This talk will explore the crucial linkages between urbanisation and food security, based on our recent and ongoing research studies. Urbanisation is often cited as one of the significant factors threatening food security. First of all, urbanisation leads to land use conversion from agricultural land to urban land use, such as for infrastructure, industrial, residential or commercial uses. Such land use conversion often reduces the most fertile land, and therefore the impact on agricultural production and food security is often larger than the absolute amount of land involved. Our recent research shows that such urban land use conversion is often driven by economic factors, with positive feedback loops between urban land use expansion and economic growth in the city, as well as in the region. In addition, urbanisation also brings about changes in dietary structure, which in turn brings about changes to peri-urban areas, where crop production is replaced by higher economic-value products such as vegetables, flowers, fish ponds, and so on. Furthermore, land use changes associated with urbanisation in developing countries are found to increase social vulnerability in the traditional farming communities in the peri-urban areas. On the other hand, some of our initial research results show that urbanisation might have some positive impacts on agricultural productivity. While all evidence seemingly points to close urban–rural linkages, research and policy approaches often treat cities and rural areas as separate sectors. Such dichotomised concepts and approaches hamper the search for an effective system-wide solution. There is a strong need to consider urban and rural areas as integral parts of a system in the global food-security debate or in urbanisation policy. The challenge then becomes to find how we can harness and maximise the positive effects that urbanisation can bring, and avoid or compensate for the negative impacts.


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