Large cities have been perceived as mushrooming out of control and representing a major problem for humankind. If urbanisation is indeed out of control, then the emergence of a new generation of very large cities may undermine any progress towards sustainable development.
The challenge of supplying nutritionally adequate and safe food to city dwellers is substantial. Accomplishing this task under conditions of growth and congestion demands that policy-makers seize opportunities for integrating resource management and planning efforts, understanding potential linkages between rural and urban areas, and anticipating the changing needs of a country's citizens - both rural and urban.
The need to address issues associated with urban and peri-urban agriculture is a pressing one, as urban populations in both developed and developing countries continue to increase. The world's current population is split about equally between cities and rural areas with urban areas expected to surpass rural areas in population around the year 2005. In 30 years' time, the worldwide urban population is expected to double.
The importance of urban agriculture is now being increasingly recognised in the international development arena. Recent initiatives and programmes such as: the establishment of the Resource Centre on Urban Agriculture and Forestry (RUAF); international conferences and symposia in Havana, Cuba (Growing Cities, Growing Food: Urban Agriculture on the Policy Agenda, October 11-15, 1999) and Berlin, Germany (Urban Agriculture and Horticulture: The Linkage with Urban Planning, 7-9 July, 2000); the virtual conference 'Urban and Peri-urban Agriculture on the Policy Agenda'; and the IDRC 'Cities Feeding People' programme; all reflect recognition of the important role played by urban agriculture in the lives of people across the globe, and in particular the lives of the urban poor in developing countries.
FAO, together with the Resource Centre for Urban Agriculture and Forestry (RUAF), based in ETC-International (Leusden, The Netherlands) hosted a virtual conference on Urban and peri-urban agriculture on the policy agenda (which includes aquaculture activities), to run from 21 August to 30 September 2000. The conference was also considered to be a follow-up to the 1999 live-conference "Growing Cities, Growing Food: Urban Agriculture on the Policy Agenda", of which ETC/RUAF was a co-organiser.
Aquaculture in the cities
Aquaculture is the fastest growing sector of the world food economy. Beef production and oceanic fish catch growth have arrived to a plateau and aquaculture is now called to satisfy the increasing demand for animal protein. In 1998, aquaculture produced 31 million tonnes of fish of which about 90% was cultured in Asia.
Until recently most of aquaculture in Asia has been based in low energy cost technologies (i.e. integration to agriculture, waste use, and policulture). In countries like China, responsible for more than one third of aquaculture output, as land and water become scarce, aquaculture production is intensifying by feeding more grain concentrates to raise pond productivity.
Part of this production can be classified as urban or peri-urban. Defining what is peri-urban and what is rural has proved to be a difficult task. An intuitive/logical criterion is proposed for working purposes: Poor people can only afford buying cheap fish. Whoever produces cultured cheap fish that can be sold in the city can be considered a peri-urban aquaculturist. That excludes industrial producers of high priced products such as shrimp, no matter how close their farms are to the city as well as cheap fish producers that cannot afford long distance transportation.
Urban aquaculture is not a food production practice to be recommended in principle due to the conflict for resources which it posesresources that it poses and to the environmental and public health problems whichproblems that could be easily associated with this practicesthese practices. Peri-urban aquaculture instead can play an important role in the food security issue of cities. In both cases a case specific approach based on a proper conceptual framework should be adopted.
A Regional Seminar on Feeding Asian Cities took place in November 2000, in Bangkok, organized by the Association of Food Marketing Agencies in Asia and the Pacific (AFMA) and the Regional Network of Local Authorities for the Management of Human Settlements (CITYNET), in collaboration with: GTZ, International Union of Local Authorities (IULA), Ministère des Affaires Étrangères (France), UNDP/UNCHS/World Bank - Urban Management Programme - Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, World Union of Wholesale Markets (WUWM) with the technical support of FAO.
Asian cities are growing rapidly. Their growth is accompanied by an increase in the number of urban households living in poverty. The extent of urban food insecurity and possible interventions to alleviate this are not sufficiently appreciated by central and local government institutions and by the international community. City and Local Authorities (CLAs) can play an important role in reducing urban food insecurity and should be supported technically and financially. The seminar includes, among others, a Workshop on Urban and Peri-urban Aquaculture and aimsand aims to:
- identify major food security challenges in feeding Asian cities and the role that CLAs can play;
- prepare a plan of action for the next ten years to strengthen the capacity of CLAs in enhancing urban food security;
- facilitate South-South and North-South collaboration and technical assistance partnerships between CLAs, to address specific food supply and distribution constraints.