RUAF Foundation undertakes policy- and action-oriented research in the fields of intra- and peri-urban agriculture, urban food security, city regional food systems, food policies, and related issues (nutrition and food safety, productive reuse of urban wastes and wastewater in agriculture, and short food chains).

  • The research undertaken by the RUAF partners often focuses on closing the gap between policy and practice by providing policy makers with evidence-based information on the food production and distribution systems in the city region, related challenges and alternative strategies to meet these challenges, and their expected results and costs.
  • RUAF Foundation is frequently requested to assist in the design, monitoring and evaluation of urban food policies and projects, and implements and supports research projects that seek to enhance innovation (both technical and socio-organisational) in (intra- and peri-) urban agriculture and related inputs-providing, value-adding and marketing activities.
  • RUAF trains researchers to liaise with policy makers and other stakeholders in urban food systems, and to communicate their findings to them in an effective way through methods such as the preparation and dissemination of fact sheets and policy briefs and the organisation of seminars for senior officers and decision makers.
  • RUAF Foundation applies a participatory, multi-disciplinary and gender-positive approach in its research projects, which normally also have a strong learning (sharing, training, coaching) component in order to facilitate the development of local institutional capacities.   

Research projects under implementation or recently concluded by the RUAF Foundation include the following

Impact of the Syrian Crisis on Urban Food Markets in Mafraq Governorate, Northern Jordan

This project that runs from November 2016 till March 2017, examines the consequences of humanitarian interventions on urban food markets and supply chains, including the effects on local farmers, food retailers, town markets and local agricultural suppliers. In particularly the study will focus on the impact of the Syrian refugee crisis on urban food markets in Mafraq Governorate in northern Jordan.

FLEdGE: Food Locally Embedded, Globally Engaged Partnership

FLEdGE is a five-year research and knowledge mobilisation project based at Wilfrid Laurier University’s Centre for Sustainable Food Systems. FLEdGE is committed to fostering food systems that are socially just, ecologically regenerative, economically localised and that engage citizens. The FLEdGE research explores territorial integration, scaling up opportunities, innovative governance, agro-ecology and City Region Food Systems-Metrics (CRFS-Metrics). RUAF and several of its partners organisations, amongst other organisations, are partners in the CRFS Metrics group. RUAF also plays a role in international networking in the project.

The role of private sector in city region food systems

RUAF Foundation and the Food Business Knowledge Platform, with support from the CGIAR Water, Land and Ecosystems Research Program (WLE / IWMI), agreed to jointly distil analysis and perspectives on the role of private sector in city region food systems (2016). Working with local research partners in Rotterdam, Quito and Bristol, the project aimed to contribute to a better understanding of how different private sector players can shape or enable city region food systems (as opposed to a more national or international food supply system); and what business and policy environment is needed to better engage the private sector in building such city region food systems (CRFS). 

City region food systems and food waste management- Linking urban and rural areas for sustainable and resilient development.

GIZ, RUAF Foundation and UN FAO, documented 13 case studies from city regions around the world which are developing City Region Food System (CRFS) projects, programmes, and policies, including those related to the prevention, reduction and management of food waste. Lessons learned are drawn for sustainable development of CRFS.

Developing tools for mapping and assessing sustainable city region food systems (CityFoodTools)

In order to support city region food system planning at local level, RUAF Foundation, in collaboration with the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems in Canada and FAO-Food for Cities Programme and CGIAR Water Land and Ecosystems Program led by IWMI, designed an appropriate methodology and toolkit for mapping and assessing city region food systems. This project, supported by the Carasso Foundation, developed and tested a methodological framework and toolkit in 7 cities around the world.


RUAF Foundation is a partner in the GlobE-UrbanFoodPlus project funded by BMZ (Germany) in which scientists and private enterprises, coordinated by the University of Kassel, jointly develop site-specific, farmer-tailored innovations for improved agricultural production and resource-use efficiency in urban agriculture in four West African cities. The RUAF partners IWMI and IAGU will implement research and encourage multi-stakeholder involvement and joint learning in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) and Tamale (Ghana). 

SUPURBFOOD: towards sustainable modes of urban food provisioning

This research project, funded by the European Union and implemented by 8 universities coordinated by Wageningen University (Netherlands), studied the agri-food system in 7 European city-regions, focusing on: i) short food chain initiatives, ii) water and wastes recycling, iii) multifunctional land use, and iv) related social and institutional innovation. RUAF Foundation contributes by documenting and analysing experiences gained in cities in the South on these issues.

