What happens when urbanization outpaces a city’s ability to cope? Rapid urbanization has brought about enormous challenges, including increased urban poverty, growing levels of food insecurity and malnutrition, especially for the most vulnerable communities. Rapid and uncontrolled urban sprawl is responsible for the reduction of arable land around cities, making urban and peri-urban production and access to fresh and nutritious food difficult for the most vulnerable. As a consequence, many households in urban areas spend a substantial part of their food basket on cheap, energy-dense or nutrient-poor food and face sanitation conditions that are less than ideal. These communities often suffer from the triple burden of malnutrition: undernutrition, micronutrient deficiency and overweight and obesity, which are responsible for socioeconomic losses due to diet-related non- communicable diseases.
Towards a Solution
Through South-South cooperation, the City-to-City initiative seeks to empower local governments to make their cities and interconnected regions more food secure. It is built on the premise that Southern cities, which often face similar agro- and socioeconomic challenges, can relate readily to one another and that through collaboration and exchanges among peers, they can support each other in the transition towards more sustainable food systems. Given the sparse agricultural space in the cities targeted by the project, the City to City exchange on micro gardens enabled vulnerable groups to produce fresh food in small urban spaces such as roofs, yards, or vacant areas, addressing the specific challenge of producing fresher, more nutritious and diverse food in urban areas.
More specifically, in this pilot project, Dakar (Senegal) shared its experience in micro- gardening technologies with Douala (Cameroon) and Praia (Cabo Verde) relying on different and flexible South-South cooperation modalities such as fielding of experts, trainings, exposure visits to Dakar as well as the organization of a workshop in support of food policy and strategy development. The objectives of the City to City initiative were to: raise awareness on urban food policies; build the capacity among technicians of Douala and Praia on micro-gardening techniques; and support both cities in implementing micro- garden projects at the local level.
The project allowed beneficiaries and especially vulnerable families, to learn and adapt micro-gardening technology to their context, obtaining alternative food supply solutions which contributed to their food security and nutrition as well as to diversify their sources of income by selling excess production. The South-South cooperation initiative mainly included demonstrations at field level in Dakar, Douala and Praia, training of trainers and coaching support for the uptake of know-how such as the micro-gardening technique, which does not require expensive materials nor intense training and can be easily implemented and adapted to several environments.
The process was participatory, as it was demand-driven, and involved some in-kind contributions from the cities targeted. To ensure a smooth implementation of the activities foreseen by the project as well as increase ownership at the local level, a Letter of Agreement (LOA) was signed in December 2016 between FAO Senegal and the city of Dakar, which acted as South- South cooperation provider.
The main results of the pilot project included:
- Capacity development: A training session on micro-gardens was held in Dakar. Participants included 10 technicians and representatives of the municipalities (five from Praia and five from Douala). The training included classes on horticultural theory, materials recovery, implementing a training and demonstration centre, micro-gardens techniques and practical sessions/demonstrations at training and demonstration centres in Grand Dakar and Patte d’Oie;
- On-site technical assistance(two missions):Senegalese horticulture experts traveled to Praia and Douala to provide ad-hoc technical support to the cities, based on their needs, and to showcase how micro-gardens can be used to improve food security and nutrition in vulnerable communities in urban areas and,
- Awareness-raising: An awareness-raising workshop on urban food policies and sustainable food systems was held in Dakar. The three targeted cities participated, along with representatives of Banjul, Niamey, and Ouagadougou, and other stakeholders involved in the City-to-City Cooperation initiative. The event allowed representatives of Dakar, Douala and Praia to learn from different West African cities, share their experiences and make recommendations.
In terms of sustainability and replicability, additional results included introducing food security and nutrition issues into existing twinning agreements between cites, raising awareness among local governments and strengthening the commitment to urban food issues, thereby triggering additional city-level activities. For instance, the municipality of Praia inaugurated a demonstration centre on micro- gardens, actively promoted this technique through social media reaching also other locations such as peripheral areas and sensitized families on growing food at home. In addition, as a follow-up to this initiative, the city government of Douala requested FAO’s assistance in elaborating a food strategy. As a result, an LOA was signed with the Communauté Urbaine de Douala in December 2017 which included: i) developing a rapid assessment of food system; ii) implementing a multi-stakeholder platform; iii) promoting city-to-city exchanges with other cities. Lastly, this initiative made it possible for FAO to understand how to fine-tune South- South Cooperation among cities within the City-to-City mechanism in order to replicate collaboration at local level in other cities.