On January 19th the seminar on ‘Smart solutions for urban food supply’ took place at the Impulse building on the Wageningen University and Research (WUR) campus. Experts on urban food security, visiting international development practitioners and students mingled and engaged in debating the pressing challenges related to providing the worlds growing cities with enough quality food.
Marielle Dubbeling, director of RUAF Foundation, presented research on how the private sector contributes to achieving sustainable urban food policy outcomes within City Region Food Systems. Especially with food waste reduction and information technology innovations, new players such as real estate, construction and electricity companies have the potential to positively influence urban food systems. However, private sector actions must be guided with versatile policy support mechanisms that link local contexts with public interest priorities.
Marc Wegerif, working for Oxfam International and as a WUR PhD candidate, analysed the ‘Symbiotic Food System’ of Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania. Marc asked the question: where do ‘eaters’ get their food from? He traced the food back from fork to farm, and stated that there is an informal but resilient food system in place, providing food to millions of inhabitants of the city. He argued that policy and development initiatives should not seek to simply transplant or replace food systems at work in urban cities. Instead it is essential to learn from what is there, since different notions of scaling, social inclusion and cultural interactions exist that underlie each of these food systems.
In two ‘World Café’ rounds the seminar participants were invited to ask questions, discuss insights and share personal experiences. In a final plenary session main discussion points and challenges were discussed. Key messages were that:
- Smart solutions for urban food supply require increased attention to different forms and shapes of urban food systems: the smartest solutions are those that are already there!
- There are different forms of food systems which are not solely competitive but rather complementary, and these need to be embedded economically but also socially, environmentally and spatially;
- Policy development for urban food supply needs to involve peri-urban and rural food system actors and interests;
- Securing urban food supply needs different forms of innovation: not only technical, but also policy innovation. As such policymakers can see food as a way to connect diverse policy arenas in order to make city regions more sustainable and inclusive.
We would like to thank all participants and presenters for an interesting day. For those interested in more material and information, please visit the seminar website.