Foro Global sobre Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutrición (Foro FSN)

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    • Dear Colleagues, greetings from Neuchâtel, Switzerland!

      Please find below and attached my contribution to this important discussion. Merci! 

      Gisèle Yasmeen (normally in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia).


      Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important document.

      This is a worthwhile initiative, a very nice overview and well presented. I only have the following constructive comments to make.

      I think that giving more prominence to the role of urbanization and the role of urban food systems in shaping global trends would be helpful. “In 2015 an estimated 54 per cent of the world’s population resided in urban areas and the urban population is expected to increase to 6.3 billion by 2050, when 66 per cent of the world’s population is projected to be urban (UNDESA 2014).

      Regarding section 2.3 on food loss and waste, I think it’s excellent that you are including this but feel as though the language and conceptualization is a bit too aligned with the FLW challenges of the global north. My understanding is that post-harvest losses are the big issue in the Global South and that this can be lessened with investments in infrastructure. Half of grains and at least a third of fresh fruits and vegetables never make their way to market in low and middle-income countries. It would be useful to really emphasize this.

      In the box on page 33 (section 1.3), while I agree that all regions have development potential, not only urban areas, I would add that rapid urbanization is a key structuring feature of the future, particularly in Africa and Asia. However, to help stem the tide of rural to urban migration, increasing incomes in rural areas is key.

      On p. 34, Box 3, first bullet, I would suggest adding that micro, small and medium enterprises in the agri-food system (including informal microenterprises), have a key role to play in the value chain. Please see my report published by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada earlier this year (Yasmeen et. al. 2018).

      On p. 36 at the end of section 3.1.3, it might be worth mentioning that much of the world’s agriculture land is devoted to growing animal feed and sugar. While complex, devoting some of this land to grow suitable, nutritious food for human beings, could go a long way in dealing with food security.

      In section 3.1.4 in the box on Public Health Approaches, it would be worth mentioning that access to potable water for the washing of hands and food is the number one way to ensure higher degrees of food safety in the global south.

      Finally, there are a host of other smaller issues that might be worth raising in this framework, for example: the role of sustainable packaging to move away from plastic, engaging botanical gardens as fellow travelers in the world of sustainable food systems given their role in the preservation and curation of plant-related knowledge and related education (see references below) and more references on the cost of food / purchasing power. Furthermore, I would caution against using the word “natural” when discussing breeding of domesticated plants and animals as this process has been controlled by humans for thousands of years. What may be useful to raise is the relation between biodiversity within domesticated versus wild species and opportunity share genetic resources for the benefits of human and environmental health.

      Finally, the graphic depicted on Annex 1 is difficult to read. Can a simplified version be generated?

      Thanks ever so much to a number of you for reaching out to encourage me to comment on this important topic. I hope my comments are helpful and I look forward to learning of what comes out of this process.


      Gisèle Yasmeen

      Gisèle Yasmeen, Ph.D.

      Senior Fellow, Institute of Asian Research, School of Public Policy and Global Affairs

      University of British Columbia

      Adjunct Professor, School of Environment and Sustainability

      Royal Roads University


      Moreau, T and Yasmeen, G. “Botanical Gardens: Allies in Food Security and Nutrition,” Food Tank, Published June 8, 2018. Available at:…

      UNDESA. 2014. World Urbanization Prospects: The 2014 Revision, Highlights. New York.

      Yasmeen, G., R. Kunin and Vietnam Silicon Valley, Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises in Agri-Food: A Study of the Philippines, Vietnam and Peru, Vancouver: Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada on behalf of the Global Affairs Canada funded Asia- Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Growing Business Partnership. March 23, 2018. Available at:…

      Yasmeen, G. 2018. “Evolving Foodscapes: Lessons from the Asia-Pacific”, published in Roots: Botanic Gardens Conservation International Education Review Volume 15, Number 2, November 2018, pp 17-19. 

    • Greetings from beautiful Vancouver, Canada. Apologies for jumping in late.

      In the interest of brevity, I would like to point out that some of the questions being posed are discussed in our recent report on micro, small and medium enterprises with respect to agri-food in the Philippines, Vietnam and Peru commissioned by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada on behalf of the Global Affairs Canada funded APEC-Growing Business Partnership. While extreme poverty is not the exact focus, strengthening sustainable agri-food systems can and does play an important role in lifting the poorest of poor out of poverty, particularly in rural areas. However, this should be supplemented by redistribution of resources - through various programs including but not limited to cash-transfers - and investments in female literacy and nutrition. 

