Feedback on FAO report strives to strengthen urban and peri-urban food systems

February 1, 2024

In the middle of January, the FAO’s High-Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE-FSN) called for feedback on their draft report on ways to achieve food security through urban and peri-urban food systems. After reviewing the first draft, SfL co-chair A.G. Kawamura notes the Food and Agriculture Organization is on the right path in a portion of the report’s assessments, but they are still missing the mark in other portions. SfL guidance was submitted by the FAO’s January 26 feedback deadline.

“It is a useful conceptual framework for policymakers new to the subject and issue areas,” says Kawamura in his written comments to the FAO. “However, the draft falls short in diluting the actual role for agriculture and for farmers by reducing their inclusion in most of the language and descriptive overview of the opportunities and threats.”

The report titled Strengthening Urban and Peri-urban Food Systems to Achieve Food Security and Nutrition in the Context of Urbanization and Rural Transformation came at the request of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) at the 50th Plenary Session. According to the FAO, the goal of the report is to explore issues surrounding urbanization, rural transformation and their implications for food security and nutrition (FSN).

The draft writers strived to define the six dimensions of food security, yet did not once include who produces the food, how they produce it and with what resources. In addition, the word “actors” is used to describe everyone along the food security system. As Kawamura points out, “pretending there are actors who are going to fill this role ignores the actual predicaments real farmers face. “

“There are excellent and far-ranging parts of the draft report that cover many of the ‘bureaucratic’ difficulties of producing, processing and selling food in an urban environment,” Kawamura writes. “These go a long way toward exposing some of the weaknesses and chronic problems inherent in cities that have no sense of their food future or an imagined ideal about what its food future might be. It is at least refreshing to note that the report is less prescriptive and seems to understand that there can be no one, best system for these transformational suggestions. Yet, the fact that the writers of the report are stuck with a negative framing of the food system as it exists is worrisome.”

Another issue not mentioned in the draft includes the need for critical infrastructure (i.e. water, soil health, skilled labor). To ensure produce from urban and peri-urban farms make it from field to plate, Kawamura says the drafters need to review how vital such infrastructure is “for perishable fruit and vegetable production of any scale.”

Kawamura, who is also a California progressive urban farmer, is quite familiar with the operational process from start to finish. He suggests the FAO “spend less money studying the problem of food insecurity and more funds on implementing solutions to root problems like replicating and scaling up of successful farming models to create a greater and more immediate impact with available and new funding.”

“If the goal (of this report) is to create a roadmap that might help accomplish multiple SDGs within the urban and peri-urban landscape through an edible landscape, then there are quite a few redundant passages that seem more focused on what’s already obvious and what’s perceived to be wrong with the food system,” Kawamura concludes.

For access to the initial FAO draft, please visit the HLPE-FSN website. To explore Kawamura’s complete remarks, refer to SfL on V0 draft of the HLPE-FSN report urban and peri-urban food systems_ #19. An updated draft is anticipated to be unveiled in fall 2024.     

For additional information, contact SfL President Ernie Shea at 410-952-0123, or by email at

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