Research & Innovation 2015-16 - Page 55



Thought leader
The food research cluster at the African Centre for
Cities (ACC), consisting of three urban food-focused
projects (AFSUN, Consuming Urban Poverty, and
the Hungry Cities Partnership), seeks to address
these gaps. Since 2008, the food cluster has sought
to contribute to academic knowledge and debate
on urban food security and food systems. Aligned
with the mission of the ACC, the food projects
seek “to facilitate critical urban research and policy
discourses for the promotion of vibrant, democratic
and sustainable urban development in the global
south from an African perspective”. We therefore
focus on generating new knowledge for peerreviewed academic publications, but also explicitly
seek to engage popular debates through media and
social engagement, as well as generating policyrelevant documents.
Five key messages have emerged from the work
conducted by the ACC’s food cluster:
• Food insecurity is not simply a rural problem. It
therefore requires policy sensitive to the unique
challenges of urban food security, and governance
structures that enable local government to respond
to food insecurity.
• The nature of food insecurity is shifting rapidly, with
overweight status and obesity emerging as new
forms of food insecurity, while malnutrition persists.
But continental policy responses do not address this
changing reality.
• Food insecurity needs to be understood as
the outcome of the structure of the food
system and the urban system, and therefore
requires policy responses that extend beyond
household-scale interventions, such as the
promotion of urban agriculture.
• Urban food insecurity is also in very large measure
attributable to the changing economy in the urban
food supply system, i.e. the supermarketisation of
food supply, along with the erosion of opportunities
for informal and smaller food-supply outlets, which
in the past were a major source of supply to poorer
households. This requires critical engagement with
notions of ‘development’ in urban areas, which assume
modernisation and formalisation with poverty alleviation.
• Important contributions to debates on urbanisation in
sub-Saharan Africa, the nature of urban poverty, and
the relationship between governance, poverty and
the spatial characteristics of cities and towns in the
region, can be made through a focus on urban food
systems and the dynamics of urban food poverty.
Through working first locally and then scaling up to
international policy fora, the researchers in the food
cluster have succeeded in embedding these core
messages in a number of policy arenas. The team has
written a Food Security and Food Systems Report for
the City of Cape Town and an Urban Food Security
Report for the South African Cities Network, engaged
in meetings with provincial and national government
on food strategies and policies, and contributed
to FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the
United Nations), UNEP (United Nations Environment
Programme) and UN Habitat processes; most notably,
working as part of the Expert Group Meeting on
Integrating Food into Urban Planning, which then
informed the various drafts of the United Nations New
Urban Agenda document.
By Drs Jane Battersby and Gareth Haysom,
researchers at the African Centre for Cities.
Image by Jane Battersby.
The new face of food insecurity
“It’s been a long day,” thinks Bulelwa Tafeni. It always is. As usual, she got up at 5am to get to her cleaning
job in the suburbs on time. As usual, all she had before she left was a cup of coffee with condensed milk.
As usual, her elder child took the younger one to the unregistered neighbourhood childcare on her way to
school. At least both of them get breakfast at school. But today, as she sits in the minibus taxi waiting for
it to fill up before it can go, she is hungry. She’d been hungry when she left work, and that was a bus ride
and a taxi ride ago. It’ll still take another hour to get home.
It is a week until she gets paid again. On payday, the first thing she does is go to the supermarket near
to where she works, to buy bulk non-perishables for the month. The food is cheaper and better quality
than the same food near her home, even in the supermarket that has just opened up. She would also buy
meat and fresh produce, but she doesn’t have refrigeration, or storage space, so it would go to waste. She
has to pay for a second taxi seat for all the food, but that’s OK. But now, as usual, the food has run out,
and money is scarce. She has cut down on the range and quality of the food she feeds the family, she has
reduced meal sizes. Now is the hungry time.
Bulelwa Tafeni is not a real person; but she represents the new face of food insecurity – a problem that is
increasing rapidly in urban areas.
Zero hunger, sustainable cities and responsible consumption 50

African Centre for CitiesAfrican Centre for CitiesAFSUNConsuming Urban Poverty Hungry Cities PartnershipFood and Agriculture Organisation of the United NationsFood and Agriculture Organisation of the United NationsUnited Nations Environment ProgrammeUnited Nations Environment ProgrammeUN Habitat





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