MANAGING THE ROOT CAUSES OF MIGRATIONS FROM AFRICA THROUGH THE COHESION OF CITY-REGION FOOD SYSTEMS
The phenomenon of migration
With the increase of the migratory phenomena since 2014 on the all coasts of the Mediterranean Sea, migrations appear to be a destabilizing element both in the whole European context and in Italy, that is the first landing place. In fact in 2014 in Lampedusa (the first Italian island) landed 170,000 people, compared to the 25,000/year from 1997 to 2013. This unexpected growth has brought an unprecedented media coverage, which has fostered the perception of migrations as a threat. The public's attention results in a general mood of confusion and concern.
These elements make the efforts to be focused only on the final effects of the migratory process, i.e. when migrants have already abandoned the African coasts. Little has been done to fully understand the phenomenon, to observe its deep causes, and to outline a medium-long term trajectory.
From several European and African research centers are emerging a smart contribution to take action on migrations through the nexus among climate change, food security, rural-urban and intra-Africa and international migrations towards Europe. The initiative seeks to provide original interpretations, that is to say a bridge between disciplines, themes, geographies, actors and tools to act in the African context towards a greater territorial cohesion, considered as the key to re-balancing African territories between cities and countries. There is indeed more and more convergence on the dynamics that act on this Nexus: a dynamics that will always tend to grow due to the overpopulation of the African continent.
Nexus among climate change - food security - urban growth - migration
The model want to simplifies the complexity of the phenomena that act on this Nexus, wishing to be merely a starting point that is useful for the emerging of the main drivers. The first environmental causes appear to be the overpopulation of the African continent and its vulnerability to climate changes: these two factors increase the distance between the two food security flows (rising demand and deceasing supply) and push towards the scarcity of natural resources that causes, in addition to food insecurity, also strong social tensions. The mixture of these dynamics, linked with psychological factors, lifestyles and personal aspirations, first generates a large internal migratory flow from rural areas to cities (both major and secondary cities), then international intra-African migratory flows and, in the end, towards European countries.
The basic drivers (overpopulation, climate change, social tensions) are growing ever more, and along with them, migratory flows too. This is a highly complex challenge that requires the activation of resources: relational, economic and cognitive resources.
Good practices and knowledge emerging from African cities
Looking at African cities with the lens of the food system, a range of themes emerges concerning the existing local debates and policy initiatives. The Milan Urban Food Policy Pact, with 152 cities globally and 23 in Africa, can support this framework with local solutions. These include urban farming programs developed in dozens of cities across the continent, climate change adaptation and/or mitigation actions, activities to ensure access to land, actions on migratory flows from rural areas to cities, access to water for urban nutrition and agriculture, urban planning that can affect food production issues and other themes. All these elements of urban interest could be managed at sectorial level by specific policies and institutional departments, but can also strongly increase their impacts if gathered within a single strategy that acts in an integrated way on the city's food system.
Acting on these levers will help to rebalance the territorial dynamics that got into crisis due to overpopulation and climate changes, trying to ensure food security and, consequently, to limit social tensions. This will address the deep and long-lasting causes of migrations, by integrating the efforts to manage the effects of this territorial unbalances and migrations in Europe with the aim of supporting a more sustainable development of African countries as a key for limiting migration flows.
The picture that emerges is extremely stimulating: from these first wide analyses that need further insights and interpretations, it can be observed how cities are, more or less explicitly, already taking political and programming actions on some parts of their city-region food system.
From this point of view, it would be possible to test some actions aimed to increase the territorial cohesion through linking rural-urban areas, rural areas, secondary cities and major cities, within a territorial armor able to specialize territories and to create opportunities for local development within the frame of a wider strategy. In this territorial tension, actions should be taken to intervene directly and/or indirectly on the three typology of economy of the African continent: the traditional, the informal and the formal one. Obviously, acting on the formal economy to access the other two, that are often usually excluded from international cooperation processes.