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A garden at Kisaasi Primary School started and maintained by the school Environment Club. It is an example of urban farming solutions in the city and a variety of crops like maize and bananas are grown on it
Food Environment

Interventions that enable a physical, economic, political or socio-cultural change in how stakeholders engage with sustainable food systems.

Developing and improving agriculture in urban and peri-urban areas and enhancing local food markets

Overview

People living in urban areas account for 54% of the global population. Thus, urban settlements are spaces of vast food consumption and waste production. Improving the food environment through urban and peri-urban agriculture and local markets is an opportunity for local governments to achieve the triple policy goals of sustainable development, human well-being and climate action. They can do so by fostering local production of food, shortening food supply chains and encouraging the sustainable management of water, waste and land. Moreover, urban and peri-urban agriculture promotes circular practices by reusing human and material resources, turning them into products for local communities. 

Concrete measures to implement

The development of urban and peri-urban agriculture, as well as enhancing local markets, can be encouraged through the following:

  • Set organic waste bans that prohibit food waste from being sent to landfills, encouraging retailers and other downstream supply chain actors to reduce their food waste. Legislation could require the distribution of unsold edible food to charities. A more moderate policy option would be to disincentivize waste by instituting landfill tipping fees.
  • Set up a regulatory framework allowing the practice of urban and peri-urban agriculture. The regulation should be consulted with the community, academia and business, to meet local necessities and priorities, as well as to provide long-term legal certainty. In addition, it should regulate land management practices for home, community, institutional and commercial activities.  
  • Develop zoning for urban agriculture and the cluster of activities relevant to food production, distribution and consumption.
  • Create a circular food production plan to transform food and urban agricultural waste into by-products ranging from biomaterials (like compost) to bioenergy. See Implementing circular food systems in cities. 
  • Prioritize the protection and sustainable use of wetlands, flood zones, and steep slopes for urban and peri-urban agricultural projects in urban planning. 
  • Provide training programmes on urban agriculture for local food producers and communities through local education institutions.
  • Offer property tax exemptions for lands or buildings that establish urban food gardens. 
  • Scale up community gardens and allotments (i.e. public or community-owned land primarily used to grow food). This will allow communities to participate in the food production process and raise awareness about good consumption practices. 
  • Improve the hygienic and sanitary conditions of local markets, including farmers’ markets, to ensure food safety and increase community support. In addition, provide urban farmers access to trade their produce in such markets.
  • Support advertising and publicity of local food markets to inform the public of when and where they take place, and support complementary activities (e.g. eating out in local markets and advertising through local tourism boards). 
  • Implement demand-side policy actions, such as a public procurement program of locally produced food for public institutions to ensure demand for local products. See Integrating healthy and sustainable diets in public procurement.
Hydroculture, Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands

Enabling governance measures

  • Establish a coordination mechanism between local authorities, urban food producers, local food markets, supermarkets, restaurants and food banks.
  • Include urban and peri-urban agriculture in local development plans and budgets to articulate different government levels and ensure enough funding for specific activities, such as maintenance of green productive areas. 
  • Assess local capabilities, potentials and risks of urban and peri-urban agriculture, as well as local markets, which serves as evidence-based guidance to design and implement concrete policy actions.
Green roof at the WWF;'s headquarters in Washington, DC, United States

Tools and MRV systems to monitor progress

Calculators and Trackers

Guides and handbooks

Mitigation benefits

Building urban and peri-urban agriculture and local markets increases green spaces in urban settlements and hence sequesters GHG emissions; these markets also shorten food supply chains resulting in a net reduction of GHG emissions from supply chains.

Other climate benefits

  • Micro-climate stabilization and reduction of indoor temperature. 
  • Improved air quality.

Adaptation co-benefits

  • Enhanced food supply chain resilience.
  • Improved ecosystem services from urban ecosystems.
  • Socio-ecological resilience and community development.
  • Reduced dependence on external resources through the reuse of wastewater and food waste.  
  • Reduced landslides and negative incidences of floods.

Other sustainable development co-benefits

Urban and peri-urban agriculture, and local markets, have positive impact on SDGs, particularly on: 

  • Reduction of hunger (SDG 2)
  • Good health and well-being (SDG 3)
  • Sustainable management of water (SDG 6)
  • Reduce inequalities within urban areas (SDG 10)
  • Sustainable cities (SDG 11)
  • Sustainable production and consumption (SDG 12)
  • Increased biodiversity in urban areas (SDG 15)
Growing vegetables on the rooftop of a building.
Growing vegetables on the rooftop of a building.

