City adaptation to climate change

RUAF Foundation assists local governments to integrate (intra- and peri-) urban agriculture and forestry in climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction strategies by training local staff on UPAF, inclusion of food in urban vulnerability assessments and land use planning, and to identify forms of urban agriculture/forestry with high relevance for climate change mitigation and adaptation (e.g. productive use of flood zones; agro-forestry on landslide prone slopes, productive roof top gardens).

Climate change and climate-related disasters add to the challenges already faced by cities and are recognised as one of the most serious environmental, societal and economic challenges facing the world today. Coastal and inland cities located along rivers may be affected by flooding and sea-level rise that will threaten infrastructure, pollute groundwater through salt intrusion and inundate water supply and sewage disposal facilities. Most cities will experience more heat waves, which leads to an increase in the amount of energy used for cooling and refrigeration purposes, more problems with air pollution and smog, and related health problems. In addition, cities are highly vulnerable to the disruption in critical (food) supplies and climate change exacerbates this vulnerability. Urban economies will suffer as rural agricultural production is adversely affected by storms, floods, shifting seasonal patterns, droughts or water scarcity.
Climate change will disproportionally affect the large numbers of urban poor and vulnerable groups.  They face the most hazards, with a larger proportion of them living in informal settlements located in low-lying and flood-prone areas on steep slopes. The urban poor are also particularly vulnerable to variations in food prices and income since food makes up a large part of their household expenses (often over sixty per cent).  Variations in food prices and income resulting from climate change impacts directly translate into diminished purchasing power and rising rates of food insecurity, compromising dietary quantity and quality. 

Cities have an important role to play in climate change mitigation and adaptation, disaster risk management and enhancing resilience of their slum and vulnerable residents.  According to the World Bank (2010), building resilience in a city requires an integrated approach that integrates – and interrelates – strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to reduce the vulnerability of settlements to climate change, and contributes to other pressing developmental needs, such as urban poverty alleviation, social inclusion, provision of health, and water and sanitation services. Urban agriculture is considered one such strategy.
According to the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat, 2013) local government institutions responsible for urban and regional planning and development can play a proactive and coordinating role in enhancing urban food security and city resilience.

RUAF Foundation promotes attention for urban food security in urban vulnerability assessments and by training municipal staff on the potential role that (intra- and peri-) urban agriculture and forestry can play in climate change adaptation. RUAF, in collaboration with various international research institutes, developed a framework and tools for monitoring the contributions of urban agriculture/forestry to climate change mitigation and adaptation. Such impact data are needed in order to enhance policy formulation and to negotiate funding for urban agriculture within climate change financing or city climate change plans. RUAF trains research and government organisations to develop scenarios for the assessment of the impacts that may be expected of various forms of urban agriculture/forestry and to prepare the monitoring of such impacts on reduction in food miles, GHG emissions, energy use, urban temperatures, storm water run-off and flooding as well as on developmental benefits such as enhanced food security and nutrition, dietary and income diversity and biodiversity.

RUAF also supports the formulation, implementation and monitoring of projects to facilitate development of forms of urban agriculture/forestry with high relevance for climate change adaptation and/or mitigation, such as for example the promotion of home or rooftop gardening coupled to rainwater harvesting and re-use of organic waste; the rehabilitation and productive use of flood zones and steep slopes coupled to run-off management; the multifunctional agroforestry use of open green spaces coupled to safe wastewater re-use or the ecological preservation peri-urban areas couple with ecological agriculture.

Local, metropolitan and provincial governments are supported by RUAF Foundation to include such climate smart land use models in local climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction strategies and plans, as well as in urban development plans. Examples include the integration of urban agriculture/forestry in the Provincial Climate Change Action Plan in Western Province, Sri Lanka; the use of agro-forestry as a management strategy for "green ways" in Bobo Dialassou, Burkina Faso; the mapping and zoning for agriculture of low-lying valleys and flood zones in Freetown, Sierra Leone; the development of a rooftop garden policy in Kathmandu, Nepal; the promotion of safe productive reuse of wastewater in Lima, Peru and Accra, Ghana; rainwater harvesting for greenhouse production in Beijing, China and  Tunis, Tunisia; and the protection and zoning of the peri-urban greenbelt in Rosario, Argentina.

For more information and examples see the following RUAF projects: