Resilient Cities Through Sustainable Urban and Peri-Urban Agrifood Systems


By 2050, more than two in three people on the planet will live in an urban environment, including over 5.5 billion in low- and middle-income countries. The agrifood sector will play a central role in humanity’s transition to an urban world over the next generation. Local and global agrifood systems need to step up and adapt to feed and nourish expanding urban populations, reduce human and environmental health risks, and secure economic opportunities for the urban poor.

Countries in CGIAR target regions are struggling to keep pace with the implications of rapid urbanization and are demanding technically sound, equitable and scalable solutions in the agrifood sector. Key challenges for agrifood action in urban and peri-urban environments include growing pollution and environmental degradation, increasing social and economic inequalities, growing competition for land and water resources, weak or absent agrifood governance structures, and low visibility and support within the urban policy and investment context.


This Initiative aims to support a vibrant, largely informal urban and peri-urban agrifood sector, to help improve sustainability, equity and opportunity growth, and mitigate risks to human and environmental health.


This objective will be achieved through:

  • Enabling sustainable production of nutritious foods in (peri-) urban zones, by identifying, adapting, piloting and scaling technologies and institutional innovations together with local partners and in collaboration with local governments.
  • Building inclusive and sustainable food markets and safeguarding supply chains, by identifying ways that urban food marketing contributes to city resilience through two pathways: 1) building on the sociocultural benefits and convenience of local ‘wet’ markets for low-income consumers, and 2) safeguarding food supply against losses and waste.
  • Strengthening circular bioeconomy, food safety and the urban environment, through, for instance, supporting private and public actors with technologies, business and finance models for a more circular bioeconomy; and supporting municipal authorities with adoptable strategies and guidelines to maintain food safety in growing informal urban and peri-urban food production systems and supply chains.
  • Improving food environments and consumer behavior for nutrition, by characterizing food environments, dietary patterns, and their drivers and variations across seasons for key target groups; and creating a toolkit for assessing urban and peri-urban food environments and diets, with guidance for how to improve these.
  • Strengthening the evidence base and research and innovation capacities for urban and peri-urban agrifood system governance and growth, by developing a cross-sectoral urban and peri-urban agrifood systems resilience framework; supporting urban agrifood startup enterprises to translate research outputs into marketable innovations; and establishing a virtual center providing knowledge, research and capacity development support.


Proposed 3-year outcomes include:

  1. At least 10,000 small-scale producers in urban and peri-urban zones can access and utilize improved technologies, skills, know-how and management tools for safer, more sustainable and more efficient vegetable, livestock and fish production.
  2. At least 10,000 local micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises in food processing, marketing and agrifood service sectors can access and utilize business development toolkits, improved technologies, knowledge and skills, with strong participation by women and youth.
  3. Municipal authorities and their public and private sector partners in at least six cities adopt evidence-based approaches, tools and business models for planning, implementing and monitoring investments in a circular bioeconomy and/or strategies, informing new guidelines by global scaling partners such as FAO or WHO.
  4. At least 4 million consumers benefit from nutrition programs in public, civil society and private sector that use evidence-based urban and peri-urban food environment and consumption toolkits, including approaches to increase women’s decision-making power and to improve diet quality and nutritional status.
  5. Urban planners and stakeholders participating in global networks of more than 200 cities representing over 400 million consumers use, promote and further improve research and innovation tools and approaches developed by research and training institutions and civil society groups to accelerate urban and peri-urban agrifood system development and strengthen urban resilience.


Projected impacts and benefits include:


The Initiative will work to make food chains that feed urban areas more efficient and shorter, thus constraining the food systems’ environment and health impacts, and supporting healthier food environments to ensure the urban poor have increased access to safe and nutritious diets. This will avert a projected 2 million cases of communicable and non-communicable disease among urban dwellers, and ensure 1.53 million people meet their micronutrient requirements.


Investments supported by the Initiative will generate increased employment and incomes and will help improve availability and affordability of nutritious foods among low-income urban and peri-urban consumers, benefiting 4 million people.


Addressing some of the critical issues women and youth face through food system-based approaches will help improve their health and nutrition, increase their access to decent employment and empower them to have greater agency in their own lives, reaching 3.6 million women and youth.


Changes in the food habits and food preferences of urban residents and investment of around US$100 million in better urban organic waste management will help to transform agrifood systems, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the agrifood system.


The reliance of agriculture in urban and peri-urban systems on agro-chemicals, and its potential to contribute to the spread of zoonotic diseases, have been incorporated into the Initiative’s research. The impact of urban pollution and waste in these systems is also being addressed, and will see improved management over at least 6 million hectares of land.


For more details, view the Initiative proposal


Header photo: Fatou Diouf is a fish seller at the Grand Yoff market in Dakar, Senegal. She specializes in shrimp, fish and squid. She sells her product every day for the last 15 years using bags of ice to keep her daily product fresh. She often attends online webinars to improve her business acumen and has gained the title as an “Agent Technique des Peche et de l’Aquaculture” from the “Centre National de Formation des Techniciens de Peche et de l’Aquaculture.” Photo by M. Cooperman/IFPRI.