FAO Regional Office for Near East and North Africa

Engaging cities in sustainable and inclusive agrifood systems transformation

Cairo (Egypt), 08/11/2023 - 09/11/2023

Engaging cities in sustainable and inclusive agrifood systems transformation


Urbanization is a major trend with profound implications for agrifood systems, including land use changes, labor constraints, complex market linkages and growing informal food markets. Evidence suggests that access to safe and nutritious food in urban low-income areas is strongly connected to employment instability and the low cash income of the urban poor. Therefore, urbanization in low- and medium-income countries can result in increased poverty, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition. In this context, cities and local governments have a crucial role to play to achieve sustainable and inclusive agrifood systems transformation.

In recognition of the importance of food secure and resilient cities, many local governments across the world are prioritizing food systems in their policies and plans. Their actions usually aim at addressing broader sets of challenges such as malnutrition, environmental challenges and resilience to shocks and extreme events. However, despite the progress, the role of local and regional governments in promoting urban food systems transformation has not been sufficiently recognized at national and global levels. In most cases, particularly in developing countries, local and sub-national governments lack financial and technical capacity to advance sustainable transformation of agrifood systems at scale. To support municipalities in putting cities in the driving seat for sustainable agrifood systems, there is a growing number of urban food systems networks and initiatives at global, regional and national levels.

In the same spirit, FAO is increasingly prioritizing urban food systems and supporting governments at all levels on promoting sustainable agrifood systems transformation. The FAO Strategic Framework 2022- 2031 includes urban food systems as one of the 20 priority program areas, to be implemented along with key partners and city networks. Under this framework FAO has developed flagship initiatives such as the FAO Urban Food Agenda launched in 2019 and the FAO Green Cities Initiative, launched in 2021, focusing on urban food systems and urban greening.

Event Objective

Capitalizing on the power of partnerships and momentum driving the urban food agenda at global level, FAO is holding the Engaging cities in sustainable and inclusive agrifood systems transformation in the Near East and North Africa region event. This event will aim to increase awareness of national and subnational governments and development partners in the NENA region about the important role that local governments and cities play in the agrifood systems transformation agenda.

Drawing on successful practices and experiences of the region and beyond, the sessions will highlight holistic agrifood systems strategies and policies developed at local level, experiences of multi-actor food governance mechanisms as well as entry-points for integrating agrifood systems in local policies, planning and actions.

Expected Outcomes

  • Increased awareness among policy makers at national and local levels on the importance of sustainable urban food systems to achieve SDGs;
  • Entry points and priorities for a road map towards sustainable urban food systems in the NENA region, in alignment with the global FAO Urban Food Agenda, identified and agreed.
  • Recommendations for scaling-up the city-to-city exchange mechanism and action points validated by partners and participants (e.g. establishment of a thematic platform).


The format is a two-day hybrid meeting with representatives from all NENA countries, invited speakers, and FAO partners joining in-person, as well as a possibility for invitees to join online via Zoom. Accommodations can be made for presenters to participate via Zoom. Interpretation in Arabic, English and French will be available to facilitate interaction among participants.




DAY 1 

8:30 – 9:00 

Registration and coffee 

9:00 – 9:30 

Welcome and opening remarks 

  • RNE-ADG 

  • Representatives of host country ministries 

9:30 – 9:50 

Group photo and coffee/tea break 

9:50 – 10:00 

Proceedings – Agenda of the workshop at a glance  

Master of Ceremony: FAO 

Session 1: Urban food systems in the NENA Region: Challenges and opportunities  

This session sets the foundation for engaging cities and local governments in the transformation towards more sustainable, resilient, inclusive agrifood systems in NENA. By i) understanding the concept of agrifood systems and contribution of cities to accelerating the shift to more sustainable consumption and production patterns and achieving the SDGs, ii) exploring the opportunities and challenges for sustainable urban food systems in NENA, and start iii) identifying levers of change at policy and governance level, to inspire action, innovative approaches, and scaling-up efforts. 

10:00 – 10:40 

Cornerstone presentations: 

  • Accelerating the shift to sustainable agrifood systems by engaging cities  

  • Strengthening urban food systems in the Near East and North Africa 

  • Levers of change at policy and governance level 

10:40 – 11:30 

Moderated round table: How can cities enable actions towards sustainable urban food systems in the NENA Region (5’ statements and discussion)? 

