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425. On Urbanization and Agrobiodiversity

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Today, more than 50% of humanity lives in urban areas, and this figure is projected to reach 68% by 2050. Urbanization is a multifaceted process that brings about demographic, biophysical, economic, cultural, and social changes at the global level. The expansion of urbanization affects climate, biodiversity, land use, and human diet. The relationship between urbanization and food production and consumption is increasingly recognized as a critical factor for the sustainability of the food system.

Urbanization has a negative impact on agrobiodiversity in food production and consumption as well as on agricultural ecosystems. There are some common myths that urbanization may have a negative impact on agrobiodiversity which is the biodiversity in food production and consumption as well as agricultural ecosystems.A paper published in One Earth, Urbanization and agrobiodiversity: Leveraging a key nexus for sustainable development, proposed a framework for analyzing the relationship between urbanization and food diversity from multiple perspectives, and showed that urbanization does not necessarily have a trade-off relationship with agrobiodiversity, as the aforementioned myths suggest.

For example, there are approaches to land use in cities and suburbs that can provide a variety of foods, such as vegetable gardens, orchards, and dairy, that contribute to maintaining food and nutritional diversity. In the U.S., some urban areas have almost achieved local self-sufficiency in eggs and milk, while only 12% and 16% have achieved local self-sufficiency in fruits and vegetables. On the other hand, in Hanoi, Vietnam, urban and suburban agriculture is responsible for 62-83% of the supply of vegetables, pigs and fish. Even within a single city, it is possible to ensure diversity in the food supply to urban residents through private and public vegetable gardens, farms of all sizes, and rooftop farms. Supply chains at the national level seem to have both positive and negative aspects in terms of diversity, as they encourage a standardized and biologically uniform crop and livestock industry, while at the same time supporting a partially diversified agriculture.

According to the authors of the paper, Africa will experience the most rapid urbanization in the future. In Africa, large cities and suburbs of various sizes with small farms and vegetable gardens are scattered geographically, and the major challenge will be how to maintain food and nutrition security. Since not all foods are produced in peri-urban areas, the stability of local, national, and international supply chain is key.

Since the Green Revolution of the 1950s and 1960s, agricultural modernization in developing countries, focusing on a few staple commodity crops, has led to inexpensive but less diverse diets for the poor, while traditional food and agricultural practices are often considered obsolete. However, the urban poor often continue to maintain their ancestral diets, and access to culturally diverse foods can improve nutritional security.

This year is the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables as designated by the United Nations. Vegetables and fruits are an important food group to focus on in order to maintain food and nutritional diversity in an increasingly urbanized international society. JIRCAS, in collaboration with the FAO Liaison Office in Japan, will host the online symposium Fruits and Vegetables - Research and Opportunities for Human and Planetary Health on Monday, December 6, 2021 (Monday) as an official side event of the Tokyo Nutrition for Growth Summit (N4G). This symposium will highlight the research potential of vegetables and fruits for health, development, and the environment. Please register for this event.

Symposium: Fruits and Vegetables - Research and Opportunities for Human and Planetary Health
Program: https://www.jircas.go.jp/en/symposium/2021/e20211206 
Date & Time: December 6 (Mon), 2021 at 16:00-17:45 JST
Format: Online
Registration: Nov 15 (Mon) 09:00 - Dec 6 (Mon) 15:00 JST
URL: https://www.jircas.go.jp/en/symposium/2021/e20211206/entry

For inquiries, please contact the Information and Public Relations Office at:
Email: event-jircas@ml.affrc.go.jp
URL:  https://www.jircas.go.jp/en/form/inquiry

Karl S. Zimmerer, Urbanization and Agrobiodiversity: Leveraging a Key Nexus for Sustainable Development, One Earth (2021). https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2590332221005984 

Contributor: IIYAMA Miyuki (Director, Information Progam)

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