Planning resilient urban food systems

The development of urban agriculture and urban food provisioning systems is increasingly considered an important part of sustainable and resilient urban development by local and national governments around the world. An expression of this is the 2013 Mayors Declaration adopted at the Resilient Cities congress in Bonn (2 June 2013) of the International Association of Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) that at several points makes explicit reference to the key role of food systems within overall resilient city-region systems. The increased recognition of urban agriculture and food policies is not only a matter of governments in the global North, but is as much present in the global South where amongst others cities like Rosario (Argentina), Lima (Peru), Belo Horizonte (Brazil), Kesbewa (Sri Lanka), Nairobi (Kenya), Cape Town (South Africa), Beijing and Shanghai (China) and Bogota (Colombia) have integrated urban food and agriculture in different urban policy domains.

RUAF collaborates with local authorities, research organisations, urban producers and other stakeholders in the assessment of the urban food system and the design of adequate urban agriculture and food policies and -programmes, applying a multi-stakeholder approach. In the framework of the Cities Farming for the Future programme and the From Seed to Table programme RUAF supported strategic multi-stakeholder planning  of local and national urban agriculture  policies and programmes for the development of urban agriculture and city region food systems in 18 cities of 12 countries in the global South.  

A similar approach was/is applied in Freetown, Sierra Leone as part of the Urban agriculture with disadvantaged groups project, in the Urban agriculture for food security project in Monrovia, Liberia and the Market-oriented urban agriculture programme in Gaza, Palestine Territories. In the context of these projects Multi-stakeholder Platforms on Urban Agriculture have been established to develop a policy and a longer-term programme longer-term on urban agriculture in these cities. As part of these processes, specific attention is given to land use mapping and the integration of urban agriculture into urban land use planning and neighbourhood design or upgrading, as showcased by the project Making the Edible Landscape: integrating urban agriculture into urban development and design.

RUAF organises staff training courses on this topics around the world, including modules on the analysis of urban food systems, multi-stakeholder policy design and action planning, gender mainstreaming, participatory project planning, and monitoring and evaluation. See for example the staff training courses on multi-stakeholder policy design and action planning in the Cities Farming for the Future programme; the Regional training courses on urban agriculture project and policy development for IDRC supported city teams; the Staff training on policy influencing for staff on the Focus City project in Tunis; and the Staff training on research-to policy outreach for staff of the Sarnissa and Papussa projects.

The results of the different RUAF projects are disseminated in various thematic policy papers and through contributions to international conferences in the area of urban agriculture and urban food policies, for example the organisation of policy dialogues on urban agriculture at World Urban Forum II, IV and V.  

Good practices and “lessons learned” in urban agriculture programmes and urban food policies are highlighted in different publications and working papers published by RUAF (see the RUAF Publications section of this web site).

Policy briefs are developed as a specific tool for awareness raising and policy uptake, as was done in the context of the research project Sustainable Aquaculture Research Networks in Sub-Saharan Africa (Sarnissa).

RUAF supports the formulation and evaluation of urban agriculture and food programmes, and in this capacity has been contracted by amongst others Heifer International (see: Evaluation of the urban agriculture projects supported by Heifer International and strategy advice), the Belgium Ministry of Foreign Affairs (see: Assistance to the regional NGO network DIOBASS in the formulation of an urban agriculture programme for the Great Lakes region) and the International Development Research Centre in Canada (see: Evaluation of IDRC funded programmes in Tunis).

RUAF systematizes experiences gained, develops and disseminates practical toolkits, factsheets and guidelines and stimulates exchange and joint learning between cities on the topic of urban agriculture and resilient urban food systems planning. An important framework for doing so is the CITYFOOD network: Linking Cities on Urban Agriculture and Urban Food Systems that has been set up in joint collaboration with ICLEI- Local Governments for Sustainability. The purpose of CITYFOOD is to raise awareness on resilient city-region food systems and (intra- and peri-) urban agriculture, create an advocacy platform for cities to gain political recognition and support from national governments and international support organizations, to provide information to cities around the world, stimulate exchange of experiences, identify and disseminate important lesson and good practices, and facilitate cooperation between cities worldwide and between local governments and civil society in this area.

RUAF gives specific attention to the South-North exchange of experiences with urban agriculture and food policies. The RUAF contributions to the projects SUPURBFOOD: Towards sustainable modes of urban and peri-urban food provisioning and GROW the City are two examples in this regard.