Session 2 – Stories from cities: Integrating agrifood in policy and strategy at urban level 

This experience-sharing session among cities in the NENA region and beyond aims to learn from the processes, success and failures of integrating agriculture and food in policies and strategies of municipalities. The session explores, what were the starting points, the actions taken, and/or aspirations of different cities to mainstream agrifood systems in their planning? The session will also include Q&A. 

11:30 – 12:30 

5-6 Speakers (virtual and in person) sharing stories from cities  

12:30 – 2:00 

Lunch break 

Session 3 – Urban food world café: Exploring key thematic areas   

The complex nature of agrifood systems calls for tailored actions and policies that are fit-for-purpose and encourage progress towards more sustainable agrifood systems. Municipalities can identify priorities and design processes with their stakeholders that deliver greater benefits for citizens. This ‘world café’ style session will explore key thematic areas that could be priority entry-points for municipalities to integrate food in their policies and strategies. 

2:00 – 3:30 

Three ‘world café’ style breakout groups.  

In each group, each presenter has a poster/handout and five minutes to tell their story. Then groups rotate across the tables. One rapporteur per group summarizes back to plenary the highlights of each group.   


Thematic Group #1: Urban food waste prevention, reduction, and management  


Thematic Group #2: Sustainable urban and peri-urban agriculture to ensure food security and nutrition 


Thematic Group #3: Inclusive urban food markets  


3:30 – 3:45 

Coffee/tea break 

3:45 – 4:45 

Plenary: Reporting back from the world café 

Rapporteurs share a synthesis from their perspectives of the priority issues, opportunities and challenges facing municipalities to address them, and potential areas of support needed. 


Open discussion and Q&A 

4:45 – 5:00 

Wrap-up and close of Day 1 






Day 2 

8:30 – 9:30 

Breakfast Session: Partnering for action in the Mediterranean region - Participation with invitation 

Session 4 - Bridging national and local food systems governance  

Transforming agrifood systems requires engagement at all levels of policy and governance. The session will i) share the outcome of the FAO Guideline on multi-level food systems governance, ii) share experience from national governments that bring cities to the agrifood systems policy table; iii) identify opportunities to bridge national and local food systems governance in the NENA region. 

9:30 – 11:00 

Cornerstone presentation: Peer-to-peer learning mechanism  

Moderated panel discussion: 5-6 panelists share experience and aspirations for peer-to-peer learning 

11:00 – 11:15 

Coffee/tea break 

Session 5 – Accelerating urban food action in NENA region through city-to-city exchange  

City-to-city exchange (C2C) is a proven mechanism for sharing good practices, innovations and journeys to sustainable food systems. Through peer-to-peer- learning, networking, and experience sharing, cities can get inspired and develop their own capacity to address urban food systems issues. This session will aim to i) identify cities from the global south and north that are interested in exchanging; and ii) propose actions and mechanisms to facilitate exchange among cities (e.g. establishment of a thematic platform). 

11:15 – 12:45 

Cornerstone presentations: FAO and guest speakers 

Discussants roundtable, followed by Q&A 

12:45 – 1:15 

Ceremonial launch: Milan and Amman City-to-city exchange 

1:15 – 2:15 

Lunch break 

Session 6 - The way forward for promoting sustainable urban food systems in the NENA region 

Building on the outcomes of the two-day event, this session will identify entry points and priorities for a roadmap towards sustainable urban food systems in the NENA region. With a view to inspiring action, collaboration and concerted effort, the way forward will capture expressions of interest and proposals to support cities to mainstream agrifood systems in their policies and planning. 

2:15 – 3:30 

  • Summary presentation of key findings, pathways, actions  

  • Entry points and priorities for a road map towards sustainable urban food systems in the NENA region, in alignment with the global FAO Urban Food Agenda, identified and agreed.   

  • Recommendations for scaling-up city-to-city exchange mechanisms and action points validated by partners and participants  

3:30 – 3:45 

Closing remarks, AbdulHakim Elwaer, RNE-ADG