Latin American cities meet to discuss urban food systems

Latin American cities meet to discuss urban food systems

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Just as we need a family doctor, we need a family farmer to secure our food and to guarantee it is produced under good conditions.

Alain Santandreu RUAF Social Researcher

Is food a priority in Latin American city policies? And how do cities address food-related issues? These were the main questions raised during the seminar “Developing sustainable food systems in urban areas of Latin America and the Caribbean”, organised by the FAO. Rikolto took part in the event, which was held in Lima, Peru, between 9 and 11 May.

Representatives from the city councils of Tegucigalpa (Honduras) and Quito (Ecuador) presented initiatives taken at city level. Both cities have platforms in place where different stakeholders in the food chain develop and implement new policies that push for more sustainability in the food sector.

Rikolto works with both municipal governments and has established a learning network, called the Food Smart Cities programme, to exchange good practices among six cities worldwide. The aim is to ensure consumer access to safe food, guarantee fair prices for farmers, promote agricultural practices with a lower impact on the environment and produce healthy, good-quality food.

"During the conference, we were inspired by what other cities do," says Annabell Guzmán from Rikolto in Honduras. "We listened to cities presenting their strategies to promote healthy and sustainable food for their inhabitants. They explained how they installed food banks, special agro-ecological parks, healthy kiosks in schools, etc. All these initiatives could be replicated in Tegucigalpa."

Link between public and private stakeholders

In Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, 45% of the population live in “marginalised” conditions. They buy their food in local (informal) markets, where food safety and quality are not guaranteed. Moreover, it is estimated that the city’s inhabitants produce, on average, 878 tons of refuse per day.

Roberto Ochoa, Manager of Public Purchasing in Tegucigalpa’s city council, presented the challenges and current results of the programme that was started with Rikolto in 2017.

We need to connect public and private stakeholders much more, so that we can opt for a more integrated approach, establishing more direct market linkages that ensure fair prices for the producers. We can also see that education and awareness-raising are very important, so it's crucial to focus on schools and day-care centres.

Roberto Ochoa Manager of Public Purchasing in Tegucigalpa’s city council

Local food policies inspire

“One challenge in Quito relates to transparency. We still don’t know how our food is produced and processed, or how it reaches the population in formal and informal markets,” says Nataly Pinto, Global Coordinator of the Rikolto Food Smart Cities programme. "We work with farmers’ organisations and our aim is to make value chains more inclusive. These experiences should be scaled up at provincial, district and local level.”

Partnering with Rikolto means that we develop our city food policy together. This involves strategic planning, gathering together multiple stakeholders to hear their views, and bringing in new ideas from Latin America and the other side of the world. Additionally, we have the opportunity to participate in forums like this one, which enables us to expand our vision as a municipality and share what is happening in Ecuador.

Paola Ramón Director of Productivity for the municipality of Quito

Recommendations to push municipalities and consumers forward

The conference was organised by the NADHALI project, currently being implemented in the cities of Nairobi, Dhaka and Lima by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). It emerged clearly from the conference that Latin American cities face similar challenges. We picked up on the following contributions:

How can municipalities involve all sectors, especially the private sector, in the formulation of a sustainable urban food policy or other specific actions?

"Moving forward is more effective with the support of a major institution or the municipality. For example, in our case, in Lima, the capital of the country, it is more likely to generate connections with the private sector, whereas smaller towns may only be concerned with their own local reality; it’s important to link both dynamics."

Fernando Castro, Project Coordinator at FAO and Focal Point from NADHALI Project in Latin America

What suggestions do you have to promote agriculture’s value from the city?

"We must know how and what cities consume to map the route from city to countryside. This would allow each city to have a better understanding of how food streams work, and to design strategies aimed at reducing its carbon footprint. Also, we have to look at the role of intermediaries in the food chain. Currently, farmers are earning less, and this is triggering migration from the countryside to the city. How can we truly add value for everyone in the food chain? Another idea is to create a food movement or even to create a city brand for food."

Paola Ramón, Municipality of Quito, Director of Productivity

What could you tell the authorities of smaller municipalities to motivate them to include this issue in their local agendas?

"Food systems are an engine for cities, for the creation of jobs, for public health, and even to combat climate change. I think it’s important that the mayors of smaller cities learn that food involves many stakeholders and many institutions, and that’s why policies should focus on the subject as a matter of urgency." Cecilia Marocchino, NADHALI Project Coordinator

"The first thing is to accept that food is really an issue for public policy at local level; the second is that cities certainly do many things, but in a fragmented way. We need to take a comprehensive view of food systems. And the third is that cities should plan for the future, and really invest in it." Alain Santandreu, RUAF Social Researcher

Through the Food Smart Cities programme, Rikolto supports cities in designing their food policies in partnership with many stakeholders. We set up projects within and outside municipalities with special focus on linking with the private sector. We also facilitate peer-to-peer learning, such as exchanges between cities. Some cities started designing local food policies long before Tegucigalpa, for example, and we can learn from those that are further forward.

Annabell Guzmán Programme Manager Rikolto in Honduras

Reporter and editor: Selene Casanova