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Foro Global sobre Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutrición • Foro FSN

Re: Urbanization, Rural Transformation and Implications for Food Security - Online consultation on the background document to the CFS Forum

Dear Colleagues,

Thanks for sharing this document that is relevant to the on going discussions in regard to the current discussions on City Region Food Systems and Urban-Rural Linkages even as the UN prepares for the Habitat III conference and the New Urban Agenda. The rise of urban systems has for sure and for long in the history of urbanisation affected the delicate balance between urban growth and food security.  Urbanization has been a strong transformative force which has reshaped the world’s urban and rural landscapes and brought prosperity to many urban regions. However, urbanization forces have also led to various challenges and opened up new forms of inequality, unsustainability, polarization and divergence in development and incomes between urban and rural areas. Rural urban linkages thus became a thematic area that the UN through UN Habitat prioritized in its approach to promote sustainable regional and metropolitan development. This was done through resolution HSP/GC/25/L.9 passed during the 25th Session of the Governing Council of UN-Habitat that requested UN-Habitat 'to continue working closely with other intergovernmental organizations and stakeholders to strengthen urban-rural linkages focusing on knowledge exchange, policy dialogue and capacity development'

To address the hazy line along the urban-rural interphase especially as it related to food systems, a multipronged approach should be adopted that is country or region specific to ensure the data collected is more accurate and presents the right ‘urban-rural’ scenarios as depicted in different jurisdictions. It might be practically impossible to use a universal approach to mete individual country/regional depictions of urban vs. Rural.


The paper articulates well the key challenges and opportunities relating to food security in the draft document. The issues touch on how urbanization and urban-rural linkages impact on food systems from production to consumption, touching on consumption, distribution, waste and other related issues. The paper also clearly articulates the contribution of non-farm employment. The production component could be further elaborated, for instance touching on the role of small and intermediate towns in enhancing production, and how urbanization is shaping agricultural activities. The policy recommendations in terms of governance issues and integrated approaches could further be enhanced. Some of the specific comments are:

The definitions in the first section are clearly stated. The paper could also define ‘rural urbanization’ that could be relevant to this discussion. The sub-topic on pg 4: “What are the implications of the growing rural-urban linkages for food security and nutrition?” seems to focus more on the implications of urbanization as opposed to rural-urban linkages. It could briefly elaborate more on how urban-rural linkages impact on the whole food system chains from production to consumption.

The analysis on pg5 from a human rights perspective is good and could be strengthened by a mention of the related SDGs. The gender based aspects especially in relation to women could be more enhanced.

Pg6: The demographics and shifting settlements sub-topic is clearly elaborated especially in regard to the small and intermediate towns. More emphasis could be on implications to food systems. The potential of small and intermediate towns to food security could be further expounded to also include agri-based industries, food consumption and supply of farm products. The potential dividends of their growth can be harnessed to reverse the potential negative impacts of urbanization on food security as depicted.

Pg8: The section on consumption patterns could cover the impact of effects of consumption patterns in urban areas in influencing shift in livelihoods in rural areas. (This aspect seems to be covered in the pg 9 the last paragraph). The role played by the emerging preference of food crops and cash crops and its effect on food security could also be elaborated. The section on food loss and waste could also be linked to this section on consumption. On food markets, there is an unmentioned aspect of contraband food products/smuggled goods that flood local markets. Case in point is the Kenya Sugar Market that was dogged by inflows of cheap foreign sugar that out priced the locally produced sugar, and cascading impacts on local food growers and subsequent market constraints in providing products such as wheat, rice and sugar that are usually implicated in such trades. (Pg 9)

Pg10: The issue of the role of non-farm activities is well elaborated. This could be further analyzed in terms of the implications on rural urbanization in small and intermediate towns and territorial approaches. The section on land use in pg 12 could also cover issues of the effect of urban sprawl on land use, and the necessity of adoption of compact well planned urban settlements as a viable option that can help curb the unsustainable land use in peri-urban areas.  

Pg 12 on natural resource flows, the flow of pollutants from urban to rural areas could also be highlighted especially in regard to food contamination. The demand for water resources and the role of resource conflicts in contributing to mass displacement of population, the subsequent impact on urbanization and overall food security could be mentioned. This is a pertinent issue in conflict regions around the world. This is also relevant to the climate change component that could mention mobility as a result of floods, drought and famines and its effect on urbanization in terms of increase in vulnerable population. How can urban-rural linkages address this? What is the effect on food systems?

Pg 14: The role of infrastructure as a transformative force in both urban and rural areas is highlighted. It could be more emphasized especially in regard to small and intermediate towns that are more directly linked to rural areas. A mention of access to farm inputs and access to finance in agriculture needs to be discussed in more detail in terms of the overall effect it injects into food (in)security. Also a mention of SDG 9 “Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.” How does infrastructure influence food production? How do better serviced small and intermediate towns enhance food production, distribution and consumption?

The section of Governance issues on pg 14 could further be enhanced to cover for instance aspects of land governance; the role of local and metropolitan authorities in enhancing urban-rural linkages e.g the Milan Food Pact. Also the issue of decentralization, and how it can contribute to food systems. The section on integrated approaches also needs to be enhanced. It could also cover aspects like the system of cities under territorial approaches. (Could make reference on the report by IFAD on “Territorial approaches, rural-urban linkages and inclusive rural transformation: Ensuring that rural people have a voice in national development in the context of the SDGs”

On the potential role of CFS: having a community of practice/experts in your network is a great asset that will assist regions and countries implement the desirable food secure programmes and policies, and advice all stakeholders in the food systems and food ecosystems in a bid to improve food security. This will add value to CFS’ inputs into this discourse. Further CFS could strengthen the operationalization of urban-rural linkages for instance through some guiding principles on urban-rural linkages building on successful case studies. 

Best Regards

Jackson Kago

Regional and Metropolitan Planning Unit,

Urban Planning and Design Branch, UN-Habitat

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