Seventeenth Session

Rome, 31 March-4 April 2003

Report of the Interdepartmental Working Group on Food for the Cities

Table of Contents

I. Introduction

1. The Interdepartmental Working Group on Food for the Cities (IDWG-FFC), formed following on the recommendation of the 15th Session of COAG in 1999, reported to the 16th Session in 2001 on activities undertaken by its sub-groups on Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture, and on Food Supply and Distribution to Cities.

2. In the Medium-Term Plan 2002-20071, Food for the Cities was identified as one of the Priority Areas for Inter-disciplinary Action (PAIA), and the IDWG-FFC proceeded to steer the work of the new PAIA-FFC. Technical areas covered by the PAIA-FFC include urban food security and nutrition, urban and peri-urban agriculture (UPA), food marketing and distribution, food processing and street-foods, environment and food safety, urban and peri-urban land tenure and planning, urban forestry, policies and programmes, as well as institutional aspects.

3. FAO work related to FFC is carried out in collaboration with a variety of international partners, including the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (UNCHS/Habitat), the Strategic Initiative on Urban and Peri-urban Agriculture of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR/SIUPA), the Urban Management Programme of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP/UMP), the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Resource Centre on Urban Agriculture and Forestry in the Netherlands (RUAF). In the past two years activities were undertaken on information-sharing and awareness raising; capacity-building; specific technical programmes and assistance; preparation of articles, publications and virtual documents, and networking/collaboration with concerned UN agencies and centres of expertise.

II. Information Sharing, Awareness Raising and Capacity-Building

4. FAO organized or participated in a series of FFC events, bringing together stakeholders from different technical and institutional backgrounds:

    1. A sub-regional expert consultation on "Urban and Peri-urban Horticulture in Southern African countries" was organized in January 2001 at Stellenbosch University, Cape Town.
    2. Following the 1997 Dakar workshop on "Food Supply and Distribution of the Francophone Cities of Africa" and the 2000 Bangkok workshop on "Feeding Asian Cities", a sub-regional seminar on "Feeding Cities in the Horn of Africa" was organized in Addis Ababa in May 2002, under the auspices of the World Bank-FAO Food Security Initiative for the Horn of Africa. Six countries attended this multidisciplinary meeting, which addressed a wide range of issues including urban food supply, urban and peri-urban food production, food security, food safety and nutrition. A similar meeting is under preparation for Latin America in 2003.
    3. The UNCHS/Habitat Workshop on "Urban Policy Implications for Enhancing Food Security in African Cities" held in Nairobi, Kenya, in May 2002 was organized with the active collaboration and participation of both FAO Headquarters and the Sub-Regional Office for Southern and East Africa.
    4. At the World Food Summit: fyl in June 2002, a special issue of the Urban Agriculture magazine, prepared by RUAF with a significant contribution from FAO, was made available to participants. A live display of the Micro-garden technology was set up on FAO premises.
    5. FAO delivered the key note address at the workshop on "Urban and Peri-urban Agriculture in Central and Eastern Europe" organized in June 2002 in Sofia, Bulgaria, as part of a project on "Soil and Water Management in Agricultural Production in Urban Areas" funded by the European Union.
    6. FAO made a presentation at a parallel event at the UN General Assembly Session on Istanbul+5, in June 2001.

III. Technical Programmes and Assistance

5. Increasing attention is being given to urban food security and nutrition. Urban or peri-urban groups have been included in the studies on Vulnerable Livelihood Profiles (2000-2002) particularly on Guatemala, Vietnam and Nepal. A study on the impact of urban living on diets and nutritional status is presently under way.

6. Initiatives in the area of UPA include an international workshop on "Organic and Greenfood Production in Urban and Peri-urban Areas of South East Asian Countries"; an international workshop on UPA on the occasion of the International Horticulture Congress (Toronto, August 2002); a training workshop on UPA technologies for the Horticulture Research and Development Network in African Countries (RADHORT); and a socio-economic evaluation of small and medium size hydroponic enterprises in Santiago de Chile. Increasing attention is being given to the development of sustainable irrigation practices, including the safe use of waste water, as a pre-condition to the production of safe food.

7. An international workshop on "Trees outside Forests and Urban and Peri-urban Forestry" was organized in Rome in November 2001. FAO also participated in 2002 in the "European Workshop on Urban and City Greening" held in Greece. A strategic framework (2002-2007) on urban and peri-urban forestry has been developed to assist Member Nations in improving the environment and diversifying food production in urban areas. An awareness raising meeting on the ecological, social, cultural and economic roles of planted trees in ensuring food security for cities is being organized in Latin America.

