Cities and Biodiversity Outlook
Increasing the biodiversity of urban food systems can enhance food and nutrition security

Increasing biodiversity in our existing food systems is key to maintaining global food systems and the ecosystem services they depend on, and to improving global food security

The rapid growth of cities is challenging the provisioning capabilities of agriculture and modifying food systems at local and global levels.

The capacity of urban, peri-urban, and rural areas for developing greater food self-reliance needs to be carefully considered within a local biodiversity context, and investments are needed to document and protect local plant and animal species, particularly traditional foods used by indigenous peoples.

Efforts to ensure urban food security through local food systems, from production to consumption and distribution, depend directly on functioning ecosystems in the city and in its hinterlands. In developing local food systems, the objective is not to constrain the global supply chains that contribute to food and nutrition security for many countries, but to provide local and sustainable alternatives that enhance local agricultural biodiversity. Local alternatives can also reduce vulnerability to global shocks and counterbalance price and supply volatility.

Guiding Healthy Urban Agriculture in Kampala
Uganda's largest city is well suited to agriculture: it has a tropical climate, good soils, water, and abundant rainfall. Although the city is growing rapidly, agriculture remains highly visible, even in densely populated areas. In 2002, 49 percent of households were farming within city boundaries—the vast majority of them for food security or survival, not commercially. About half were raising livestock as well as crops. The recognition that urban agriculture was so widespread generated serious health concerns among Kampala's City Council. Many people were farming in hazardous or unsuitable places—roadsides, wetlands, and contaminated sites. When an extended research project started on urban farming and public health, the city joined the effort. Between 2002 and 2005, the project researched the benefits and risks of urban agriculture in Kampala. As a result of this and other research, Kampala changed how it regulates urban food production. In December 2006 it passed five new ordinances defining how urban agriculture can be carried out in the city. The effort—among the first serious legislative reforms to support urban agriculture—was designed to encourage self-reliance among urban dwellers and safe and healthy food production while also ensuring public health.

Urban Agriculture in Cuba
Since 1987 Cuba has focused on urban and suburban agriculture to counter its crisis of lack of imports as well as malnutrition and iron deficiency in the population. More than 54,000 hectares are currently dedicated for urban agriculture, including vegetables, fruits, apiculture, and livestock. Havana alone supports one of the most extensive urban agriculture networks in the world: 4 million tons of vegetables are grown each year in more than 200 urban organic farms, known as organiponicos. Urban agriculture produces 90 percent of Havana's fruits and vegetables while reducing the city's carbon footprint by trading the produce in local markets. Biodiversity is considered a key element for sustainable production, and a priority is placed on improving the gene bank in the country. More than 650 species are grown in Cuba, including more than 100 livestock breeds. Compost, biopesticides, and seeds are produced by cooperative producers, who receive technical support from a national organization. The products are then made available to urban farmers through local kiosks. Recent research is focused on improved soil and plant management, developing new vegetable varieties, greenhouse production, and small agro-industry development to increase resilience in the face of climate change.

Rooftop Gardening in Montreal
Rooftop gardening is catching on all over the world. In Montreal, Canada, where local fruits and vegetables can be hard to find except during the brief summer growing season, a 31,000-square-foot greenhouse known as Lufa Farm sits atop an office building. It grows more than 25 varieties of vegetables year-round, and it does so without using any artificial pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides. The use of controlled-environment agriculture enables the operation to yield as much as a conventional farm 10 times its size. Mohamed Hage, Lufa's founder, hopes that someday Montreal will be full of rooftop gardens. As he explains on the farm's website, rooftop gardens do "more than grow vegetables." They allow land previously lost to development to be farmed again; minimize the distance, time, and handling of food between grower and consumer; allow for the production of highly nutritious foods "instead of only semi-tasteless varieties that ship and store well"; and directly involve consumers with local farmers. Rooftop gardens also keep buildings cooler, save energy, improve air quality, and help mitigate the urban heat island effect. Lufa Farm distributes its produce at more than 30 drop-off points around Montreal. It also provides products from local Quebec farms.

Urbanization Encourages Food Biodiversity in Northern Vietnam
The urbanization rate in Vietnam is still low compared with that in other Southeast Asian countries, but it is growing steadily. Cities increasingly offer a significant market for food products. Traditionally, food in Vietnam has been distributed through street vendors and fixed market retailers, but in the last 10 years modern distribution has developed in the form of supermarkets and shops. Urban consumers are concerned with the origin and quality of food, and they readily establish a relationship between a place of production and specific taste features, which are due to soil and climate characteristics as well as traditional production methods. Thanks to various farmer organizations, as well as public and international research organizations, several protocols have been developed to stabilize production of the traditional hoa vang sticky rice and to have it labeled and packaged so it can fetch a premium price. Similar experiences relate to Thanh Ha litchi fruit, Bac Kan seedless persimmon, the dai hoang variety of banana, H'mong beef, and various indigenous vegetables.

Curitiba's Biocity Program
Combining public and private initiatives, the Biocity Program in Curitiba, Brazil, is a leading example of urban planning integrated with biodiversity conservation. The program has brought together multiple departments and stakeholders in an effort to reduce local biodiversity loss and contribute to global biodiversity conservation targets. Biocity concentrates its actions in five main areas: (1) planting ornamental indigenous plant species in the city, to promote familiarity with the region's indigenous flora; (2) establishing protected areas; (3) preserving water resources, through a plan for revitalizing the Barigui River basin; (4) planting indigenous tree species in the city; and (5) improving both air quality and transportation through the Green Line Project, a major transportation corridor with special lanes for bicycles and pedestrians as well as a linear park. Since its launch in 2007, the Biocity Program has improved ,the city's green spaces and green infrastructure and thus the quality of life for residents.

Image source: Kanenori Kubo, Flickr

Global Croplands

Figure 1: Global Croplands
Croplands cover ˜15 million km2 of the earth, providing the majority of the food, feed, and fiber that people depend on.
Source: EarthStat

Urban agriculture in Cuba

Figure 2: Urban agriculture in Cuba
Since 1987 Cuba has focused on urban and suburban agriculture to counter its crisis of lack of imports as well as malnutrition and iron deficiency in the population. More than 54,000 hectares are currently dedicated for urban agriculture, including vegetables, fruits, apiculture, and livestock. Havana alone supports one of the most extensive urban agriculture networks in the world: 4 million tons of vegetables are grown each year in more than 200 urban organic farms, known as organiponicos. Urban agriculture produces 90 percent of Havana's fruits and vegetables while reducing the city's carbon footprint by trading the produce in local markets.
Photo: Digital Globe / Google Earth

Lufa Farms, Montreal

Figure 3: Lufa Farms, Montreal
Rooftop gardening is catching on all over the world. In Montreal, Canada, where local fruits and vegetables can be hard to find except during the brief summer growing season, a 31,000-square-foot greenhouse known as Lufa Farm sits atop an office building. It grows more than 25 varieties of vegetables year-round, and it does so without using any artificial pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides. The use of controlled-environment agriculture enables the operation to yield as much as a conventional farm 10 times its size.
Source: Lufa Farms

Pasture Lands

Figure 4: Pasture Lands
Pasture lands are tracts of farmland, grazed by domesticated livestock, such as horses, cattle, sheep or swine. The vegetation of tended pasture, forage, consists mainly of grasses, with an interspersion of legumes and other forbs.
Source: EarthStat