Urban and peri-urban agriculture studies

Photo: Georgina Smith / CIAT

The future of urban and peri-urban agriculture in the Global South: setting priorities for future innovation investments

By 2050, it is projected that nearly 70% of the global population will live in urban areas – up from 55% today. How can towns and cities be fed sustainably? And what does this urban growth mean for innovation priorities? A study of urban and peri-urban agriculture (UPA), commissioned by CoSAI, addressed these questions.

The study shows how investment in innovations in agri-food systems can contribute to reversing the burdens caused by rapid urbanization.

Find out more in this CoSAI policy brief.

Actions needed

Investment in:

  • Innovations in land use policy through land use and food mapping, introducing zoning, incentives and allocation of public plots for farming, can protect and boost agricultural spaces around and within cities.

  • Innovations in the safe reuse of solid and liquid wastes in UPA and provision of other ecosystem services can support climate change mitigation and adaptation and the transition to an urban circular bioeconomy.

  • Innovations in the repositioning and diversification of local food markets, vendor enterprises and institutional markets can increase the density of short value chains with local food producers, promote healthier food consumption and generate decent employment.

  • Innovations in institutional management of food production, marketing and consumption across city regions, working through stakeholder consultations, participatory planning and national food policy frameworks, can strengthen the resilience of city region food systems.

  • Innovations in cross-sectoral engagement and building of partnerships and support networks, including engagement of ‘development brokers’, can strengthen horizontal and vertical integration of efforts to make food policy and UPA central to sustainable urban development.


Controlled environment agriculture

The UPA study showed that technical innovations should include a focus on controlled environment agriculture (CEA) to provide year-round vegetable production in many locations. CEA can contribute to sustainable development, for example through reduced use of land, water and inputs. However, to scale up CEA in the Global South sustainably and equitably, innovations are needed in policy, technology and business practices.

A complementary study on CEA, conducted by the RUAF Global Partnership on Sustainable Urban Agriculture and Food Systems, considers the different technologies available and recommends which technologies merit investment, and under which conditions. Findings and actions needed are summarized in an associated CEA policy brief.

Call to action

WWF’s ‘Policy, Plates, and Planet’ sets out specific actions for municipalities, national governments, international institutions and urban practitioners to transform urban food systems. The actions are an example of a roadmap to change towards a more equitable and sustainable food system.