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CFS44: Urbanization, rural transformation and implications for food security and nutrition

Demographics are changing. Just over half of the global population lives in towns and cities, and absolute numbers of rural inhabitants are projected to begin declining in the near future.  

Policies and interventions will have to adopt an integrated approach to development, dealing with rural and urban regions not as distinct and isolated environments, but as part of a unified continuum of food systems. Policies should seek synergistic solutions in order to enable agriculture, not at the expense of either urban or rural populations, but to their mutual advantage.

The UN Committee on Food Security (CFS) has begun to reckon with this challenge, firstly by hosting a high level forum on urbanization, rural transformation and implications for food security and nutrition in the fall of 2016. This was an opportunity for policy-makers and experts to exchange views and discuss practical experiences on the challenges, opportunities, and positives outcomes that have resulted from more integrated approaches to managing these processes of change. Following this, based both on the discussions at the forum and submissions sent in through the Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition, the CFS created a compilation document of experiences and effective policy approaches entitled “addressing food security and nutrition in the context of changing rural-urban dynamics”, which will be officially endorsed at the next plenary session of the CFS in October. 

Both of these initiatives will serve as the foundations for the future exploratory work of the Committee related to this topic, which will involve the hosting of 2 intersessional events over the course of 2018. These events will help CFS stakeholders to assess the feasibility of undertaking eventual policy convergence activities, to develop a policy product which can be implemented into national and regional policy frameworks.    

In order to inform these undertakings, the Private Sector Mechanism (PSM) of the CFS has developed a position paper which presents a series of policy recommendations to strengthen food security in the face of a changing rural-urban nexus. These include:

  • Leveraging and expanding dynamic rural-urban linkages to ensure food security and improved nutrition for all.
  • Supporting the development of off-farm economic activities in rural areas.
  • Supporting the sustainable intensification and integration of urban agriculture.
  • Avoiding urban encroachment on rural and peri-urban agricultural land.
  • Engaging youth in farming.

CFS44 will take place October 9-13 in Rome, Italy to discuss issues and solutions to global food security and nutrition. The PSM will be advocating to ensure the above issues are recognized and addressed. Urbanization and rural transformation represent some of the most dramatic and influential trends currently affecting food security and nutrition on a global scale. Their successful management necessitates coordinated action and expertise from all stakeholders, to ensure a better future for all. Learn more about CFS here.

Learn more about urbanization and rural transformation here.


Ben Robinson

Ben works for Emerging to facilitate private sector engagement with the UN by organizing private sector representation, monitoring UN activities relevant to agribusinesses, as well as performing stakeholder communications and outreach. Ben has worked with the Office of Evaluation of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and has contributed to the University of Toronto’s Journal of Middle East Studies. He has an abiding interest in international relations and development. Ben is a Canadian national who is fluent in both French and English, and dabbles in a variety of other European tongues, both living and dead. He has studied European Politics and Human Geography at both the University of Toronto and the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris. Ben has lived in places as diverse as Brussels, New Delhi and Tehran. He is currently based in Rome, but soon relocating to London, UK.

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