Logos from organizations involved in the food systems report.

Harnessing urban food systems for sustainable development and human well-being

New Report out of Italy focuses on harnessing urban food systems with a focus on alleviating poverty in Africa.

Read the full report here: Bellagio Communique- Harnessing urban food systems for sustainable development and human well-being

This meeting was convened at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center (Italy) from 14- 16th March 2017 by the ESRC/DFID-funded research project Governing Food Systems to Alleviate Poverty in Secondary Cities in Africa Project (Consuming Urban Poverty) at the African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town. The purpose of the meeting was to consider the potential impact of the research findings of this project on ongoing consultation and implementation of Agenda 2063, Agenda 2030, and the New Urban Agenda, which emphasize the fundamental role that urban food systems play in achieving sustainable cities, along with health, income, jobs and inclusive growth. The meeting included experts from a number of organizations and agencies who concluded that there are severe problems of urban food and nutrition insecurity and inequality around the world, but most particularly in developing countries undergoing rapid urban transitions. Food, as a major expenditure of urban poor in Africa,

Food systems are shaped by and shape urbanization. The food system is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, and represents a major expenditure of the urban poor, particularly where urban food insecurity, poverty and dysfunctional urban form and management are linked an mutually reinforcing. Interventions in the urban food system can have significant positive impacts on both urban sustainability and human wellbeing.

Inadequate access to safe and nutritious food (physically as well as economically), particularly by households in vulnerable situations, is a dominant reason for food insecurity. Urban food security and nutrition are important determinants of urban health and well-being, and strongly impact on both communicable, including zoonotic, and non-communicable disease. Given that a healthier population is a more productive population, addressing the issue of urban food security and nutrition can directly contribute to national economic development. Food systems are major generators of urban employment and livelihoods in areas of food processing and food distribution, and both large and small scale enterprises benefit from the food system; it is often a key source of work for women and youth. Inadequate access to food, infrastructure, and exposure to environmental hazards has a highly gendered impact, increasing the burden on women related to unpaid care activities.

The urban food system can play a role in risk management and resilience to short-term urban shocks and long-term urban stressors. Since food supply and distribution is a system operating across global and local scales, it concerns international agencies, national governments and authorities at regional and local urban level, as well as civil society and private sector organizations, and requires actions at a range of scales and across a range of actors.

The meeting noted further that the issue of urban food security is recognized in the New Urban Agenda, and hence needs to be integrated into policies and plans to implement it. It also recognized that achieving all the SDGs will depend largely on the future of cities, and hence the urban food issue has importance beyond SDG 11 to the entire 2030 Agenda, particularly SDGs 2, 3 and 12. 2. Achieving sustainable urbanization and addressing urban inequalities across the globe requires focus on the issue of urban food insecurity as part of a wider urban agenda.

This requires:

  • Integrating urban food security within local, regional and national urban policy processes;
  • Recognizing the inter-sectoral and multi-level nature of food systems and food security, hence the need for cross-cutting food policy measures at all scales of governance;
  • Recognition that the urban food system is a central component of the functioning of urban centres—hence cities and towns which are sustainable, efficient and which work for poor households, are also more likely to have greater food security;
  • Aligning social protection, which plays a vital role in urban food security and nutrition, to the broader sustainable food system agenda;
  • Recognition of the important role of urban management and planning in impacting on urban food security and nutrition;
  • Support for research and data production to improve understanding of the functioning of the urban food system and its links to sustainable development and human well-being.

At the core of Africa’s long term vision as set out in the African Union’s Agenda 2063 is a target to eradicate poverty, hunger, and malnutrition within a generation. The pursuit of this will unfold in a context of rapid urban growth, and a demographic and economic shift towards cities and human settlements. It is thus critical to recognize and integrate the urban dimension in policy responses to eliminate hunger and food insecurity.

Aware of the continental efforts and momentum in addressing urban, agricultural, and nutrition development in Africa2 , we emphasize:

  • The need to align urban food policy with the long term continental agenda of structural transformation driven by investment in infrastructure and industrialization that is inclusive and job-rich;
  • The importance of integrating an urban dimension, including food, into national development agendas through a concerted effort to embed it in broader plans and policies;
  • The vital role of urban governance and planning in addressing food insecurity, and hence the need to locate this issue in national urban plans;
  • The urban dimension of food insecurity in Africa, intertwined with poverty, inequality, periodic conflict, and political and economic instability becomes central to national policies to address food security and nutrition;
  • The impact of urban food systems on urban-rural linkages, and thus policies and strategies for the transformation of rural economies and agricultural modernization;
  • The impact of food on health and well-being, and hence promotion of a productive urban population and workforce for manufacturing and modern services;
  • The role of urban food systems in job creation and access to employment opportunities, especially for youth and women;
  • The opportunities presented by changing and growing patterns of food consumption and related urban food systems for Africa’s agenda of accelerating manufacturing and agro-processing;
  • The impact of improved urban food systems as a basis for eradicating poverty in Africa and building shared prosperity;
  • The critical role of small scale and informal urban food distribution networks for nutrition and well-being of poor and vulnerable households;
  • Human settlements cannot be sustainable without food security and adequate nutrition.Done on this day, 16 March 2017, at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center, Italy.