Growing cities put food security at risk

With a world population, especially in cities, which is increasing year by year, urban areas are also expected to increase. A recent study shows the danger that this expansion of cities represents for global food security.

In the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), an international team of researchers warns of the future consequences of the evolution of cities. Indeed, with the world’s population constantly increasing, cities are getting bigger and eating away at cultivated land on the outskirts of cities. In addition to global warming, researchers announce a new threat to food security.

By 2030, the world’s urban population should have doubled compared to the year 2000, rising from 2.6 billion to 5 billion people. This results in the tripling of the surfaces of urban areas, a general extension which will gradually restrict agricultural areas located on the outskirts of cities.

For Felix Creutzig, lead author of the study who combined data such as cropland location, productivity and projected urban expansion with his team, the implications will be significant.  » The strong growth in the size of cities will lead to a loss of 1.8 to 2.4% of the world’s cultivated land », and this, in 2030 only.

Where this problem takes on considerable proportions is when we know that 80% of these land losses concern Asia and Africa, which are undergoing rapid urbanization. On these two continents, it is precisely these agricultural lands located on the outskirts of cities that are the most productive, about twice as much as the national averages.

The researchers’ projections are worrying, because it is the basics of food security that are threatened, with land producing corn, rice, soybeans and wheat, among other things. For Felix Creutzig, quoted by The Guardian, “ Due to urbanization in Nigeria, 17% of rice production and 12% of maize production will be affected. […] Egypt will lose over 40% of its rice and over 60% of its corn « . Rice will suffer the most, with an overall decline of 9%.  » This dynamic adds pressure on potentially strained food systems in the future and threatens livelihoods in vulnerable regions. « .

The study’s lead author points to urban agriculture as a potential alternative, although it won’t solve the large-scale problems.  » Urban agriculture is of course insufficient to feed the urban population, but it is very important to maintain local supply chains and provide livelihoods for urban farmers « .

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