Food for the cities programme

From emergency response to resilience: future-proof city region food systems


On 24 May 2023, FAO, RUAF, CIRAD and Making Cities Resilient 2030 organized a virtual event From emergency response to resilience: future-proof city region food systemsas part of the CRFS Knowledge Exchange Webinar Series. It highlighted the importance of addressing food system vulnerabilities and implementing context-specific solutions to ensure food security and nutrition for all, even in times of crisis. 

The event was centered around the results of a global study conducted by FAO, RUAF and CIRAD, on lessons learnt from the impacts of multiple shocks and stresses on city region food systems, capturing interventions both as emergency measures and to build long-term resilience. The study also built an evidence base on how territorial food system approaches can help local governments with planning and investments to increase resilience to multiple risks, including climate change and pandemics.   

Taking a unique approach, the study examined resilience at the food system level rather than focusing solely on individual resilience. By collecting data through a global survey and conducting case studies in 11 cities around the world, it sought to understand the perceptions of food system actors on resilience.  

The study revealed the compounding impacts of overlapping shocks and stresses on food security and nutrition, affecting all actors of the food system. Addressing the "new normal" of constant shocks and stresses affecting an increasing number of vulnerable people requires solutions that go beyond absorbing their impacts. It also revealed three broad categories of actions building resilience: i) strengthening local food production, ii) ensuring food security through local stocks and safety nets, and iii) implementing transformative actions within the food system. 

The study also identified challenges hindering transformative actions, such as the lack of a long-term vision, the capacity to change the system, and top-down approaches lacking transparency and flexibility. Empowering local governments to develop effective interventions, promoting collective actions, and applying tailor-made solutions that consider local contexts and the interdependencies within the food system were suggested as key approaches to foster innovation and mobilize collective intelligence. 

In developing innovative interventions for resilient food systems, the study proposed three principles: i)mobilizing all five resilience capacities (absorbing shocks, preventing risks, anticipating threats, adapting to changes, and transforming systems), ii) prioritizing adaptation and transformation in interventions, and iii) applying a systemic approach that considers interdependencies within the food system. 

During the event, representatives from cities participating in the study shared their experiences in responding to unforeseen shocks and building long-term resilience. The case of Tamale (Ghana) emphasized the importance of addressing food system vulnerabilities beyond supporting vulnerable populations. Medellin (Colombia), on the other hand, highlighted the critical role of collective actions in transforming food systems. Lastly, Chengdu (China) showcased the potential of local government to be transformative when equipped with necessary resources and applying a holistic approach by looking beyond food, interlinking other sectors, coordinating with other government levels, and including all food system actors. 

Overall, the event underlined the importance to transition from emergency responses to long-term resilience in city region food systems. Resilience-building actions should extend beyond the most vulnerable populations and address vulnerabilities across the entire food system. Local governments can play a transformative role if adequately equipped and coordinated with other levels of government. Ultimately, collective actions and inclusive governance are critical elements for system-level transformations.  

The recording of the event is available in English, French, Spanish and Chinese.  

Register for the third CRFS Knowledge Exchange Webinar on Monday, 26 June 2023, 14:00-15:15 CEST: Capacity-building for city region food system resilience.