Short food chains and local economy

Short food supply chains and associative value adding enterprises in many respects represent a promising approach for the generation of income streams and socio-economic tissue – social cohesion, and beneficial social networks. Furthermore, short food supply chains also play an important role in generating better price margins for intra- and peri-urban food producers, either by excluding intermediaries in value chains or by valorising distinctive product qualities, and are often crucial in developing markets for local and organic food where these did not exist yet.

Apart from creating economic livelihood opportunities for urban food producers, short food supply chains and related agro-enterprises also are an important mechanism for building local food economies through spin-off to local shops, weekly markets, and food-related services (input supply, transport, animal health services, credit supply). An additional positive outcome of short chains is that the quality and availability of fresh locally produced food products increases at lower prices, making nutritious food better available for less endowed urban consumers.  Finally, the shortening of food supply chains also potentially improves the resource efficiency of urban food systems by contributing to the closing of nutrient and energy cycles at city region level. Hence, supporting short supply chain initiatives and related SME’s seem to be an important mechanism for building resilient urban food systems.

RUAF contributes in different ways to the development of short food supply chains and associative value-adding enterprises.
Firstly, the RUAF Foundation cooperates with urban producers, local NGOs, public administrations and other relevant stakeholder groups in setting up of concrete short chain marketing initiatives, for example within the framework of the Market-oriented urban agriculture project in Gaza (implemented in cooperation with Oxfam) agricultural value chains in various specific product groups are supported in a market-for the poor-perspective; The From Seed to Table programme supported 30 urban farmer groups in 17 cities to innovate their local production systems, engage in value-adding activities and establish innovative short marketing channels; The projects in Freetown and Makeni in Sierra Leone implemented in cooperation with COOPI helped to establish various youth-led agro-enterprises (in pig raising and slaughtering; milk and fruit processing  and waste management).

Market and consumer analysis, development of local (quality) food labels, development of processing activities and innovative consumer relations (for example through local procurement, direct sales in supermarkets and restaurants or consumer organic food boxes) are important elements of RUAF’s approach to short food chain development with urban producers.

Secondly, RUAF contributes to the development of short food supply chains by documenting and analysing short chain experiences in different cities and countries in order to identify successful business models, best practices, effective tools and “lessons learned” for dissemination and use in other settings. The study on the socioeconomic impacts of urban agriculture for the World Bank (in 5 cities/countries) is an example of such an activity. Another example is the European research programme SUPURBFOOD: Towards sustainable modes of urban and peri-urban food provisioning, for which the RUAF Foundation prepared an inventory and critical analysis of innovative experiences with short food supply chains in (peri-) urban agriculture in the global South and organized the exchange of experiences and mutual learning between cities in Europa, Africa, Asia and Latin America. 

Thirdly, RUAF contributes to the development of short chains and associative enterprises by means of specific thematic studies and the identification of key topics for future policy agendas. For example, the project on Strengthening Organisations of Urban Producers analysed the need urban producers groups and organisations for capacity development of farmer leaders and small entrepreneurs in market analysis and business administration as a key factor for the development of short food supply chains. Similar thematic topics that currently emerge in the work of RUAF on short food chains and local economy are the development of logistical infrastructures for aggregating produce at city region level (commonly known as ‘food hubs’)  and the need to develop successful and viable business models for the implementation of short food supply chains within urban settings. Training to farmer leaders, small scale enterprises and support institutions on value chain development, business management and financing are integral activities in our market oriented projects. Examples include the Regional and local staff training courses on small-scale enterprise and short chain development that were organised in the context of the From Seed to Table programme and the Assistance to IAGU on feasibility analysis and business planning for 3 urban agriculture projects in Dakar, Senegal

Finally, RUAF undertakes awareness-raising and advice on short food chains, more commercial forms of urban agriculture and associated value-adding enterprises by supporting studies and international expert panels, such as the Assistance to the World Bank for the Expert seminar on peri-urban horticulture and the Expert consultation on economic impact of urban agriculture at ODI.