Can Cities in the Global South be the Drivers of Sustainable Food Systems?

J.M. Fonseca, J. Battersby, L.A.T. Hualda


Sustainable Diets: Linking Nutrition and Food Systems

Urbanization has been associated with significant transformations in our society, with paramount influence in agriculture and the world food industry, and subsequently in consumers’ diets. Arguably, the current food consumption trend is non-sustainable given the non-regenerative, and rather disruptive, ways of using natural resources for meeting the growing food demand and the growing inequality for food affordability across regions. Cities have been an easy target to promote non-sustainable consumption, due to a lifestyle that encourages it and where ‘convenience’ is the prominent sought-after feature in food. Moreover, the food systems feeding urban populations need to be not only environmentally sustainable, but also socially and economically sustainable, and these pillars of sustainability are inextricably linked. It is within this context that this chapter asks: how can cities be drivers of food system sustainability? It specifically focuses on cities of the South due to their rapid urbanization and particular persistent challenges of poverty and food insecurity. Indeed, in cities of the global South, population in slums, where poverty is prevalent, constitute nearly four out ten of the total urban dwellers in developing countries, and as high as seven out of ten in African countries, revealing cities can no longer afford to treat slums as an excluded part or ‘exception’ to the rest of the city. We reviewed the global context and identify current opportunities that cities can exercise to drive what can be the sustainable food systems of the future. It is highlighted that social and environmental inclusion in city-linked food systems can be effectively articulated through: (i) participatory governance; (ii) solidarity schemes; (iii) inclusive value chain collaborations; and (iv) food system planning. Importantly, interventions in cities of the South require improved coherence given the inter-cross of jurisdictions of pertinent institutions, evidencing the need for a territorial approach where the different levels of government engage in dialogue.

Citation: 2018. In Burlingame, B. and Dernini, S. (eds.) Sustainable Diets: Linking Nutrition and Food Systems. CABI, pp. 79.

Scroll to Top