Food Smart Cities @ Rikolto

Food Smart Cities @ Rikolto

How to provide affordable quality food in booming cities? City policies can offer opportunities for farmers and push food production and consumption towards more sustainability.

More than half of the world’s population currently lives in urban areas, a proportion that is projected to increase to even 70% by 2050. But how do you provide healthy food for everyone? And how do you do this in such a way that the effects of climate change are taken into account and that the environment is not further damaged?

Cities all over the world are reflecting and exchanging on how they can address these huge challenges. New urban food policies are being developed. These policies can offer opportunities for farmers in periurban and rural areas around the world. They can improve the livelihoods of farmers and push food production and consumption towards more sustainability.

In 2015, 137 city mayors gathered in Milan to discuss two of the most severe emergencies of the third millennium: food security and sustainable development. It was during this conference that “Food Smart Cities” became the central concept for cities that work towards new urban food systems. The food systems address the consequences of population growth, the effects of climate change and many other complex socio-economic issues. At the end of the conference, the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact was signed by 137 city mayors. They agreed to develop sustainable food systems that are inclusive, resilient, safe and diverse. Among the signatories are the cities of Tegucigalpa (Honduras), Quito (Ecuador) and Ghent (Belgium). VECO works with farmer groups in all three regions and decided to cluster its activities.

Farmers should have a voice in the discussions on these policies. Their views and role should be valued and taken into account so they can benefit from more organised food links and chains between their villages and consumers in the cities. We are also convinced that tangible activities in 5 cities can inspire and nourish global discussions on food sustainability

Nataly Pinto International Food Smart Cities Cluster coordinator, Rikolto

Towards the Sustainable Development Goals

The Urban Food Policy Pact is also an important contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals. The goals, launched by the UN in December 2015, unite global and collective challenges of the global community that need to be overcome by 2030. For example, one of the 17 goals focuses on the importance of cities incentivising sustainable development. Other objectives focus on sustainable food production, sustainable consumption and the development of global partnerships. Furthermore, the important role of cities in developing strategies towards sustainability was emphasised during the UN Habitat III conference in October 2016 which focused on the New Urban Agenda.

Rikolto’s Food Smart Cities Cluster: a partnership based on tangible action, complementary strengths and collective impact

Rikolto (VECO) supported the formulation of ‘Gent en garde’, the food strategy for the city of Ghent, Belgium. Rikolto is now discussing its involvement in the strategy implementation: this could range from developing short food chains to increasing sustainable catering in schools. By 2021, Ghent wants to implement a sustainable food policy in all schools that is not limited to just school canteens but also extends to the classroom.

In and around Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras Rikolto works on sustainable inclusive vegetable chains. Tegucigalpa is, furthermore, also investing in sustainable school catering. A close collaboration between the municipality and Rikolto is exploring how these efforts can be integrated in a broader food policy that is in compliance with the Milan Pact.

In Quito, the capital of Ecuador, became one of the few cities in Latin America to have signed a food charter. Rikolto played a role in this important milestone for the city, as part of the Technical Secretariat lead by Conquito, the Agency for Economic Promotion of Quito Municipality. Conquito, Rikolto and Ruaf Foundation held a series of workshops with farmers, civil society organisations, the agri-food industry, chambers of agriculture and commerce, nutritionists, university professors, researchers and international cooperation in order to strengthen actors' shared responsibility for food governance in Quito. Building on the motto “Strength through Unity", Rikolto accompanied the constitution of the multi-stakeholder group called ‘Pacto Alimentario de Quito’ (Litt.: "Quito Food Pact”). The group developed and promoted the signature of the Quito Food Charter and the adoption of a food strategy.

In Indonesia, Gita Pertiwi is our partner in the region of the city Solo, Java. Its network is initiating new supply chains for healthy food like healthy rice, vegetables and coconut sugar. Farmer organisations supported by Rikolto are involved, but also other producers in rural areas close to Solo, and also hotels, restaurants, school canteens and supermarkets. Furthermore, Solo has already implemented food-related programs for several years, for example a consumer awareness program on healthy food and healthy lifestyle, urban farming and healthy food canteens. In collaboration with the government, we expect to develop the program further, expand it and take it to a higher level within Indonesia.

