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2017 Global Food Policy Report: Urbanisation in the spotlight

Posted: 31 March 2017 | New Food | No comments yet

The 2017 Global Food Policy Report shines a spotlight on the unique challenges and opportunities presented by urbanisation for ending hunger and malnutrition and advancing the 2030 Agenda.

urbanisation-food-security

The 2017 Global Food Policy Report shines a spotlight on the unique challenges and opportunities presented by urbanisation for ending hunger and malnutrition and advancing the 2030 Agenda.

urbanisation-food-security

Rapid urbanisation, particularly in developing countries, is reshaping food security and nutrition in both rural and urban areas. Over half the world’s population now lives in cities, and by 2050, 66% of the world’s population is projected to live in urban areas, with the increase concentrated in East and South Asia and Africa.

Urbanisation and population growth are expected to put mounting pressure on the global food system as agricultural production comes under stress from environmental degradation, climate change, and extreme weather conditions. And as urbanisation has accelerated in some developing countries, so has the triple burden of malnutrition: the coexistence of hunger, undernutrition, and overnutrition in the form of overweight and obesity. The good news is that the world is paying attention. Urbanisation was prominently elevated in the global development policy agenda in 2016: 167 countries adopted the New Urban Agenda at the Habitat III summit, an agenda that sets a standard for sustainable urban development.

Urbanisation, food security, and nutrition

Poverty, food insecurity, and malnutrition are increasingly becoming urban problems in all regions of the world. The burdens of malnutrition—including persistent child undernutrition and stubborn micronutrient deficiencies—are moving to the city. Child stunting now affects one in three urban children, for example. Among adults, the global rise in overweight and obesity had been concentrated in urban areas. Poor urban residents, especially slum dwellers, face unique food security and nutritional challenges related to accessing nutritious food; social protection; and adequate water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities. Food security in urban areas requires access to cash, which jeopardises the poor, especially women, who depend heavily on unstable, informal sector employment. In many developing countries, extremely poor urban households spend more than 50% of their budgets on food. Limited formal and informal safety nets often fail to protect the poor, and food security and nutrition problems are aggravated by an unhealthy living environment, especially in slums.

Urban environments are also associated with the ‘nutrition transition’ – a shift toward increased consumption of animal-source foods, sugar, fats and oils, salt, and processed foods – that is occurring most rapidly in cities. This change in diets is causing increases in overweight, obesity, and diet-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. The most easily available and affordable diets, particularly for the urban poor, are often unhealthy. Food policies must be designed to transform urban – often ‘obesogenic’ – food environments to increase accessibility of nutritious diets and create healthier, supportive environments for the urban poor. This will require not only working with actors at the retail end of the food value chain, such as supermarkets, but also building linkages with rural producers.

The 2017 Global Food Policy Report provides an overview of what we know about urbanisation, food security, and nutrition, as well as some of the most urgent research and data needs. The report also points to promising policy directions for strengthening rural-urban linkages. Addressing the needs of growing ranks of urban dwellers and improving the livelihoods of smallholders will be essential to global food security and nutrition and to successfully moving ahead with the new sustainable development agenda.

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