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

Louison Lançon

Dear secretariat, contributors,

Please find below the contribution of the FAO-Food for the Cities Programme's team.

You can find, first, (1) general comments in regards to the background document, and secondly (2) a more in-depth presentation of the City Region Food Systems concept and how it can represent a relevant approach to address urbanization and rural transformation issues, and then some more practical insights by presenting and giving examples on how we operationalize it through the programme.

 

Best regards,

Louison Lançon, on behalf of the FAO's Food for the Cities Programme.

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Contribution and comments

 

1. General comments :

- Good starting point as a background document. While it reflects on topics such as territorial approach, rural urban linkages, the document might serve better to reflect on the role of food security and nutrition in the wider territorial approach/rural urban linkage discourse.

- Similarly, impact of rural transformation and urbanization on natural resource is mentioned, but it can be strengthened with concrete examples on how land/forest/water management is mutually influential with urban space, and how that may also affect fisheries also considering the fact that three quarters of large cities are located on coastlines.

- The potential roles for CFS needs further elaboration (but it should be done in the next workshop seeing the timeline). One suggestion that can be made in this area is that the “urban” discourse represented in Habitat III is still very tilted towards “urban development” rather than a balanced rural and urban development. This needs a strong, more “rural” constituency such as the CFS platform to make a strong case on the need of balanced investment and policy prioritization. This also includes the need to look at the rural and urban contexts as a continuum, as part of a territory.

- The CFS platform may also further discuss the importance of inclusive food system in the urbanization discourse. Urban areas mostly “import” food from rural areas (near and far), in general this system is heavily dominated by few private companies and the tendency will only increase unless actions are taken.  We need to highlight the need in building more inclusive food systems for smallholder farmers and businesses, from both surrounding and remote rural areas.

- We may also want to include the need in efficient flows of information between urban and rural areas in the background document. Indeed, as mentioned by Julio Berdegué et al., rural-urban linkages include reciprocal flows of information, especially on labour opportunities, markets and consumers preferences.  It is a key element for rural dwellers, and farmers, so they can adapt their production to the demand and market requirements.

- CFS may also want to highlight the dwellers’ knowledge role’s in building food secure territories. Inappropriate consumption patterns and diets might not be just due to bad access to healthy food, but also to knowledge gaps and customs.

 

2. City Regions Food Systems concept, and how we operationalize through the programme

With its Food for the Cities Programme, FAO builds on the need to better understand and operationalize the concept of City Region Food Systems (CRFS) as a basis for further planning and informed decision making. City region food systems (CRFS) is proposed as an appropriate solution to support local institutions in assessing and governing the complex network of actors, processes and relationships connected to food production, processing, marketing, and consumption that exist in a given geographical region that includes a more or less concentrated urban centre and its surrounding peri-urban and rural hinterland; a regional landscape across which flows of people, goods and ecosystem services are managed. CRFS approach provides a critical lens for analysis, and at the same time supports on the ground policy transformation and implementation. Working a city region level can be a means to unpack the complexity of rural urban linkage to a practical level, with food being the entry point or common denominator.

The Programme provides assistance to local governments in identifying and understanding gaps, bottlenecks and opportunities for sustainable planning, informed decision-making, prioritizing investments, designing sustainable food policies and strategies to improve local food systems. In this process, cities define the city region food system as the most appropriate geographic scale to improve food security and nutrition and promote sustainable food systems.

The progamme is currently implemented in four cities: Colombo, Medellin, Lusaka and Kitwe.The boundaries CRFS are generally defined on the basis of the food flows of the main commodities consumed within the city regions. In addition, for data collection purposes, jurisdictional and natural boundaries are often used to define the CRFS boundaries.

The definition of CRFS boundaries is really context specific, for example:

  • - In Colombo (Sri Lanka), the CRFS boundaries are based principally on the food flows of the city’s most consumed commodities. But as the city dwellers’ diets are very diverse, various commodities are consumed and come from diverse and sometimes far away areas. For governance instances and action taking reasons, the CRFS boundaries definition has been based on demographic criteria, to end up covering  a broad populated area of the Western Province (Colombo’s province), and so including local areas that allows the production of just a small part of the food consumed in the city;
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  • - In Kitwe (Zambia), where the food supply is more localized, the definition of the boundaries has been based on the flows of the city’s most consumed commodities and on the administrative boundaries. The CRFS ends up covering a narrow area that still allows the production of an important part of the food consumed in the city.
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  • - In Lusaka (Zambia), the CRFS boundaries are based on the food flows of the commodities that represent 60% of the amount of food consumed in the territory.