The protection and conservation of natural environments and creating an integrated food production and distribution system will also benefit the residents and farmers.
Six African cities, namely, Praia in Cabo Verde, Kisumu and Nairobi in Kenya, Antananarivo in Madagascar, Quelimane in Mozambique and Kigali in Rwanda will embark on the pilot phase of the programme, which is designed to involve 1000 cities worldwide by 2030.
“We can redesign our cities,” said FAO director-general QU Dongyu in keynote remarks at the virtual launch of the initiative. He explained, “With affordable healthy and sustainable food, with accessible green spaces, with green lifestyles, and with new jobs which our citizens need.”
He noted that the vast majority of Africa’s cities have fewer than 300 000 inhabitants. “With the right policies and planning, combined with innovative solutions, local administrations and communities can build resilience and improve the wellbeing of urban and peri-urban dwellers,” he said.
“The county government of Kisumu in the past 5 years, and with assistance of development partners has put in place several initiatives towards greening the city as well as resilient food systems. We are therefore pleased to be a part of this great initiative,” said the Kisumu county governor Anyang Nyong’o.
Salifou Ouederaogo, minister of agriculture, hydro-agricultural development and mechanisation for Burkina Faso, hailed FAO’s initiative as timely for his country, where the share of the population living in cities is expected to double by 2050. FAO’s programme is “a real opportunity to consolidate and scale up pilot actions that are already underway at the national level and above all to include the Green Cities Initiative action plans to develop toolkits for developing the rural sector in our country,” he said.
FAO’s director-general called upon committed cities and mayors to engage local innovators, entrepreneurs and young people to propose new solutions, digital technologies, climate-smart practices and strategies to create green jobs and enrich the connections between urban settlements and their rural surroundings. He invited authorities to engage youth, especially in places where urbanisation is still in an early stage.
Some 55% of the world’s population lives in cities today, and that is expected to rise to 68% by 2050, with the vast majority living in low-income countries, especially in Africa and Asia.
FAO launched the Green Cities Initiative (GCI) in September last year, during the 75th session of the UN General Assembly. The initiative underscored the major roles that urban demographic trends play in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and the transition towards a low-carbon economy. Greener, cleaner and more resilient and regenerative towns can catalyse more self-sustaining opportunities as well as better lives.
The GCI is geared to promote sustainable and resilient local food production and short supply chains, establish green agro-processing hubs, efficient food distribution systems and food environments, and establish efficient circular-economy driven management of water resources and food waste. Landscape initiatives, parks and cleaner air are also an integral part of the Initiative. Increasing local food production and promoting short food supply chains has taken on new importance in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
FAO is funding the initial phase and eyeing to attract more resources and interest for the full programme. The aim is to push for significant innovative “quick win” actions to develop the capacity of local stakeholders in the first cities joining the project, to integrate food systems, urban and peri-urban agriculture, and forestry in local planning.
FAO will help participating countries use geo-referenced data and other indicators to provide rapid and systematic understanding of potential vulnerabilities to shocks, identify potential biodiversity hotspots and strategic mapping of food retail environments to boost access to nutritious food where it is lacking. Local administrations will also be helped to promote rooftop and backyard gardens, vertical farms in abandoned structures and high-tech aquaculture, as well as training locals to maximise the value of such opportunities. The organisation will also support members to set up platforms to engage in city-to-city dialogues and partnerships.