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Urbanisation, rural transformations and food systems: the role of small towns

Cecilia Tacoli, Jytte Agergaard

Book/Report, 29 pages

Small towns are an essential but often-neglected element of rural landscapes and food systems. They perform a number of essential functions, from market nodes to providers of services and goods and non-farm employment to their own population as well as that of the wider surrounding region. In demographic terms, they represent about half of the world’s urban population, and are projected to absorb much of its growth in the next decades. But the multiple and complex interconnections between rural and urban spaces, people and enterprises – and how these affect poverty and food insecurity – remain overlooked. Drawing on lessons from a set of case studies from Tanzania and other examples, this paper aims to contribute to this debate by uniting a food systems approach with an explicit focus on small towns and large villages that play a key role in food systems.

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Urbanisation drives profound transformations in rural areas and in food systems, presenting both challenges and opportunities for poverty reduction, rural development and food security. Policies at the local, national, regional and global scales are of critical importance in shaping rural-urban linkages and the political economy of food systems.

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Urbanisation, rural-urban transformations and food systems