Food security in an urbanizing society by Kisame Shisya

From home gardens to agro-parks: working towards resilient agrifood systems serving densely populated areas

Accelerated urbanization is one of the major drivers of change in our globalized world.

Countries and cities are facing enormous challenges relating to food security, agricultural systems and regional development. In striving for urban food security it is crucial to develop resilient agricultural systems, effectively link rural and urban areas, and manage food chains from production to consumption in a holistic approach including efficient waste and energy management. Their is need to address these challenges, explore potential pathways for sustainable urban development and brings together multi-disciplinary innovative ideas, and visions to improve food security for the cities of tomorrow.

Currently, over 50% of the world’s population is living in densely populated urban areas.

This percentage is increasing continuously, due to rural-urban migration, natural disasters and insecurity. The urban population heavily relies on a multitude of market systems for their daily food needs. From overstressed complex agro-logistical networks to direct engagement of the consumers with the producers. These systems are increasingly prone to the risk of failure. Understanding and working towards an integration of urban, peri-urban and rural market systems  is vital to allow to both rural and urban communities access to nutritious, affordable and acceptable food. With increasing urbanisation, interlinked, multifunctional urban and regional food systems are becoming essential in ensuring food security, safety and sovereignty in the years to come.

within the framework of urban and regional food systems and the multiple linkages and functions of food in sustainable urban development. There are various types of food sub-systems each with their own merits, varying from intra urban green buildings, rooftops, community gardens, to peri-urban high tech integrated systems, like the metropolitan food clusters,



in which food production and market systems are integrated into a holistic, systemic and spatial manner. These city-region food systems should be able to integrate adaptive and innovative change processes with technical, social and cultural aspects, to address the current and future challenges of complex food systems around the world. Focuses should be on how to facilitate rural-urban integration, and enhancing food chains; not only guaranteeing access to healthy food in adequate quantities for urban dwellers, but also assuring environmental, social and economic sustainability of the production areas.

Developing a perspective on the various approaches to intervene in complex rural-urban planning processes from an integrated, holistic and multi-stakeholder perspective, development and facilitation of multi-stakeholder negotiation processes, using participatory planning, negotiation and conflict mediation techniques, to design effective rural-urban agri-food systems on the ground is wanting especially in Africa.

issues to tacle

  • Food production in and around cities: from home gardens to metropolitan food clusters  characteristics, pros and cons of different food production systems;
  • Food logistics: producing, processing, storing food and transporting it to and through cities;
  • Selling food in the city: street food, fresh food markets, supermarkets, etc., and the meaning of different food outlets for urban food security, in particular for the urban poor;
  • Relations between agri-food systems / food & nutrition security and other grand challenges that urbanising societies are facing: climate change, resource depletion and diet-related ill-health;
  • The use of multi-stakeholder processes to design policies and new forms of governance in urban and regional food production systems.