This post is part of our live blog series from the Resilient Cities 2015 congress. For more live blogs, please click here.
Even though the demand for urban agriculture increasingly stems from relatively well-off communities, the common denominator in today’s discussions on resilient urban food systems was that the potential for transformative socioeconomic change may be especially high for city dwellers in the Global South living in poor, informal, or periurban areas. If done correctly, cities’ urban food policies and programs can bring real and lasting social and economic inclusion, panelists agreed.
In order to boost empowerment, welcome poor people into the formal economy, and generate sustainable urban food production that can tackle food insecurities and under-nutrition, it was stressed that cities should set up integrated food planning departments and work to promote dialogue with and between Civil Society Organisations and other stakeholders. As Katrien Verbeke (Food Policy Coordinator, City of Ghent, Belgium) said:
“It is often about making the right connections. As a city authority we often don’t have a very good idea of all that’s going on in the city, so our work is mainly to support linkages between stakeholders that in turn create synergies and momentum.”
One way of doing so is to empower young people to participate – for example, by working with schoolchildren in farm-to-school programs.
It is also important for city authorities to set the stage, so to speak, by avoiding urban renewal policies and urban growth pressures that may act to displace (food-producing) people onto even more marginal lands. It is therefore crucial to protect and enable access to and tenure of land; to mandate food growing areas in new housing developments; and to mainstream urban agriculture and urban forestry into urban planning.
Moreover, the informal food economy should be viewed not as a problem to be fought but rather as an asset to utilize, since it often constitutes a well-functioning food system infrastructure/institution. Not least, street vendors should be supported in ways that give them opportunities to contribute. Such support programs are in place in Cape Town. Several audience members, however, pointed out that most authorities still try to sweep out street vendors, which may turn them into a welfare burden for the city instead of a resource. Shaking his head at this wasted opportunity, Matthew Kempthorne, Councillor and Chairperson for the City of Cape Town, emphasized:
“A ‘hand-up’ is better than a handout.”
Many international, national, and local initiatives, networks, programs and frameworks for resilient urban food systems were presented during the sessions. Some of these were:
- the April 2015 Seoul Declaration, adopted at the ICLEI World Congress, in which more than 100 mayors encouraged cities worldwide to “encourage sustainable urban food production projects and resilient city region food system programmes”;
- the ICLEI/RUAF Foundation joint CITYFOOD network;
- the Supurbfood project;
- the FAO/RUAF Foundation joint resource website City Region Food Systems;
- the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact;
- and the RUAF Foundation’s From Seed to Table program.