and the public sector is equally important. Technological innovations, investments and diversification are core strategies to create an enabling environment that encourages local producers, raises productivity and secures food security in the city state.

Torben Nilsson, IFAD Senior Global Engagement Specialist: Referred to findings from IFAD's Rural Development Report as well as the latest IFAD publication “Rural-urban linkages and food systems in sub-Saharan Africa” emphasizing that rural-urban transformation brings opportunities for local actors across agri-food systems – especially smallholder farmers who continue to produce the bulk of the food consumed in many countries – but only if enabling policies and investments are in place. In the context of broader national development, the potential socio-economic benefits working with small-scale food system actors, leveraging the role of small and intermediate towns and cities while adopting territorial approaches to development, are significant in terms of promoting food security and nutrition under rural-urban transformations.  The association of small farmers, local authorities and small enterprises while enhancing infrastructure and technology and bringing together the rural and urban population is critical for effective transformation processes in African, as well as other, countries.

Preeti Ahuja, World Bank Practice Manager for Latin America and the Caribbean Region in the Agriculture and Food Global Practice: Shared insights into the World Banks’ shortly published flagship report that examines drivers of urbanization, key features and challenges of urban food systems, and entry points and initiatives to improve these systems. The report discusses three co-existent channels in urban food systems (modern-traditional-formal) and proposes an innovative operational framework and city typology for food system actions by policy makers, city/municipal governments, private sector and consumers.  She highlighted the importance of recognizing a constantly growing middleclass that has already triggered massive dietary shifts and provides a rapidly growing market in the agriculture, manufacturing and service components of the food system. At the same time, the interactions of the urban poor (including those living in slums) with the food systems was underscored.  She discussed how support to a key set of enabling factors (Transformative institutions, Facilitating and progressive policies, Open data, knowledge and evidence base, Resources for effective public and private financing and Multistakeholder governance mechanisms and capacity) and a focus on four key outcome areas (Remunerative jobs and better agribusinesses, Affordability and accessibility for food security, Nutritious, diverse, quality and safe food and Sustainable, resilient agriculture and food systems), is at the core of the TRANSFORM engagement framework, which is set out in the report.

Jamie Morrison, FAO: Stressed the need for policy coherence and greater city to city cooperation under a strengthened South-South and Triangular Cooperation. FAO is in dialogue with different city networks as well as the civil society to jointly address the opportunities and challenges to food systems associated with the increasing trend of urbanization.

Key outcomes/take away messages

Participants strongly agreed on the importance of facilitating inclusive participation of all actors involved in the agriculture and food value chains. The aspect of inclusiveness concerns state and non-state actors, all levels of government and other local/rural stakeholders. In particular in the urbanization discourse the importance of inclusive food systems needs to be prioritized to link smallholder producers with agribusiness enterprises and supply chains for their sustainable participation.

Side Event - 85 - Food Systems in an Urbanizing World