Study: Current Urban Food Models Not Sufficient

Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, experienced a 400 percent population increase between 1985 and 2012, swelling to almost 2 million people today. In Tamale, in neighbouring Ghana, the urban population has doubled every decade since 1970, today reaching about 400,000.

Our team recently spent two years tracking more than 40,000 records of food flowing in and out of these two cities. For each entry, we catalogued the place of origin, type of food and destination.

The results showed that both cities relied heavily on agricultural production in nearby areas to meet urban food demand. About a third of the food supplying Tamale originated from within 30km and half from within 100km. Some foods came almost solely from within the city itself; 90 per cent of leafy vegetables, which are an important part of traditional diets and rich in nutrients, were supplied by urban farming.

But both cities also depended on supplies of some food from further afield. For example, Ouagadougou is heavily reliant on imported rice, an important staple food that cannot easily be substituted by other crops. While it is grown in the region, domestic production cannot meet the demand.

At the same time, we also saw that climate change-induced weather events can have grave consequences for urban food supply: in 2007, droughts and subsequent floods in northern Ghana destroyed half of all staple crops. The results were, again, food shortages and rising prices.

Ollivier Girard/CIFOR


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