Strengthening urban and peri-urban food systems essential to human security

In an era in which almost 80 per cent of the global population resides in urban and peri-urban (U-PU) areas, understanding and addressing the complexities of urban and peri-urban food systems is more critical than ever.

The week, the UN High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition released a detailed and groundbreaking report that challenges prevailing narratives and provides an in-depth analysis of the unique challenges and opportunities for urban and peri-urban food systems.

The report shows how urban and peri-urban areas profoundly impact food systems, influencing production, distribution and consumption patterns worldwide. The report emphasises the need for equitable, accessible, sustainable and resilient food systems, for the realization of the right to food.

The report, “Strengthening urban and peri-urban food systems to achieve food security and nutrition, in the context of urbanisation and rural transformation”, stresses the importance of multilevel, multilateral and multi-actor governance and highlights the intricate linkages between food systems and other critical systems related to water, energy and mobility.

The report says that “of the 2.2 billion moderately and severely food insecure people in the world, 1.7 billion live in urban and peri-urban areas.

“These areas are places of considerable challenges, including youth unemployment, lack of infrastructure, high levels of inequality, political instability and vulnerability to epidemics, conflicts and environmental hazards. On the other hand, these areas are also the epicentre of nutrition transition and offer economic opportunities and innovations.

“As most of the food that feeds cities comes from beyond local borders, it is essential to consider the broader spectrum of logistics, transport, processing, wholesale and retail.”

The report provides a comprehensive overview of food systems in urban and peri-urban areas and their strengths and their challenges. It also discusses the food environment; that is, the institutional, economic and social context in which urban consumers make decisions about food. The report also highlights the many different types of urbanisation in the various regions of the world.

The report says that, “Cities are already emerging as centres of innovation in food policy, demonstrating their potential to transform broader food systems. The action of municipalities must be developed in synchronisation with governance at the regional and national levels.”

The report calls for “a change in the governance process of urban and peri-urban food systems. Recognising the prevalence of food and nutrition insecurity in urban and peri-urban areas, decisions must involve all the actors of the food systems, including informal ones. Clearly delineating mandates and responsibilities over the urban and peri-urban food systems will ensure not only better coordination but also accountability.”

With action-oriented policy recommendations, this report provides an essential tool for policymakers, researchers and stakeholders dedicated to ensuring food security and nutrition in the context of rapid urbanisation.

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