8. An assessment of profitability and sustainability of peri-urban farming in selected urban and peri-urban sites is under way with a view to both enhance resource-use efficiency and reduce negative on-site (e.g. soil depletion) and negative external (e.g. pollution) impacts of relevant farming systems.

9. National workshops on "Food Supply and Distribution to Cities" focussing on policies and programmes to enhance urban food marketing and food security were organized in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Beirut (Lebanon), Damascus (Syria) and Amman (Jordan) in 2001 and in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) and Manila (Philippines) in 2002. FAO participated in an inter-sectorial working group on urban food security in Harare, Zimbabwe (2001). A presentation on urban food security and food supply and distribution to Asian cities was made to the meeting on food security of the Asian Consumers Association held in July 2002. Monitoring of urban and peri-urban food security is part of Food Security Information and Early Warning Systems in Mauritania and Nicaragua. The Urban Food Marketing Plan for the city of Greater Amman has been completed. A project proposal for technical assistance to the Municipality of Lahore (Pakistan) to improve urban food security and food marketing has been prepared.

10. National workshops and/or projects on urban and peri-urban agriculture have been organized or developed in Bolivia, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea and Namibia. Additional projects are in the pipeline for Bangladesh, Benin, Botswana, Cameroon and Mexico. Urban and peri-urban agriculture and forestry have become significant components of FAO’s emergency response, e.g. horticulture in Congo, poultry and dairy projects in Afghanistan, tree planting for food, energy production and income generation in Angola.

IV. Information Products

11. Technical materials and information tools have been developed to meet demand from a range of users. The document "Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture: A Briefing Guide for the Successful Implementation of Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture in Developing Countries and Countries in Transition" is available on the FAO Intranet to enable staff involved in the Special Programme for Food Security to assist interested countries in the implementation of the urban and peri-urban component. Pamphlets on urban and peri-urban agriculture, urban and peri-urban horticulture, micro-garden technology, integrated plant production and protection management (IPP) and IPP card system were prepared for use by executives of local authorities. A publication on "Livestock Keeping in Urban Areas: A Review of Traditional Technologies" based on literature and field experiences was published in 2001.

12. Publications related to urban food supply and marketing include the study of "Urban Food Marketing Systems (SADA)" and "A Guide on the Informal Food Marketing Sector: Municipal Policies to Support the Informal Food Sector". A distance learning CD on "Urban Food Supply Policies and Planning" was prepared in conjunction with the International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies in Montpellier. A CD on "Planning and Policies for Feeding Cities" was developed as an inter-active training and sensitisation tool for governments and municipalities.

13. A video on "Food for the Cities" highlighting the implications of rapid urban growth on food supply systems around the world was prepared in conjunction with RAI (Italian Television). This was followed by a second video on "Feeding Cities in the Horn of Africa". A video on micro-garden technologies for urban and peri-urban areas in Senegal is also available.

14. FAO’s website now includes a section on urban and peri-urban horticulture. On-line manuals on urban and peri-urban intensive production of vegetable crops through hydroponic systems can be downloaded from the website of the Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean ( Area-Wide Integration projects dealing with the issue of pollution caused by industrial livestock production (mostly located in the vicinity of urban centres) are described in the website of the Livestock, Environment and Development (LEAD) initiative ( The web site on Food Supply and Distribution to Cities ( was expanded to include sets of training materials for use in national level training workshops.

V. Towards the Future

15. An inter-disciplinary strategy on Food for Cities has been developed in the MTP 2004-092, with the following objectives and priorities in the near term:

    1. to raise the awareness of Member Nations, municipal authorities and relevant institutions on the need to protect and improve urban and peri-urban food security especially of poor households through the dissemination of information and sensitisation materials and holding national and sub regional workshops;
    2. to make available technical guidance and capacity-building tools (publications, guidelines) to improve the safety, effectiveness and sustainability of urban and peri-urban food and agricultural production including post-production systems, with special attention to increasing food availability and accessibility as well as enhancing food quality and safety;
    3. to provide policy guidance at the municipal and other levels to improve the efficiency of the urban food sector as an integral component of the overall food supply and distribution system, taking into account the need to enhance rural/urban linkages, through the production and dissemination of printed and audio visual materials targeted at municipalities and policy makers;
    4. to promote the protection and improvement of the urban and peri-urban environment while reducing urban food insecurity.

16. Implementation of the strategy will require an increased involvement of technical units and expanded collaboration with relevant institutions at national, regional and global levels.


1 CL 119/17

2 CL 123/7