Food for the Cities


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FAO Climate Change circle

Food for the Cities in the context of Climate Change


Urban people represent now more than half of the world’s population, with projections of 70 % of 9 billion people in 2050. Climate change adds to the challenge to ensure food security of this population. Cities and the food supply chain are increasingly vulnerable to extreme, unpredictable weather events. Moreover, climate change can have indirect impact as it may induce population displacements.

Therefore, urban food systems will need to be revisited to ensure that all urban people will have access to sustainable diets which bring together health, but also economic, environment, social and cultural considerations. Furthermore, protection and sustainable management of natural resources both within cities and in surrounding areas is and will be essential for healthy and resilient cities. Territorial planning based on effective urban-rural linkages is therefore key to ensure adaptation of cities to climate change, to prevent its effects and recover more rapidly.

During the World Urban Forum V, organized by UN-Habitat and hosted by Brazil in Rio de Janeiro (22 - 26 March 2010), the impact of climate change on cities has often been stated. FAO has a specific role to play to link it with the issues of right to food in cities and the importance of the rural-urban linkages for more resilient cities. FAO can propose a territorial approach that brings together all the different actors in order to bring answers to the challenges of climate change.

A presentation, introducing the discussion, will be done by Ms Florence Egal (AGND) and Mr Julien Custot (NRC), representing FAO-FCIT to the World Urban Forum V , and who are respectively Secretary and Facilitator of the FAO Food for the Cities multidisciplinary initiative (

Notes from the meeting

A seminar on "Food for the Cities in the context of Climate Change" took place on 10th May 2010. After a presentation done by Julien Custot (available at the above link), with some inputs of Florence Egal, an interesting discussion followed. Key points were raised both on FAO's action side and on an overall framework, and you can find them listed below.

Working with local authorities
First issue dealt by participants was related to the actors involved when intervening in urban areas. Due to the fact that FAO is mandated by national governments, how challenging is it to work also with other/new actors, such as local authorities/governments in this specific topic? Florence Egal reminded that it is a critical point also raised at the Summit of Regions held in Dakar last January, where FAO participated. The challenge is to promote a “double strategic planning” at both central level and local level. How the Organization will respond to this challenge depends on the capacities of the network to advocate on this governance issue.

In general, local authorities are dealing with infrastructure, not much with food. However, infrastructures are related to food (markets, water distribution, etc) and food comes from the environment, from the use of natural resources. This has to be considered also, and it is where FAO can play a role.

It can be interesting to work at regional level in order for the local authorities to meet, share ideas and find commonalities.

ICLEI has taken this topic of cities and climate change has a very important issue, in order to serve local authorities. Would it be possible to consider the fact that FAO establishes standards to be taken into account when managing the food and food production dimensions in city planning/policy?
FAO will be present at the next ICLEI meeting: the different departments are invited to give there inputs.

Management of natural resources
A second main topic raised touched the natural resources management point of view, with a special mention to the water issue. FAO used to work on the water issue in terms of sanitation, safety of vegetable produce in urban areas. But another aspect to be considered is the water flow from neighbouring areas, and the water management at the watershed level.
Example can be taken both from developed and developing countries. “Jumelage/Twinnig” and decentralized cooperation programmes could be a good way to share ideas and promote more adapted policies.
The management of water resource can be included in territorial approach with “payment for environmental services" at the watershed level, from the downstream (mainly urban, e.g. cities and industries) to the upstream activities (mainly rural, e.g. agriculture). This aspect can be further developed by colleagues involved in this theme.
Technologies related to irrigation systems need to be considered, because water and the competitions between different uses of it are key elements. But should we keep adapting our production method for the same crops or should we start thinking about adapting our crop production? (In other words, does maize make sense in dried areas?)
Julien Custot has also mentioned the interest of private sector on this topic; indeed the private sector was strongly present at the WUF and demonstrated a great interest in playing a role.

Another aspect that can be considered as key for FAO is training and education for awareness raising and responsibility in management of the water resource.

WFP colleagues raised the point of humanitarian response, and emergencies and either FAO deals with this in urban areas. FAO in the framework of Food for cities multi-disciplinary initiative has people dealing with the topic (see website menu on the left) and at the moment is also involved in the IASC TF on Meeting Humanitarian Challenges in Urban Areas. This is an experience which will consolidate the Rome based agencies relations, and a starting point of discussion on communalities.

Urban-rural and consumer-producers links
Finally, in order to strengthen efficient and sustainable local food systems the food chain and links between producers and consumers need to be considered and dealt with.
School feeding can be a driver for local policies (e.g. school feeding programme in the US). There’s a need to work with consumer associations. This issue concerns all the countries and is not limited to developing countries. It’s particularly true if we talk about obesity and the problems of nutrition.

FAO challenges
FAO has already a well established technical expertise and project management know-how, both at HQs and decentralized offices level. We do not need to invent nothing else, but to take advantage from what already exist and to work on complexity.