Malnutrition, including overweight and obesity, is on the rise globally and increasingly concentrated in urban areas. Yet this urban dimension is neglected in research and policy related to food security, even as this field has broadened its scope from food production to encompass consumption as well.

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.

Rural-urban migration continues to attract much interest, but also growing concern. Migrants are often blamed for increasing urban poverty, but not all migrants are poor.

The majority of the world’s population now live in urban centres, which will also absorb virtually all population growth in the next century.

This paper draws on case studies in Mali, Nigeria, Tanzania and Vietnam to explore the different ways in which migration intersects with the changing relations between rural and urban areas and activities, and in the process transforms livelihoods and the relations between young and older men and women. Livelihood strategies are becoming increasingly diverse, and during interviews people were asked to describe their first, second and third occupations, the time allocated to each and the income that each produced. In all study regions, the number of young people migrating is increasing.

The impacts of climate change are likely to affect population distribution and mobility. While alarmist predictions of massive flows of refugees are not supported by past experiences of responses to droughts and extreme weather events, predictions for future migration flows are tentative at best.