      The study was published on March 23rd, 2018 and can be freely downloaded at:…

      Please feel free to contact me at any time if you have questions or comments. 

      Gisèle Yasmeen

      Gisèle Yasmeen, Ph.D.

      Senior Fellow, Institute of Asian Research, University of British Columbia

      Adjunct Professor, School of Environment and Sustainability
      Royal Roads University 

    • Thank you for inviting me to participate in this important consultation. Attached is my contribution entered in the template provided. I am also pasting the key messages below for easy reference 

      A.    Overall, we need a comprehensive food-system approach to understand food security for urbanites, particularly those with low-incomes;
      B.    We need to critically examine concepts of urban, peri-urban and rural, and how these are defined in various contexts as well as the blurring of conceptual boundaries.
      C.    While urban agriculture is important, it may not play as important a role in urban food security as the urban food-security discourse suggests. Attention to other aspects of urban food supply and distribution is also needed. 
      D.    As Amartya Sen argued many decades ago, food security is mostly about purchasing power and entitlements, hence attention to incomes and livelihoods is of utmost importance to the question of food security, particularly in urban areas.
      E.    The world currently produces enough food to generously feed the global population, in addition to incomes and entitlements, more focus needs to be placed on reducing food waste throughout the production and consumption change, particularly post-harvest losses (see Yasmeen 2014). 
      F.    The important role of women in the agri-food system, should not be ignored. Women play a key role in both food production and consumption in rural and urban areas.
      Municipal policies with respect to livelihoods, including within the urban food-system are as important as agricultural and food-distribution systems and related policies. 


    • Dear Colleagues, 

      As promised, here is the second form for organizational participants. I am a member of the Board of Directors of the Vancouver Women's Health Collective, which is interested in participating as per the attached. Though I am also Senior Fellow at the University of British Columbia (Institute of Asian Research), I am not authorized to speak on behalf of UBC so cannot fill out a form for the university. Having said that, participants in the forum will be interested in knowing that UBC has a Centre for Sustainable Food Systems (run out of the Faculty of Land and Food Systems - LFS) as well as an experimental farm. There are scholars working on sustainable food-systems in a variety of institutes, departments etc beyond LFS including Community and Regional Planning, Geography, Social Work, Health Sciences and even humanities departments. 

      I did not fill out the form documenting projects because there there are just too many to mention. Canada alone has sustainable food systems organisations and projects from coast to coast to coast operating in both English and French (our two official languages) as well as others focused on more specific communities (indigenous, minority ethnic etc.). A good contact is the Canadian Association of Food Studies. 

      I have worked extensively on sustainable food-systems and look forward to hearing about the outcome of these discussions. Thanks for allowing me to participate.

      Gisèle Yasmeen (

    • Dear Colleagues,

      Thank you for the excellent concept note. I am a very critical individual and have nothing but praise for this paper. The comments in the attached document are fairly minor and constructive. 

      Other documentation and responses will be coming along shortly. 

      All the best and thanks for inviting me to participate.

      Gisèle Yasmeen

    • Dear Colleagues:

      I don't have as much time and expertise to contribute to this discussion compared to others (e.g. sustainable food systems). However, before it closes, I would like to offer a few points for your consideration:

      1. There is growing attention being paid to the "food/energy/water nexus". The discourse around all three tends to be similar. On the one hand, there is concern around "shortages". However, upon closer scrutiny, we have plenty of food, water and energy for the earth's current population (and many demographers are now challenging the "reaching 9B" hypothesis due to low birthrates around the world) but there are issues around access, storage, etc. I'm told one of the British research funding agencies had a "sandpit" on the food-energy-water nexus. I would be curious what came out of that exercise. Usually these "sandpits" bring together the world's top experts in a field. 
      2. What is the right balance between attention to mitigation versus adaptation when it comes to climate change? How much effort and for what expected gain do we focus on one versus the other in various situations. In Canada, most of which is cold, there is already attention being paid into the impact of climate change of bringing more land into the productive sphere due to global warming.  Small pacific islands, on the other hand, face potential obliteration. 
      3. Finally, let us not place so much attention on agricultural production at the expense of examining the impacts of other aspects of the value chain. As Nicolas Bricas at CIRAD has shown, one of the biggest GHG emitting activities in the food system is consumers driving to the grocery store to fetch groceries! See my recent op-ed on feeding the world available at:… 

      Thanks for allowing me to participate. I look forward to learning about the outcome of this process.