Monitoring the impacts of urban agriculture on climate change adaptation and mitigation in cities

RUAF Foundation brought together a group of international and local ​scientists to jointly design indicators and tools to measure the various impacts of urban agriculture and forestry on climate change adaptation and mitigation and related developmental co-benefits. The draft monitoring framework was field tested in cooperation with local and provincial authorities, NGOs and universities in 4 cities: Kesbewa (Sri Lanka), Rosario (Argentina), Kathmandu (Nepal) and Bobo Dioulassou (Burkina Faso). Research results were used to facilitate policy uptake. The project was supported by CDKN and UN Habitat-Cities and Climate Change Initiative.

The socioeconomic impacts of urban agriculture

RUAF Foundation implemented a study for the World Bank on the socioeconomic impacts of urban agriculture in Bangalore (India), Accra (Ghana), Nairobi (Kenya) and Lima (Peru). The study provided evidence regarding the impacts of urban agriculture on the livelihood of the urban poor and understanding of the factors that constrain or facilitate sustainable development of urban agriculture; the investigation resulted in a field-tested methodology for this kind of study.

The impacts of rising food prices on the food security of the urban poor

This study, funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) (Canada) and undertaken in cooperation with UN-HABITAT (Nairobi), studied the impacts of the food price hike and economic crisis of 2007/2008 on the food security and nutritional status of young children and their mothers in 5 cities: Colombo (Sri Lanka), Accra (Ghana), Bogota (Colombia), Copperbelt (Zambia) and Rosario (Argentina). The results were presented in a special session at the World Urban Forum in Rio de Janeiro.

Designing guidelines for mainstreaming gender in urban agriculture projects

This project, funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) Canada, brought together experts to jointly design guidelines for gender mainstreaming in urban agriculture research and development projects. The guidelines were field tested in 14 research and development projects implemented by CIP-Urban Harvest and RUAF Foundation respectively. The revised guidelines and the 14 case studies were published in the book “Women Feeding Cities’’ (Practical Action Publishers, UK).

Sustainable Water management Improves Tomorrow’s Cities’ Health (SWITCH)

This major research programme, funded by the European Union and involving 32 partner organisations in 15 cities, was coordinated by IHE-UNESCO, the Netherlands. RUAF partners IGSNRR, IWMI and IPES implemented research on productive reuse of urban water (including storm and wastewater) in urban agriculture in Beijing (China), Accra (Ghana) and Lima (Peru); RUAF partner ETC (the Netherlands) coordinated the work package on urban agriculture and systematised the results of the three studies.

Making the Edible Landscape: integrating urban agriculture into urban development and design

RUAF partner ETC cooperated with the School of Architecture of McGill University, Canada to elaborate housing and neighbourhood designs that include urban agriculture; implemented slum upgrading-cum-urban agriculture demonstration projects in Rosario (Argentina), Colombo (Sri Lanka) and Kampala (Uganda); and trained local design professionals and local government departments to incorporate (intra- and peri-) urban agriculture in their urban plans and designs.

Strengthening organisations of urban producers

This IDRC funded project, complementing a similar project led by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO, Italy) and implemented by RUAF partners IPES and ETC, studied the roles and functioning of organisations of urban farmers in the Netherlands, Hungary, Peru, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay and identified effective ways to strengthen such organisations. The results were published in the Urban Agriculture Magazine No 17 and the FAO publication The Urban Producers Resource Book.

Sustainable Aquaculture Research Networks in Sub-Saharan Africa (SARNISSA)

RUAF Foundation participated in the EU-funded SARNISSA project that implemented analytical reviews of national aquaculture policies and programmes of 10 West African countries in order to understand why aquaculture development remained below expectation, and to identify opportunities for improvement. RUAF partner ETC synthesized the results of the country studies, organized an E-conference with senior officers of fisheries departments, and produced 2 policy papers to facilitate policy uptake.

Access to credit and financing for small scale urban producers and SME's

In the context of RUAF's From Seed to Table programme local RUAF teams carried out in 14 RUAF partner cities applied research on local financing opportunities and constraints for enhancing credit and finance for small-scale (intra- and peri-) urban agriculture production, processing and marketing, analysing both supply and demand sides. In cooperation with interested local financing organisations innovative financing schemes for small scale agriculture were developed and pilots undertaken.