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Sustainable crop and food systems in cities









This fac tsheet is one in a series about main the activities of the AG Department. This factsheet in particular is about Sustainable crop and food systems in cities and illustrates the work AGP is doing in this area.

Urban and peri-urban horticulture (UPH) is the cultivation of a wide range of crops – including fruit, vegetables, roots, tubers and ornamental plants – within cities and towns and in their surrounding areas. UPH is a key component of robust and resilient urban food syste ms and empowers the urban poor. FAO provides support to Member Countries to meet the challenges of massive and rapid urbanization in terms of achieving food security and nutrition goals.



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    FAO supports member countries to meet the challenges of an urbanizing world by promoting the integration of Urban and Peri-urban Horticulture (UPH) into national and local agricultural development strategies, food and nutrition programmes and urban planning. UPH is the cultivation of a wide range of crops – including fruit, vegetables, roots, tubers and ornamental plants – within cities and towns and in their surrounding areas. It is a key component of robust and resilient urban food systems whi ch empower the urban poor. UPH is already widely practised in developing countries, accounting for more than half of the fruit and vegetable production in cities in Burundi, Cape Verde, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique and Zambia.
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    The main objective of the action programme and of the “FAO Green Cities Initiative” is to increase people’s wellbeing through better availability of and access to products and services provided by urban and peri‐urban forestry, agriculture and food systems. This action plans describes how FAO's Green Cities initiative will improve the livelihoods and well-­being of urban and peri-­urban populations of 1000 cities around the world by 2030, improving the urban environment, strengthening urban-rural linkages, the resilience of urban populations to external shocks and contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation while ensuring access to healthy diets from sustainable systems. The plan describes ways in which local governments and communities will have the capacity to develop and implement context-­specific strategies, actions and investment plans for the integrated design and management of resilient and sustainable multifunctional green infrastructure and food systems to ensure that green technologies, innovation and investments are scaled up.
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    The United Nations envisions that, by 2050, almost 70 percent of the global growing population will be living in urban areas, especially in small cities and towns within Africa and Asia. This will mean more people to feed in these cities, as well as the risk of nutrition problems and increased levels of obesity associated with changes in diet and lifestyle. In this context, agriculture will need to produce more nutritious food while competing for ever scarcer natural resources and struggling with the effects of climate change. Furthermore, the world is facing recent critical events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the fuel crisis, both of which highlight the need for resilient agrifood systems in both urban and rural areas. As a result, urban and peri-urban agriculture (UPA), practices that are centuries-old, are growing in importance as a means of helping to ensure the food security and livelihoods of urban dwellers. UPA can yield numerous benefits, but comes with challenges, as it is practised within the context of a high competition for natural resources, especially land. Furthermore, its practitioners – urban dwellers or migrants – often lack the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed. Given the growing importance of UPA, the integrated services for innovation (ISI) must adapt and be enabled to serve urban and peri-urban producers and other agrifood actors.

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