      Gisèle Yasmeen (most publications available at and LinkedIn) 

    • Greetings to all. Here are my contributions to the last two initial questions. I did not have time to ponder on the follow-up questions. I hope this e-dialogue yielded the results that were hoped for. 

      1.    I believe that creating a system of incentives (e.g permits to sell in areas where there are more potential customers, such as near schools, hospitals, transportation hubs; vouchers or some sort of recognition mechanism for good practices) is required for motivating the street vendors to use locally-sourced, fresh produce. Do you think that such incentives could be successful, and why? What other types of incentives might be, and why?

      Recognition will only go so far. I suspect pricing, convenience and perceived quality are the major issues.

      2.     What new mechanisms can be put in place to raise peoples’ awareness on the consequences of their street eating habits? Do you know any advertising methods, which have been proven effective?

      I am not aware of any advertising methods nor whether such methods have been effective or not. I suspect the most issues are price, convenience and quality, as above. 

      However, the above answers are based on conjecture rather than systematic evidence. 

    • Thank you for all the contributions and to our moderators! Here are my answers to questions 2, 3 and 4. I will get to questions 5 and 6 in the next few days.

      2.     Are there examples of concrete measures promoted by local authorities to recognize and increase such kind of link?

      I am unaware of concrete measures but there may well be some examples. The National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI) as well as other organizations such as the Cebut City United Vendors Association (which I documented for FAO at: may have information on this.

      3.   If so, how have these actions influenced consumers’ choices towards street food?

      Unknown to me.

      4.   Have similar initiatives been prompted directly by street food vendors associations? How?

      As above. Unknown to me. 


      General comment: It’s great that FAO is hosting this on-line forum as it has been my experience that the work on streetfoods and, associated literature, tends to be quite separate and needs to be more thoroughly integrated.

      1.    Are you aware of actual direct links between street food vendors and local urban farmers?

      The following answer is based on evidence I am aware of and can vouch for due to my involvement in both streetfoods and urban agriculture research for more than 20 years.  Here is my attempt to answer question 1 with answers to the other questions coming over the next week or so.

      In my report for the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) entitled “Urban Agriculture in India” available at: the case of Dr RT Doshi is described on p. 25 talks about how Dr. Doshi – an internationally recognized leader in urban food production – obtained biomass from sugar cane vendors for his own food production work (hence, the relationship is the inverse in this case to the assumed one of vendors selling the products of urban agriculture). Since this report was published, a plethora of information on Dr. Doshi’s work has become available on the internet, including videos.

      On pp. 32-33 there is following quote “The M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) estimated that there is a great potential for flower cultivation, especially orchids, in urban and peri-urban parts of India. At a workshop on women and food security, this type of micro enterprise development was identified as a potentially profitable source of income for women (MSSRF 2000, Annexure 2b).” However, there is no reference to supply chains leading to their sale by street vendors.

      The document also has reference to wastewater aquaculture in West Bengal, which can be in peri-urban areas and typically supplies the needs of urban dwellers (pp. 29-30). There is also reference to animal husbandry in urban areas as well as cultivation of ornamental plants.

      In the technical report I edited for FAO entitled Feeding Asian Cities (available at while there is discussion of both urban agriculture and street vending, there is little on linking the two, though both are associated with poverty alleviation.  Having said that, pp. 17-22 are very useful for understanding food supply and distribution to cities, including production in urban and peri-urban areas.

      There is a bit more in my book, Bangkok’s Foodscape ( A section beginning on p. 57 talks about supply linkages and the role of market gardens in Rangsit (just outside of Bangkok, which I would classify as peri-urban agriculture), which supplied some of the vendors interviewed. Having said that, the economic boom of the early to mid-nineties resulted in significant amounts of agricultural land on the urban periphery being converted to other uses. Vendors reported buying their fish from wholesale markets in Bangkok which obtained their supply from the eastern seaboard with meat, poultry and particularly eggs (which are less regulated) coming from urban/peri-urban areas.

      Conclusion: there needs to be a thorough literature review to elucidate the relationship between streetvending and UPA (with both being clearly defined – particularly the latter which should include commercially oriented market-gardens, etc. I suspect decisions by vendors as to where they obtain their supply are primarily related to pricing, particularly in low-income situations.