March 2, 2016 | By

Growing Food for Growing Cities: Food Security in an Urbanizing World

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is pleased to launch a new blog series, “Growing Food for Growing Cities,” to explore the challenges posed to global food security by urbanization and the opportunities it creates for small-scale farmers to connect with burgeoning urban markets. We will publish one post each week addressing these issues, and our series will culminate with the release of a new Council report at the Global Food Security Symposium 2016. Join the discussion using #GlobalAg, and tune in to the symposium live stream on April 26.

The World’s Population Is Rapidly Urbanizing

Cities worldwide are growing rapidly, and on an enormous scale—today, more people live in urban areas than in rural ones, and by 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities. This urbanization is concentrated in the developing world—of the 2.5 billion people expected to add to the world’s urban population by 2050, 90 percent of them will live in Asia and Africa. Just three countries in these regions—Nigeria, India, and China—will account for more than one third of urban population growth during this period.  

While the thought of urbanization may conjure images of global megacities like Beijing and Delhi, the majority of urbanization actually occurs in small and midsize cities and towns. According to the UN, half of the world’s urban residents live in settlements of less than 500,000 people—and only one in eight live in cities of more than 10 million. These smaller settlements are often overlooked by international investment and urban policy planning, but they are deeply intertwined with rural areas and economies.

The sheer volume of people that will populate urban areas by 2050, and the profound increases to urban food demand that will result, call for the attention of the international community to address the impact of urbanization on the global food system.

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Urbanization Is Changing the Global Food System

Urbanization presents both an opportunity and a challenge to food security and agriculture. Growing urban centers offer new markets for farmers and rural entrepreneurs as well as opportunities for greater production, especially as retailers have engaged more directly in farm sourcing to deliver food to urban areas. Within cities, urbanization drives income growth, allowing people not only to buy larger quantities of food, but also to demand more diverse food. As caloric intake has increased in cities, so has the consumption of meat, dairy, fruits, and vegetables. These foods are the building blocks of a nutritious diet. They are also high-value agricultural products that can boost incomes for the farmers who produce them.

However, despite the opportunities presented by growing urban markets, many smallholder producers in the rural areas of developing countries are ill-equipped to access them. Those farmers without easy access to roads or water, or who cannot produce food consistent with retail standards, are often excluded from market participation. As such, urbanization can undermine agricultural production, exacerbate inequality, and put rural areas at risk of marginalization and poverty.

Urbanization can also exacerbate poverty and hunger within cities. As cities have grown, the numbers of poor and hungry urban residents have risen alongside the urban population. Developing countries are particularly susceptible to this effect—40 percent of urban residents in developing countries live in slums, entrenched in poverty. Poor urban residents spend, in some cases, nearly 80 percent of their incomes on food and are highly vulnerable to food price spikes. Thus, they are often forced to consume nutrient-deficient, highly-processed, or insufficient amounts of food in the face of budget constraints.

Moving Forward

Feeding the world’s cities will depend on the ability of farmers to produce and deliver a sufficient food supply to burgeoning urban markets. Even as urbanization puts a number of demands on the food system, it also presents an immense opportunity for private sector investment and policy coordination. To nourish cities adequately and effectively will require enormous support for transportation infrastructure, production efficiency, climate resilience, farmer organizations, entrepreneurship, nutrition, and female empowerment, to name a few. With the right investments and policies in place, urbanization can spur widespread economic development for both rural producers and urban consumers.

The global food system must modernize and develop in order to feed cities sustainably, efficiently, and safely. How? Over the next eight weeks, the Council on Global Affairs will continue to explore this question ahead of the Global Food Security Symposium 2016. At that event, the Council will release a new report, Growing Food for Growing Cities: Transforming Food Systems in an Urbanizing World, which will make recommendations on how the global food system can ensure an enduring, affordable, and nutritious food supply for an increasingly urban global population.

See more posts in this blog series:

Growing Food for Growing Cities: Achieving Inclusive Growth
Growing Food for Growing Cities: Engaging the Private Sector
Growing Food for Growing Cities: Tackling Food Waste along the Supply Chain
Growing Food for Growing Cities: Food System Resilience in the Face of a Changing Climate
Growing Food for Growing Cities: Delivering Good Nutrition
Growing Food for Growing Cities: Food System Development to Improve Food Security
Growing Food for Growing Cities: Urbanization as an Opportunity for Many Small-Scale Farmers

About

The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Blogroll

1,000 Days Blog, 1,000 Days

Africa Can End Poverty, World Bank

Agrilinks Blog

Bread Blog, Bread for the World

Can We Feed the World Blog, Agriculture for Impact

Concern Blogs, Concern Worldwide

Institute Insights, Bread for the World Institute

End Poverty in South Asia, World Bank

Global Development Blog, Center for Global Development

The Global Food Banking Network

Harvest 2050, Global Harvest Initiative

The Hunger and Undernutrition Blog, Humanitas Global Development

International Food Policy Research Institute News, IFPRI

International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center Blog, CIMMYT

ONE Blog, ONE Campaign

One Acre Fund Blog, One Acre Fund

Overseas Development Institute Blog, Overseas Development Institute

Oxfam America Blog, Oxfam America

Preventing Postharvest Loss, ADM Institute

Sense & Sustainability Blog, Sense & Sustainability

WFP USA Blog, World Food Program USA

Archive

| By Sarah Bingaman Schwartz, Maria Jones

Guest Commentary - Reducing Food Loss and Waste by Improving Smallholder Storage

Reducing postharvest losses by half would result in enough food to feed a billion people, increase smallholder income levels and minimize pressure on natural resources. The ADM Institute for the Prevention of Postharvest Loss works with smallholders in Bihar to improve storage and reduce loss. 








| By Mark Titterington

Guest Commentary - A European perspective on the journey to a regenerative agriculture system…

Regenerative farming practices can lead to improved soil health and farm productivity and profitability, boosting crop quality and yields, improving the resilience of farms to extreme weather events and reducing the propensity for soil degradation and run-off, but most excitingly, creates the opportunity to actually draw down and store carbon from the atmosphere in agriculture soils.



| By Peter Carberry

Field Notes - Brokering Research Crucial for Climate-Proofing Drylands

9 out of 12 interventions identified for agriculture by the Global Commission on Adaptation involve research and development. For smallholder farmers in drylands, some of the most vulnerable to climate change, the role of innovation brokers may prove just as important as doing the science itself. 



| By Julius A. Nukpezah, Joseph T. Steensma, Nhuong Tran, Kelvin M. Shikuku

Field Notes - Reducing Post-Harvest Losses in Nigeria's Aquaculture Sector Contributes to Sustainable Development

While increasing fish production and productivity in the long term are practical strategies for addressing malnutrition in Nigeria, reducing post-harvest losses of fish is an economic and a rational strategy of increasing value of aquaculture businesses that lead to sustainable economic development.




| By Chelsea Reinberg

Guest Commentary - The Critical Role of Women in Transforming the Food System

Since its inception, HarvestPlus has identified and focused on women as key drivers who make nutrition -related decisions for their households and have important roles not only in the preparation and consumption of nutritious foods but also in production decisions on which varieties to grow.