In Vietnam, the city of Da Nang and Rikolto are collaborating on the development of safe vegetable value chains and the promotion of consumers’ right to safe food. We work together to set up Participatory Guarantee Systems, an innovative participatory quality assurance mechanism that improves smallholder farmers’ access to markets and builds consumers’ trust in the food system.

In Arusha, Tanzania, we tackle, together with TAHA (the Tanzania Horticulture Association) the looming food safety issue, specifically in the fruits and vegetables sector. This is a complex issue involving many stakeholders, ranging from consumers, to government departments, traders, wholesalers, retailers and farmers. We will therefore start by supporting testing to gain a common understanding of the scale of the problem and establish a shared urgency to take action. We will then support a working group to design a practical, affordable Traceability system which can ensure the quality of the food being traded in local markets and retailers. This system will be piloted in Arusha.

About our partners

The cluster is composed by complementary partners with a shared interest. Our partners include:

  1. The cities of Ghent (Belgium), Quito (Ecuador), Tegucigalpa (Honduras), Solo (Indonesia), Da Nang (Vietnam) and Arusha (Tanzania).

  2. Networks like the RUAF Foundation, a global partnership on sustainable Urban Agriculture and Food Systems, and RIMISP, the Latin American Centre for Rural Development.

Arusha signed MoU with Rikolto to invest in food safety

30/06/2018 14:00

On 28 June 2018, Rikolto in East Africa signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the City of Arusha (Tanzania), allowing for our Food Safety initiative to take a leap forward and truly engaging local authorities on the importance of safe food production and consumption. The initiative will focus mainly on improving safety and quality of fresh fruit and vegetables supplied and consumed in Arusha and its environs, inclusive business models and practices for safe fruits and vegetables and raising awareness among the local population on the importance of making informed sustainable food and safety choices.

In the picture, you can see Mr. Athumani Kihamia, Arusha City Executive Director, signing the MoU, together with Mark Blackett, Regional Director of Rikolto in East Africa, officially making Arusha the 6th city to collaborate within Rikolto’s Food Smart Cities cluster, alongside Đà Nẵng (Vietnam), Quito (Ecuador), Solo (Indonesia), Ghent (Belgium), and Tegucigalpa (Honduras).

Multi-stakeholder planning workshop in Da Nang

13/07/2017 11:41

Da Nang’s Department of Agriculture & Rural Development and VECO Vietnam organised a two-day multi-stakeholder workshop (6-7 July) to plan for their joint “Food-Smart Cities” programme in Da Nang for the period 2017-2021. The workshop was attended by representatives of various city departments (Agriculture, Industry & Trade, Health), and representatives of farmer organisations, private sector and civil society. Together, the participants came up with a draft plan to improve the management of food safety in the city, increase the supply of safe vegetables in Da Nang, and improve consumers’ access and trust in safe food.

The Food Smart Cities Cluster works on 3 topics, using a variety of approaches

1. Development and implementation of urban food policies

Developing new food systems in urban areas is extremely complex. How to involve producers, traders, companies, city departments, consumers in the discussions on new policies? How to involve not only the city’s agriculture department, but also the health department, the environment and special planning department, initiatives to stimulate local economy etc. How to organise all that in an efficient way? And how to make sure all that fits with regional and global food systems?

We thoroughly explore and forge links across boundaries to get a better insight into the complexity of a sustainable food system and on how the implementation of a local policy can convey that vision and position it on relevant national and international forums.

2. Rural-urban-periurban sustainable inclusive chain development

Although urban agriculture is important, it´s not enough to feed the entire city population. Thus we must ask ourselves: how to connect cities to their surrounding rural areas?

