The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations on Monday launched the Green Cities Regional Action Program for Africa, which aims to apply innovative solutions and turn urbanization into an opportunity for cities to become more sustainable and more resilient, and provide access to healthy foods and ensure a better life for everyone.
According to Qu Dongyu, the FAO’s director-general, the program is meant to redesign selected cities to have affordable healthy and sustainable food, accessible green spaces, green lifestyles and new jobs that citizens need.
“The vast majority of Africa’s cities have fewer than 300,000 inhabitants. With the right policies and planning, combined with innovative solutions, local administrations and communities can build resilience and improve the well-being of urban and peri-urban dwellers,” Qu said.
He called upon committed cities and mayors to engage local innovators, entrepreneurs and young people to propose new solutions, digital technologies, climate-smart practices and strategies to create green jobs and enrich the connections between urban settlements and their rural surroundings.
Qu invited authorities to engage youth, especially in places where urbanization is in an early phase and growing fast, adding that Africa needs to enable young people so they can define their own future cities.
The program will be piloted in six cities across the continent, which are Praia in Cabo Verde, Kisumu and Nairobi in Kenya, Antananarivo in Madagascar, Quelimane in Mozambique and Kigali in Rwanda. The six cities that signed letters of intent at the launch will be embarking on the pilot phase of a program designed to involve 1,000 cities worldwide by 2030.
The FAO also said the initiative will focus to scale-up fast-action measures for large, medium and small cities to be more resilient, food and nutrition secure, with pleasant natural environments and more integrated nutritious food production-and-distribution systems benefiting residents and farmers alike.
Salifou Ouederaogo, minister of agriculture for Burkina Faso, hailed the initiative as timely for his country, where the share of the population living in cities is expected to double by 2050.
“The FAO’s program is a real opportunity to consolidate and scale up pilot actions that are already underway at the national level, and above all, to include the Green Cities Initiative action plans to develop toolkits for developing the rural sector in our country,” Ouederaogo said.
The FAO said it will help participating countries use geo-referenced data and other indicators to provide rapid and systematic understanding of potential vulnerabilities to shocks, identify potential biodiversity hotspots and strategic mapping of food retail environments to boost access to nutritious food where it is lacking.
Local administrations will be helped to promote rooftop and backyard gardens, vertical farms in abandoned structures and high-tech aquaculture, as well as training locals to maximize the value of such opportunities. The organization also will support members to set up platforms to engage in city-to-city dialogues and partnerships.
The Green Cities Initiative started in September 2020 at a high-level event during the 75th session of the UN General Assembly, underscoring the major role that urban demographic trends, as well as urban forestry, urban agriculture and urban food systems, are destined to play in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the transition to a low-carbon economy. FAO argues that greener, cleaner, and more resilient and regenerative towns can catalyze more self-sustaining opportunities, as well as better lives.