Food 4 Cities

How do we feed future cities

Should we follow the Wizard or the Prophet? – Discussing diverse paths for sustainable food systems transformation

On 13 September 2019, the Institute for Environmental Management at VU University Amsterdam hosted an international symposium on paths for sustainable food systems transformation. Food4Cities coordinator Jac Davis presented the Environmental Geography group’s approach to food systems research: involve diverse stakeholders early, take a holistic view, and iterate fast. The symposium sparked hot debates over controversial topics such as GMOs, trade, vegan diets, farm size, organic agriculture, subsidies… and highlighted persistent action and knowledge gaps that need to be addressed to build a better and more sustainable food system.

Jac Davis presents Food4Cities at VU Amsterdam symposium on food system transformation

“Feeding our Future cities” talk at the Green Building Council of South Africa

On Wednesday 5 June 2019, Nyasha Magadzire presented a talk under the theme “Feeding our future cities” at the GBCSA (Green Building Council of South Africa) Cape Town offices. The GBCSA is involved in the development and adoption of best green building practices so that all buildings are designed, built and operated in an environmentally sustainable way. In line with the mandate of the GBCSA, Nyasha`s talk focussed on how future cities could be designed to meet the nutritional and dietary needs of urban populations in a more sustainable manner.

Nyasha Magadzire talked about feeding our future cities

Some of the key interventions highlighted included:

  1. Adopting innovations and technologies that require less area to sustain city food needs and reclaiming previously farmed land for biodiversity conservation.
  2. Producing food within cities.
  3. Even distribution of healthy nutritious food across the city.
  4. Donating surplus food to charities, feeding programs, etc

Follow up discussions between Nyasha and the audience centred around difficulties in gaining the necessary institutional support from government for a more food sensitive urban design. Other discussions included the role of big retailers and urban agriculture in improving access to nutritious food in the city.

Food4Cities featured in Amsterdam Centre for World Food Studies news

Knowledge co-production and systems thinking to tackle urgent development challenges

Feeding Africa’s cities is an urgent development challenge. By 2050, 70% of the world’s population will live in cities, and Africa will account for more than two-thirds of this growth. Costs of food insecurity and malnutrition – historically considered a rural problem – will increasingly be transferred to cities. The Food4Cities team is developing tools to help African cities plan to face these challenges.

Food4Cities combines statistical models for urban growth, land use change, and food access to understand the links between city food systems and the broader land system. This model integration allows us to explore future scenarios, analyse trade-offs, and identify opportunities for system transformation.

In February 2019, members of our project team visited key sites and met with planning and delivery partners in our two case study cities: Cape Town, South Africa and Kampala, Uganda. They spoke with government officials and food system specialists about how to feed these rapidly growing cities. In June 2019, we plan to visit our partners again to workshop our model and get their feedback on the prototype versions. Through these processes of stakeholder engagement and knowledge co-production, Food4Cities aims to produce useful results for planning future food systems in rapidly changing African cities.

Field visits and partner meetings, February 2019

In February 2019, Food4Cities members visited key sites and met with key planning & delivery partners in Cape Town and Kampala.

Kampala planning & delivery partners:
– Kampala Capital City Authority
– Uganda National Farmers Federation
– Agriculture Research Center
– Ministry of Agriculture, Animal, Industry and Fisheries

Cape Town planning & delivery partners:
– WWF-SA South Africa
– Western Cape Department of the Premier

Kampala City Council Authority

Uganda National Farmers Federation

Visit to farm operated by Agriculture Research Center Kampala

Centre of Excellence in Food Security, University of the Western Cape

Bellville food market, Taxi interchange, Cape Town

Fresh produce at Woolworths Supermarket, Cape Town


Food4Cities: Feeding Rapidly Expanding Cities

By 2050, 70% of the world’s population will live in cities. Africa will account for more than two thirds of this growth, and costs of food insecurity and malnutrition – historically considered a rural problem – will increasingly be transferred to cities. Acknowledging this challenge, this project aims to promote sustainable and nutrition-secure city food systems in Africa by developing knowledge and tools for local and national development planning.

Conventional responses to food security have stemmed from agriculture, framing food security as a production problem. However, a focus on production alone will not solve food insecurity and malnutrition in Africa’s cities. Most food-insecure households are limited more by food access, which is affected by drivers like poverty, price volatility, availability of healthy foods, market structures, and supply disruption from environmental degradation, natural disasters and climate change. Interventions addressing city food insecurity and malnutrition therefore need to consider these drivers, as well as interactions beyond the city. City food demand strongly shapes the peri-urban and rural landscapes that produce the food, or even distant areas through global markets. These effects themselves create feedbacks that influence city food and nutrition outcomes.

Considering these complex dynamics requires broader thinking about food, beyond single disciplines or sectors, accounting for the full set of activities across food chains. This project links within-city food systems to broader land systems. Such model integration allows quantification of how changes within and beyond the city influence city food and nutrition outcomes over time, thus making explicit the synergies/trade-offs with other desired outcomes, e.g. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The project uses two case studies to develop planning tools for enhancing city food and nutrition security: Kampala, Uganda and Cape Town, South Africa. Both city food systems are changing rapidly – Cape Town with a longer history; Kampala more recently. Urban expansion threatens productive croplands around both cities, with Kampala identified as a hotspot of global cropland loss. Food production is also threatened by changes in ecosystems and climate. There is a strong trend toward consolidation across the food chain (production, processing and retail), making market-entry for small-scale operators difficult. Patterns of socio-economic segregation dominate, with poverty-concentrated areas showing high levels of malnutrition and limited access to affordable, nutrition-rich foods. Formal and informal food networks in poor areas are strongly coupled and play an important role in food access and affordability. Objectives of the project are to:

  • Develop models to link within-city food system dynamics to dynamics of the broader landscape
  • Co-develop scenarios of city food futures
  • Evaluate scenarios in terms of city food and nutrition outcomes, and equitable ecosystem benefit flows and economies across the urban, peri-urban and rural landscape
  • Identify opportunities and interventions for building positive food futures in local and national development planning, and highlight multiple co-benefits
  • Reflect on case study lessons for scaling impact elsewhere

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