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Tackling poverty and food security: lessons from India’s peri-urban frontier

In India, peri-urban areas are too often neglected. They are fraught with institutional ambiguity, unplanned growth, poor infrastructure and environmental degradation. Many peri-urban inhabitants live in poverty and face increasing marginalisation and food insecurity. Efforts to address malnutrition are decoupled from urban development initiatives, policy and planning. There has been a major decline in public funding and support for agriculture. Yet peri-urban agriculture could be a major contributor to poverty alleviation and food security. This briefing paper identifies specific policies and programmes which could support peri-urban agriculture in India. It examines rural-urban transformations in relation to changes in food production, access, consumption, nutritional quality and safety. To improve health and nutrition, a more holistic, food security-based perspective is needed. Policy and planning must support those fragile communities engaged in peri-urban agriculture while protecting the environmental services on which they depend. But to facilitate pro-poor food security developments on the ground, we also need a better understanding of the knowledge gaps, governance challenges and mechanisms that might help.

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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