Urban Food Futures

Urban Food Futures

Valorizing the informal economy is about more than just survival, it’s about working to create an enabling environment within which small business owners and everyday citizens can thrive in safe and enjoyable working environments.
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With some of the fastest growing cities in the world, Africa faces multiple and interrelated challenges in achieving food and nutrition security, as well as decent livelihoods for all. These include an accelerated climate crisis, population growth, rising rural-urban migration, extensive and largely unregulated urbanization, deepening economic inequality, and the exclusion of large segments of the population from governance structures.
Urban Food Futures is a transdisciplinary action-research programme conducted in cooperation with TMG's partners from academia and civil society. With hubs in Nairobi, Ougadougou and Cape Town, our research is focused on informal settlements and low-income urban neighbourhoods that are largely locked out of formal service provision and governance structures. With informality as the connecting thread, we explore pathways to transform food systems and achieve the right to food for all.  

Latest

Business as usual will not fix urban food system crisis: A call to prioritize local voices
Blog Post
Business as usual will not fix urban food system crisis: A call to prioritize local voices
Berlin meeting examines gaps between international policy intentions and implementation on the ground

Topics

Trading to eat

Trading to eat

Valorizing the contribution of informal livelihoods towards vibrant and food-secure cities

The informal economy is a powerful force shaping Africa’s rapidly expanding cities. Due to the scarcity of formal jobs and the systemic exclusion many poor people face, informal-economy livelihoods are an important safety net across most African cities. This is particularly true for women and youth. However, punitive policies towards informal trade and weak protective mechanisms against economic displacement by more powerful formal entities put livelihoods in the informal economy at risk, and represent an important causal driver of urban food insecurity. Yet it need not be this way. A food-sensitive approach to urban planning and design presents an opportunity to valorize informal traders as allies in cities’ efforts to eradicate hunger and malnutrition.

Coping with crises

Coping with crises

Learning together about how to institutionalize support for bottom-up coping strategies.

Low-income urban communities are largely left on their own to cope with chronic adversity and extreme shocks. Women play a critical role in such coping mechanisms, both at household and community level. However, as our research in Nairobi, Cape Town and Ougadougou shows, successful bottom-up coping mechanisms such as community kitchens or savings groups, continue to rely heavily on women’s overstretched personal resources and unpaid work. Transitioning from such community driven solutions to systemic transformation therefore requires building an enabling environment that fosters both local agency as well as accountability by power holders.

Crowdsourcing data

Crowdsourcing data

Working with urban communities to strengthen informed decision making and accountability

In fragile settings, governments and civil society often lack information to adequately respond to multifaceted crises. This challenge is particularly acute in densely populated informal urban settlements. While some city-aggregated data on food security may be publicly available, this is often outdated and unlikely to offer localized and real-time insights on food and nutritional dynamics. As demonstrated by the Covid-19 crisis, this lack of place-specific information not only hinders emergency responses, but undermines critically needed strategic planning processes to create more inclusive and sustainable food systems. With targeted support, communities in low-income urban settings could provide much needed contextualized information to tackle this data gap.

Mutual accountability

Mutual accountability

With pens and pots to parliament: Bridging the gap between communities and governance processes

“Poverty and inequality are the underlying structural causes of food insecurity and malnutrition in all its forms," (FAO, 2021). By focusing on pathways to progressively realize the right to food as a binding global agreement, TMG and its partners aim to get at the heart of such inequalities. Both South Africa and Kenya recognize the Right to Food in their constitutions and have subsequently developed supporting national policies on food security. However, this "food mandate" remains highly fragmented across departments and spheres of government, making it hard to operationalize, especially at the level of local governments that interface most directly with community organizations.

Controlled Environment Agriculture

Controlled Environment Agriculture

Rethinking urban farming for food and nutrition security and climate resilience

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC,2021), Africa's agricultural production growth has contracted by more than 30% over the past six decades due to climate change. Continued global warming will further impact African food systems by shortening growing seasons and increasing water stress. Despite accounting for a small fraction of the food needs of Africa's growing cities, urban and peri-urban agriculture can enhance local access to fresh vegetables, pulses, eggs, and other high nutritive value foods. Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) approaches such as hydroponic farming can be a cost-effective and eco-friendly alternative where farming space is limited or where land tenure systems are complex.

News & Blog Posts

Business as usual will not fix urban food system crisis: A call to prioritize local voices
Blog Post

Business as usual will not fix urban food system crisis: A call to prioritize local voices

Berlin meeting examines gaps between international policy intentions and implementation on the ground
Could “Urban Nutrition Hubs” offer a systemic response to entrenched hunger and inequality?
Blog Post

Could “Urban Nutrition Hubs” offer a systemic response to entrenched hunger and inequality?

Take aways from a policy engagement event in Cape Town
Coping with conflicts and forced displacement — the role of Foyer Fama’s Kitchen
Blog Post

Coping with conflicts and forced displacement — the role of Foyer Fama’s Kitchen

Exploring the potential of controlled environment agriculture in creating an urban nutrition hub
Hunger’s Vicious Cycle: Intersecting food price, security and political crises in Burkina Faso
Blog Post

Hunger’s Vicious Cycle: Intersecting food price, security and political crises in Burkina Faso

Climate shocks and rising global input costs are converging with internal conflict and political instability, triggering devastating food price increases in Burkina Faso.
As urban food insecurity worsens, school feeding provides a crucial safety net
Blog Post

As urban food insecurity worsens, school feeding provides a crucial safety net

Examining the state of school feeding
Drivers of urban food system transformation: Unpacking a social change process in Nairobi
Blog Post

Drivers of urban food system transformation: Unpacking a social change process in Nairobi

Providing space for affected residents to identify their most pressing needs and to be fully involved in designing and implementing solutions for improving their situation

Publications

Food and crisis: the role of Controlled Environment Agriculture in building urban food system resilience

Report

Food and crisis: the role of Controlled Environment Agriculture in building urban food system resilience

Multiple authors (see publication)

Insights from the scoping work of the Urban Food Futures programme in Nairobi, Cape Town, and Ouagadougou

Food environments in the Cape Flats of Cape Town

Info Brief

Food environments in the Cape Flats of Cape Town

Michael Hauser, Immaculate Edel and Jane Kahwai

Picking aspects of the discussion about food environments in the Cape Flats of Cape Town

FACT Dialogues Digest

Info Brief

FACT Dialogues Digest

Nomonde Buthelezi and Luke Metelerkamp

Food Agency Cape Town (FACT) is a community led organisation in which members use food to unpack food injustices, advocate for food agency in Cape Town and surrounds, and to connect communities

Integrating food sensitive planning and urban design into urban governance actions

Working Paper

Integrating food sensitive planning and urban design into urban governance actions

Gareth Haysom, Luke Metelerkamp, Nomonde Buthelezi, Jane Weru, and Jane Battersby

An analysis of the scales and concepts of governance and urban food systems, with an eye to the role of societal and community-level agency in disrupting current models of urban food governance

Events

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