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Foro Global sobre Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutrición • Foro FSN

Re: Call for experiences and effective policy approaches in addressing food security and nutrition in the context of changing rural-urban dynamics

Sunniva Bloem
Sunniva BloemFAOThailand


Sunniva Bloem

Saskia de Pee


Main responsible entity

Sunniva Bloem

Saskia de Pee



19 September 2016


Funding source




Low and Middle Income Countries



The globe is rapidly urbanizing and for too long have challenges of malnutrition been ignored in urban areas. Why we must act now to plan cities in a more nutrition sensitive manner is the subject of our article: Developing approaches to achieve adequate nutrition among urban populations requires an understanding of urban development. In this article we analyse the complexity of cities and put forward several policy recommendations for how to improve urban food systems that take urban dynamics into account. 


Read full article here:



Since 2008 the world has become predominantly urban. By 2050, there will be 2.5 billion more people living in cities and most of these will be in small and medium-size cities in Africa and Asia. These continents are home to high malnutrition rates. Policy makers will need to ensure that food and nutrition security can be achieved by the growing urban populations, including the urban poor, in order for this urban growth to generate equitable economic growth. This paper demonstrates how understanding urban dynamics such as city size, urban infrastructures, and rural-urban linkages are critical for planning for adequate urban nutrition. In particular it highlights the potential strength of strategically investing in medium-size cities as they are more likely to generate equitable growth, including for their surrounding hinterlands, thus strengthening local foods systems and creating better enabling environments for improved urban nutrition through better sanitation infrastructures and increased access to nutritious foods by the urban poor.


Key characteristics of the experience/process

Urban areas are not homogenous. Policy makers should not just analyses differences amongst urban rural dynamics but should also understand the complexity and diversity amongst cities. For example, the size of a city can have impacts on the structure of rural-urban linkages, food access, trade, infrastructure and equitable growth.


Key actors involved and their role

  • Urban planners
  • Food system actors
  • Nutritionists
  • Informal sector
  • Private sector
  • National and local governments


Key changes observed with regards to food security and nutrition and sustainable agriculture and food systems

Urban food and nutrition security has finally risen to prominence on the global agenda. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the New Urban Agenda both reflect the importance of improving urban food systems and tackling malnutrition in urban areas. Furthermore the role of local municipal governments has been recognized as a key agent of change as seen by initiatives as the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact.


Challenges faced

Many current approaches surrounding urban food systems have a rural bias. This rural bias can come at the detriment of the urban poor and can fail to take into account how city dynamics impact food and nutrition security in urban areas.  


Lessons/Key messages

  • Rapid urbanization brings nutrition challenges affecting food access, diet and health.
  • Urban dynamics such as city size, infrastructure and rural links affect nutrition.
  • Medium-size cities can generate more equitable growth and better nutrition for the poor.
  • The fastest growing cities are in Africa and Asia, where malnutrition is most prevalent.
  • Now is the time to plan city development for better nutrition for its inhabitants.