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FAO launches Green Cities Action Programme for Africa

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A big push in a rapidly urbanising continent kicked off as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), launched the Green Cities Regional Action Programme for Africa. The Programme aims to apply innovative solutions and turn urbanisation into an opportunity for cities to become more sustainable, more resilient, provide access to healthy foods and ensure a better life for everyone.

The initiative aims to scale up fast-action measures for large, medium and small cities to be more resilient, food and nutrition secure, with pleasant natural environments, more integrated nutritious food production-and-distribution systems benefiting residents and farmers alike.

Letters of intent were signed with six African cities: Praia in Cabo Verde, Kisumu and Nairobi in Kenya, Antananarivo in Madagascar, Quelimane in Mozambique and Kigali in Rwanda. The six cities will be embarking on the pilot phase of a programme designed to involve 1 000 cities worldwide by 2030.

QU Dongyu, FAO director-general, said, “We can redesign our cities with affordable healthy and sustainable food, with accessible green spaces, with green lifestyles, and with new jobs which our citizens need.”

He noted that the vast majority of Africa’s cities have fewer than 300 000 inhabitants. “With the right policies and planning, combined with innovative solutions, local administrations and communities can build resilience and improve the wellbeing of urban and peri-urban dwellers,” he said.

Salifou Ouederaogo, minister of agriculture, Hydro-Agricultural Development and Mechanisation for Burkina Faso, hailed the initiative as on time for his country, where the share of the population living in cities is expected to double by 2050. FAO’s programme is, “A real opportunity to consolidate and scale-up pilot actions that are already underway at the national level and above all to include the Green Cities Initiative action plans to develop toolkits for developing the rural sector in our country,” he said.

Opening remarks at the high-level launch were also given by Maimunah Mohd Sharif, executive director of UN-Habitat, and Jean-Pierre Elong Mbassi, secretary-general of United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa), an umbrella organisation for local Governments across the continent.

The mayors of the six pilot cities also spoke at the event, as did senior officers from Senegal’s ministry of environment and sustainable development, the Global Fund for Cities Development and the Green Climate Fund and FAO deputy director-general Maria Helena Semedo.

FAO’s director-general called upon committed cities and mayors to engage local innovators, entrepreneurs and young people, to propose new solutions, digital technologies, climate-smart practices and strategies to create green jobs and enrich the connections between urban settlements and their rural surroundings. He invited authorities to engage youth, especially in places where urbanisation is in an early phase and growing fast. “We need to enable young people so they can define their own future city,” he said.

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