Green Cities Initiative gains momentum in helping cities increase the well-being of inhabitants

FAO marks two years of supporting efforts to make urban and peri-urban areas healthier and more sustainable

©FAO/Ami Vitale

FAO's Green Cities Initiative aims to help cities to improve their resilience and the well-being of urban and peri-urban populations.

©FAO/Ami Vitale


Rome – The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) took stock of its Green Cities Initiative on Wednesday with the Green Cities Initiative 2nd Year Anniversary Event: Supporting Cities to be Greener.

In 2020, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), FAO launched the Green Cities Initiative to help small, intermediary and metropolitan cities to improve their resilience and the well-being of urban and peri-urban populations.

It aims to increase people’s well-being through better access to improved products and services provided by urban and peri-urban forestry, agriculture and food systems on a sustainable basis.

"Greening cities – whether small or very large – will deliver benefits across the entire sustainable development agenda," QU Dongyu, the FAO Director-General, told the event. 

Participants included Maimunah Mohd Sharif, UN-Habitat Executive Director, Souad Ben Abderrahim, Mayor of Tunis, Tunisia, and Aloke Barnwal, Coordinator, Sustainable Cities Program, Global Environment Facility.

Rethinking cities

Since 2007, a majority of the world's people has lived in urban areas, and this is projected to rise to two-thirds by 2050. Cities heavily contribute to climate change by using about 70 per cent of the global food supply and 80 percent of the world’s energy, and by producing 70 percent of global waste and 60 percent of greenhouse gases.

By integrating agriculture, forestry, and food systems into urban policy, planning and action, cities can: increase food security and access to green spaces for all; improve public health, nutrition, air quality, and resilience to extreme weather events; improve the local economy and creation of green jobs; better mitigate risks from multiple shocks (climate change, economic, pandemic); and reduce the ecological footprint.

The Director-General pointed out that local governments are at the centre for delivering a large part of the wins from greening cities. He added that is why FAO along with its Members, UN HABITAT, the Global Environment Facility and many other partners support local and sub-national governments through this initiative.

FAO has already laid the groundwork for change, Qu said. New partnerships have been set up and existing ones have been expanded. Through the Initiative, FAO is engaged in 80 cities around the world. Twelve African cities have benefited from training on integrating urban agrifood systems and forestry into urban planning, for example. 

More to be done

Qu praised those involved for the progress made so far but added that more must be done.

"Local governments need increased support to develop concrete, inclusive, innovative solutions for day-to-day problems,” Qu said. “They need support to address urban sprawl, which continues to eat into productive land and natural ecosystems that are crucial for adapting to climate change.”

Qu told mayors that they have a key role to play in their cities through better land use planning and developing multifunctional agrifood systems. He also stressed the need for national frameworks that encourage cities to promote sustainable urban and peri-urban agriculture, forestry and agrifood systems. The Director-General also underlined the importance of policy coherence at all levels. 

"Cities are the present and the future, narrowing the inequality gaps,” Qu said. “We need to make them more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable, in harmony with nature and rural communities and also even across borders.”

Wednesday’s event included a panel discussion involving participants from Europe, Asia and Africa titled Green Cities in action – achievements in 2021/2022. Manuel De Araújo, Mayor of Quelimane, Mozambique, Souad Ben Abderrahim, Mayor of Tunis, Tunisia, Matteo Lepore, Mayor of Bologna, Italy, Njoroge Muchiri, Deputy Governor of Nairobi City County, Kenya, and Subram Ramaswamy, Senior adviser of the Mayor of Colombo, Sri Lanka, took part.


Sean Sampson FAO News and Media (Rome) [email protected]

FAO News and Media (+39) 06 570 53625 [email protected]