Main implementation challenges and potential negative externalities and trade-offs

  • Absence of urban and peri-urban agriculture in local development plans to ensure funding for planning and implementation of actions over time. 
  • Potential disputes concerning land ownership and tenure rights between landowners and land users.
  • Economic barriers for local markets to (i) guarantee healthy products and (ii) compete with large companies able to offer lower product prices.
  • Competition with other land uses in urban areas. 

Measures to minimize challenges and potential negative externalities and trade-offs

  • Implement governance structure using multi-stakeholder approach to promote broad support of the community and relevant actors.  
  • Establish a robust regulatory framework clarifying land ownership and tenure rights, as well as land use. 
  • Set up a community-led negotiation process to help solve any dispute amicably. 
  • Invest in improving the sanitary and hygienic conditions of local markets so that this economic burden is not borne by urban farmers and local traders. 
  • Discourage use of synthetic fertilizers and encourage nature-positive food production. See Implementing nature-positive food production practices
  • Distribute spaces in land-use planning instruments in a manner that different land uses can coexist.  

Implementation costs

  • The cost of this policy strategy and particular projects varies in accordance with their scope. However, policymakers and the community shall take a holistic approach to the financial costs and socio-economic and environmental benefits of urban food systems.

Interventions in practice

  • Belo Horizonte in Brazil has been promoting urban agriculture since 1993 through land-use plans and food security programs. 
  • Land banks and property tax exemptions were used by the city of Rosario in Argentina to promote urban agriculture and improve the life conditions of low-income residents.

References

  1. Buckley, J., & Peterson, H. C. (2015). Preliminary Cost Benefit Analysis for Urban Agriculture An Introduction. Retrieved from https://fyi.extension.wisc.edu/foodsystemstoolkit/files/2015/09/Buckley-Peterson-cost-ben-150904-more-index.pdf
  2. CoSAI. (2022). Potential of urban and peri-urban agriculture in the Global South: Priority investments for innovation. Retrieved from https://www.iwmi.cgiar.org/archive/cosai/sites/default/files/CoSAI_Urban_peri-urban_agriculture_0/index.pdf
  3. Dale, E. (2022). Urban and peri-urban agriculture case studies – Overview, conclusions and recommendations. Retrieved February 14, 2024, from https://www.fao.org/publications/card/en/c/CB9734EN.
  4. Dubbeling, M. (n.d.). Urban and peri‐urban agriculture and forestry as a strategy for climate change adaptation and mitigation. Retrieved from https://sdgs.un.org/sites/default/files/documents/1656agricultureforestry.pdf
  5. Ellen MacArthur Foundation. (2019). Cities and Circular Economy for Food. Retrieved from https://emf.thirdlight.com/file/24/K6LOnIrKMZq-8vK6HoTK6iyBra/Cities%20and%20circular%20economy%20for%20food.pdf
  6. FAO, Rikolto and RUAF Global Partnership on Sustainable Urban Agriculture and Food Systems. (2022). Urban and peri-urban agriculture sourcebook – From production to food systems. Retrieved from https://www.fao.org/3/cb9722en/cb9722en.pdf.
  7. FAO. (n.d.). Urban and peri-urban agriculture. Retrieved February 14, 2024, from https://www.fao.org/urban-peri-urban-agriculture/en.
  8. Hoegling, J. (2022). Urban Agriculture’s Potential to Advance Multiple Sustainability Goals. Retrieved February 14, 2024, from https://www.resourcepanel.org/reports/urban-agricultures-potential-advance-multiple-sustainability-goals
  9. Liu, S., & Teng, P. (2017). Subsistence Urban Agriculture: Key Externalities and Way Forward. Policy Brief. S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University Singapore.
  10. Piorr, A., Zasada, I., Doernberg, A., Zoll, F., Ramme, W., & ZALF. (2018). Research for AGRI CommitteeUrban and Peri-urban Agriculture in the EU. Retrieved from https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2018/617468/IPOL_STU(2018)617468_EN.pdf
  11. Puigdueta, I., Aguilera, E., Cruz, J. L., Iglesias, A., & Sanz-Cobena, A. (2021). Urban agriculture may change food consumption towards low carbon diets. Global Food Security, 28, 100507.
  12. Rao, N., Patil, S., Singh, C., Roy, P., Pryor, C., Poonacha, P., et al. (2022). Cultivating sustainable and healthy cities: A systematic literature review of the outcomes of urban and peri-urban agriculture. Sustainable Cities and Society, 85, 104063.
  13. Taguchi, M., & Santini, G. (2019). Urban agriculture in the Global North & South: a perspective from FAO. Field Actions Science Reports. The Journal of Field Actions, (Special Issue 20), 12–17