FAO’s Food for the Cities Hopes to Curb Urban Hunger

By Kamaria Greenfield

According to UN HABITAT, more than half of the world’s people live in urban areas. But the most drastic population growth is not in megacities, but in the small and medium sized cities with populations of about five million people. This will mean an increase in demand for fundamental resources, including adequate and nutritious food. And with a projected global urban population of nearly five billion by 2030, food security will continue to be a concern.

In Kibera, women farmers are growing crops in vertical sacks which are helping to improve food security in the area. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)’s Food for the Cities is one of the initiatives being taken to help alleviate food insecurity and malnutrition in urban areas For poor people in cities, urban agriculture can increase household food security, as 60-80 percent of income is commonly spent on food. This high percentage is because many poor countries, especially in Africa, rely more on food imports than they did twenty years ago.

To combat this, Food for the Cities highlights the importance of rural-urban linkages as well as urban and peri-urban agriculture (UPA). By improving linkages between urban and rural areas, Food for the Cities is hoping to help reduce poverty and hunger in both areas. Cities can provide the market infrastructure that is necessary for rural communities, while rural communities offer much-needed commodities, such as fresh vegetables, to urban dwellers.

Urban areas are often full of untapped potential for the production of perishable goods, such as fruits and vegetables, which can be grown in backyards and other small areas. In Kibera, a slum in Kenya, for example, women farmers are growing nutritious crops in tall sacks, which are helping to improve food security and raise local incomes.

Other issues highlighted by the Food for the Cities initiative are urban small-scale food processors, including small street vendors. Food processing and distribution contribute to the livelihoods of urban areas, and are a key component to alleviating urban poverty. And the program highlights the importance of environmental sustainability, including whether or not cities are resistant to land erosion, contain green spaces, and can contribute to sustainable water and resource management.

FAO is also helping out in urban areas through other programs such as TeleFood, an annual campaign of events geared to raise awareness about world hunger, and the Special Programme for Food Security, which helps governments replicate successful food security practices on a national scale. Food for the Cities has been raising awareness about the best ways to ease the problem of hunger in population centers since 2001.

Do you know of any other programs that are working in the cities to reduce hunger? Tell us in the comments section!

Kamaria Greenfield is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

To read about other programs working to reduce global hunger, see: IFPRI Millions Fed Technical Compendium, Working With the Community to Foster Deep Roots of Health, Manufacturing success: an interview with Navyn Salem, and 67 Minutes to Feed South Africa.

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