Challenges are located in the area of sustainability in relation to distance, transportation, growth and production methods, the volume and quality of production, the organisation of the trade model, the distributions system, logistics and the business model. There is a need for a long term strategy developed by all stakeholders. Stakeholders include the government, the financial sector and the chain players in question, such as producer organizations, processors and retailers.

3. Sustainable procurement & purchasing (including legal framework and consumer involvement)

Developing more sustainable food consumption and production patterns will have a significant impact on sustainable development. Public sector institutions as well as centres of procurement (e.g. hospitals, care homes, universities, schools and canteens) represent a significant part of any national food economy. They can take up the responsibility to promote an “ethic of care” for their communities and environment in the ways that they purchase, prepare and serve food.

Several examples demonstrate that public procurement is one of the most powerful tools urban governments have at their disposal to design sustainable food systems that prioritise quality foods. They also show that successful long-term change has to be tailored to the culture and system of governance in each city or region. Commitment and creativity is vital and the ability to think ‘outside the box’ brings environmental, financial, health and social rewards.

Our approaches

  • Food system analysis

  • Multilevel, multi-actor, multi stakeholder dialogue

  • Co-creation / shared value

  • Peer to peer knowledge exchange and monitoring

  • Communication and awareness raising

Our track record

  • VECO supported the formulation of the food strategy for the city of Ghent, Belgium. Now we are involved in its implementation.
  • In and around Tegucigalpa, Honduras, we support various sustainable inclusive vegetable chains.
  • In Quito, Ecuador, we promoted a strong campaign on sustainable consumption and we enhance local consumption of coffee that is processed in the country. Now we are including fruit and vegetable chains.
  • In Solo, Indonesia, VECO worked on healthy food awareness campaigns together with youngsters. We are currently part of a broader network to set up new supply chains for healthy food like rice, vegetables and coconut sugar.
  • In Vietnam, Danang and VECO are collaborating on the development of safe vegetable value chains and the promotion of consumers’ right to safe food. We work together to set up Participatory Guarantee Systems, an innovative participatory quality assurance mechanism that improves smallholder farmers’ access to markets and builds consumers’ trust in the food system.

The aim of the Food Smart Cities Cluster is to obtain results located at 3 levels

Level 1- Piloting with cities

Together with the cities of Ghent (Belgium), Quito (Ecuador), Tegucigalpa (Honduras), Solo (Indonesia), Da Nang (Vietnam), and Arusha (Tanzania) we are implementing six pilot projects on:

  • Strategy design or implementation of the cities’ food policy.

  • Piloting rural, urban and periurban food chains like fruit, vegetables, coffee and rice.

  • Implementation of sustainable catering in schools.

Level 2 - Learning cycle

Peer-to-peer monitoring, knowledge exchange, learning between cities, VECO’s and strategic allies such as the RUAF foundation and RIMISP.

Level 3 - Influencing the international agenda

The findings will go to international discussion platforms so we can share our what we learned and advance the political agenda in favour of sustainable food systems and inclusive rural- urban value chains.

The new issue to be considered is food waste. Just recently, a newspaper published a report that Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, produces more then 4.000 tonnes of food waste per day, which is 54% of all the waste.

Purnama Adil Marata Food Smart Cities coordinator, Rikolto in Indonesia

City of Tegucigalpa


City of Tegucigalpa

City of Ghent


City of Ghent

City of Solo



City of Da Nang

City of Da Nang





Operating agency of the municipality of Quito

The RUAF Foundation

The RUAF Foundation

Global partnership on sustainable Urban Agriculture and Food Systems



Latin American Centre for Rural Development.

International Food Smart Cities Cluster coordinator/ Food Smart Cities Rikolto in South America

Charlotte Flechet charlotte.flechet [at]

Food Smart Cities Rikolto in Belgium

Gert Engelen gert.engelen [at]

Food Smart Cities Rikolto in Indonesia

Purnama Adil Marata
adil.marata [at]

Food Smart Cities Rikolto in Vietnam

Hoang Thanh Hai hai [at]