Food for the cities programme

Building Resilience in City Region Food Systems: Launch of the Assessment and Planning Handbook and Toolkit


On 4 May 2023, FAO and RUAF jointly launched the City Region Food Systems (CRFS) Assessment and Planning Handbook and Online Toolkit during a virtual event. These resources were developed based on the experiences of the CRFS Programme implemented in 11 cities across 10 countries since 2014 with the aim to build an understanding of the functioning of cities and food systems, assessing the risks and vulnerability to different types of shocks, engaging stakeholders in local food system governance, and promoting multi-stakeholder collaboration.

Key elements of the CRFS approach include its territorial perspective, recognizing the interconnections between urban areas and their surrounding rural regions, and its food system perspective that links people, sectors, and scales through food. Along with other FAO projects, the CRFS Programme provided the foundation for the development of the FAO Green Cities Initiative, launched in 2020, which aims to integrate urban agriculture, forestry, and sustainable food systems into planning, policies, and actions at the local government level.

The handbook and toolkit guide project coordinators and teams in city regions to build food system resilience through evidence-based action planning. Stakeholders develop action plans proposing concrete interventions, policies, and practices to address identified issues and enhance resilience capacities. The process improves knowledge, awareness, and governance of city region food systems through a multi-stakeholder approach. Establishing a long-term governance platform or food policy council enables continuous collaboration for improvement and addressing emerging challenges.

The handbook consists of two thematic tracks: the main track focuses on the overall functioning and performance of the city region food system, while the multi-risk track allows exploration of specific risks like climate shocks and stresses, and pandemics. Throughout the assessment and planning process, the CRFS indicator framework prioritizes areas of attention and spatial mapping and analysis aid in understanding the unique territorial context of each city region.

Representatives from two CRFS pilot cities shared their experiences in implementing the programme. Following the CRFS approach in Antananarivo (Madagascar) resulted in the development of a strategy and action plan to enhance food system resilience by adopting a territorial perspective, promoting local production and enhancing food and nutrition education. In Colombo (Sri Lanka), on the other hand, it revealed the importance of minimizing food loss and waste throughout the food value chain, promoting climate-resilient crop production, and enhancing urban and peri-urban agriculture.

Panelists highlighted several important points. Firstly, building resilience in agricultural and food systems requires understanding interconnected risks, employing multiple entry points for effective solutions addressing vulnerabilities and root causes of risks. This calls for collaborative efforts, risk-driven political will, strategic partnerships, coordination, investment, capacity development, and knowledge management involving all stakeholders. Secondly, it is important to define regional food systems and adopt a systems approach that considers the interconnectedness of various components, including non-food policies, addressing challenges comprehensively.

The event concluded by outlining the importance of prioritizing vulnerable populations while building the resilience of territorial food systems in times of permanent crises threatening food security. Implementing a systems approach that addresses environmental and economic sustainability alongside food security and nutrition proves to be a complex but necessary task. The CRFS Assessment and Planning Handbook and toolkit provides invaluable support to cities and stakeholders navigating this intricate landscape and fostering a more resilient future.

The recording of the event can be found here.