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Urban agriculture already plays an important role in global food production, but can it keep cities fed?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017 6:09
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A city farm in East Perth, Western Australia. The UN is urging cities to include food production in its urban planning. Image: Orderinchaos, CC BY-SA 3.0

A diversified urban food supply system, with food originating from a range of sources, might instead bolster a city’s resilience because it would be less sensitive to the impacts of climate change.

By Pay Drechsel
2 March 2017
Pay Dreschel is research theme leader for Resource Recovery, Water Quality and Health, International Water Management Institute.


The findings of the Ouagadougou-Tamale study imply that achieving a sustainable, resilient urban food system is not a simple question of either local or global food supply chains; both are necessary. The more diverse urban food supply systems, the more resilient.

Local agricultural production needs to be considered in urban planning because most cities already are dependent on locally produced food. Overall, the extent of urban agriculture on a global scale warrants a reorientation of agricultural policies and development work, which are mostly focused on rural contexts.

Further, locally produced food comes with a set of significant advantages: the carbon footprint is lower, and food reaches consumers when it is fresh. Not least, local production safeguards the livelihoods and incomes of smallholders.

Yet it cannot stand alone; relying on a single cluster of high-rise buildings or peri-urban farms to provide a megacity with all the food it needs is just too risky.

Instead, planning for resilient food systems in cities of the future will require a holistic perspective. Focusing on diversity – including diverse sources, actors, means of transportation and more – may be the first step toward reliably securing food for growing urban populations in the face of climate change.

Read the complete article here.


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