The Food Security and Nutritional Impacts of Urbanization and Rural Transformation on Lower Income Groups

Increased rural-urban linkages present both challenges and opportunities for urban and rural areas alike. Achieving food security and nutrition across the rural-urban continuum involves a series of complex and interlinked factors touching on issues such as sustainable production models, promotion of markets that are beneficial to small-scale producers, decent employment and income generation, consumer access to diversified and nutritious products, secure access to natural resources, provision of appropriate services and infrastructure.

The transformation of rural areas stimulated by interactions with urban centers can deliver positive impacts in terms of access to services and higher incomes, and can contribute to more sustainable urbanization, but it can also mean that certain areas are left behind, creating pockets of poverty and obliging people to escape from their areas of origin in search of better living conditions. Only by addressing the root causes of food insecurity and malnutrition in both rural and urban areas will it be possible to break the vulnerability cycle and take full advantage of the opportunities presented by urbanization and rural transformation.

Though poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition remain concentrated in rural areas, there is also a need to better understand these challenges in urban areas. The most inequitable outcomes of urbanization and rural transformation will occur when the same social groups are excluded and further marginalized – which are often low-income groups, including those that face social exclusion for reasons such as gender, age, ethnicity, race, religion, or social class. All of such groups face the risk of being excluded from opportunities afforded by greater access to services and infrastructure, employment and income generating opportunities, and access to nutritious foods emerging from rural-urban linkages, and will face greater challenges to achieving food security and nutrition.