Largest city in the world: Tokyo has 37.5 million inhabitants © Michel Gunther, WWF

The world population is growing, and where most of all? In Asia, of course. Already 60% of the world population live in Asia, and 50% of the Asian population again live in cities. By 2050, 2 out of 3 Asians are expected to be urban dwellers. Some of the largest metropoles in the world are located in Asia, Tokyo being the largest city with 37.5 million inhabitants. Ever heard of “Megacities“? These are cities with over 10 million inhabitants. Of the 33 megacities worldwide, 20 are in Asia, and by 2030 there could be as many as 27 Asian megacities (43 worldwide).

(See the United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division World Population Prospects: The 2019 Revision

Urbanisation and consumption

Hand in hand with the trend of increasing urbanisation and as a result of rising incomes of millions of Asians, a new middle class is emerging. This middle class, in turn, shows consumption patterns similar to those in industrialized nations (e.g. countries in Europe and North America). The rapid economic rise in the past decades has led to fundamental changes in eating and consumption habits in many parts of Asia, presenting the region with new challenges. Again in Asia, this means billions: the Asian middle class is estimated to be currenly at about 2 billion people.

While in the rural areas of Asia politicians continue to face difficulties in ensuring long-term food security for their populations and combating malnutrition, many people in the metropolitan areas are following increasingly unhealthy diets. Growing prosperity is not enough to eliminate malnutrition. Therefore, policies need to ensure not only that people eat enough calories, but also that they eat the right ones.

Agri-food policies

Asia’s food and agricultural policies have gained in importance and today go far beyond the mere question of producing and distributing goods. Changing eating habits can have ethnic and cultural implications. The creation of modern value chains, for example, can endanger the livelihoods of small farmers. The growing hunger of new socially prosperous classes for more and more products is leading to greater pollution of Asian soils and waterways, and depleting resources at alarming rates.

What we eat is not just a question of taste but has far-reaching effects on our coexistence and the economic structures of countries and regions. Healthy diets and sustainable production and consumption can together combat malnutrition and have a positive impact on economic structures.

– Blog posted by Tanja Ploetz, Senior Programme Manager SCP, Agriculture and Land Use Change, WWF-Germany –