Significant changes happen within food systems that impact rural-urban linkages such as the decline of traditional markets, globalisation of diets and the increasing availability of highly processed food. Smallholder producers and processors, who often rely on nearby urban areas for markets, are increasingly competing with food produced from distant sources, often selling for lower prices. Food systems link rural and urban communities in a region within a country, across regions, and sometimes between continents. Cities and urban food systems play an important role in shaping their surrounding – and more distant – rural areas as far as land use, food production, environmental management, transport and distribution, marketing, consumption and waste generation is concerned.

Bridging the gap in food systems

In recent years, this problematic gap is slowly being recognised by urban planners, national and local policy-makers, the development community and consumers. One important turning point was the inclusion of Target 11.A under Goal 11 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs, see Box).

SDG 11: make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

Target 11.a: support positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, peri-urban and rural areas by strengthening national and regional development planning


Following this, the third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (i.e.