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Edited by Jonathan Crush, Bruce Frayne and Gareth Haysom

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Cecilia Tacoli

Urbanisation in low and middle-income nations presents both opportunities and immense challenges. As urban centres grow rapidly, inadequate housing and the lack of basic infrastructure and services affect a large and growing proportion of their population. There is also a growing body of evidence on urban poverty and its links with environmental hazards. There is, however, limited knowledge of how these challenges affect the ways in which poor urban residents gain access to food and secure healthy and nutritious diets. With some important exceptions, current discussions on food security continue to focus on production, with limited attention to consumption. Moreover, urban consumers are typically treated as a homogenous group and access to food markets is assumed to be sufficient. This paper describes how, for the urban poor in low and middle-income countries, food affordability and utilisation are shaped by the income and non-income dimensions of poverty that include the urban space.

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Jonathan Crush and Mary Ceasar

The global attention paid to cash remittances over the past decade has resulted in an extremely solid evidence base on international, regional and national level remitting behaviour and impacts. Little attention, however, has been paid to food remitting and its development contribution, including to the welfare and food security of sending and receiving migrant households. A review of the current state of knowledge about food remitting found considerable knowledge gaps in our understanding of the volume, driver and impacts of this phenomenon. In this chapter, food remittance data from five multi-country household surveys and case study evidence are marshalled in order to demonstrate that food remitting is an important accompaniment to migration which demands much greater research attention. The chapter uses the existing data to show that there is considerable spatial variability in the amounts, frequency and types of foodstuffs that flow to and from migrant origin and destination areas within countries and across borders. Both poor and better-off households in many rural areas remit food, a practice that enhances urban food security. Rural–rural, urban–urban and urban–rural food remitting are also growing in significance. Research on the relationship between remittances and development can no longer afford to ignore this neglected but extremely important form of remitting.

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Felicity J. Proctor and Julio A. Berdegué

Promoting better market access and market performance for smallholder agricultural producers and the provision of access to better quality and lower price food for the majority of the world’s population requires the strengthening of rural-urban linkages and putting “place-based development” at the centre of policy and investment in food systems. While traditional markets at the level of villages, towns and small and medium cities continue to be the entry point into the food system for the large majority of the world’s smallholders, profound and, in some regions rapid, changes are taking place in the food system from production to consumption. These changes have implications on local economic development within functional rural-urban spaces, on urban and rural livelihoods, and on food security and nutrition. Among the effects of food system change are the exclusion of large numbers of smallholders from modern and more dynamic markets; the concentration of a greater share of value added in the downstream segments of the food system; the weakening of traditional wholesale and retail; shifts in the spatial location of food industry investment in primary, secondary and tertiary preparation and processing; and the increased availability of highly processed food in both rural and urban areas. With these changes, and with appropriate food system related policy, investment and innovation in functional rural and urban spaces, new economic and employment opportunities can emerge depending on how the food system is structured from production through to consumption. The food system should be optimized for distributional gains and with positive impacts on the local economies, on rural and urban livelihoods, on food access and security, and on public health.

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James Tefft and Marketa Jonasova

Our urbanizing world carries tremendous implications for food systems and their evolution, management and performance. Specifically, what happens in the food system is increasingly understood as a key dimension of the challenges facing most governments: creating more and better jobs; addressing climate change and strengthening resilience; ensuring food security and improving nutrition and health. Food system issues have historically been approached at national and provincial levels; to date, they have not figured prominently among the priorities addressed by municipalities and metropolitan districts. This is changing. Interest in urban food systems is growing and municipal governments are addressing practical food problems facing their cities and citizens: poor access to nutritious food; food insecurity; the need for food system jobs; the high share of food in solid waste; dilapidated, inefficient and unsafe food markets; congested transportation; and resilient food systems. It is imperative to encourage a deeper and more systematic understanding of the needs arising from the shifting geography of the food system, with the supply and demand dimensions of urban and peri-urban areas a critical component of the global rural-urban transformation. This chapter discusses the principal drivers of food systems in an urbanizing world; examines the diversity and evolution of food systems, presents a conceptual framework for future food systems; and suggests entry points and options for addressing cities’ urban food needs.

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Daniel N. Warshawsky

As the number and size of food banks increase globally, it is critical to research how food banks fit into existing food systems, and their role in reducing food insecurity and food waste. After examining the political ecology of urban food waste, this chapter examines the globalization of food banking and its growth in the Global South through the case study of FoodForward SA. Since many countries in the Global South have the highest levels of food insecurity and the weakest infrastructure, it is in these high-need locations that food banks may struggle to operate effectively. The chapter finds that, while food banks may improve the efficiency of food redistribution systems, many food banks suffer from institutional funding crises, state or private sector interference, inappropriate placement in many parts of the Global South, and uncertain impacts on food insecurity and food waste levels over the long term.

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Liam Riley and Belinda Dodson

The interface between urbanization, gender and food in the Global South offers a vantage point from which to think through the integrated nature of contemporary development challenges from both the structural elements of urban poverty and the ways that urban residents navigate their cities. The starting point of this paper is that there is insufficient research from the vantage point where all three of these concepts interface, even as there is a rich body of literature at the interface of each pair of elements (e.g., gender and urbanization, gender and food, food and urbanization). This paper draws attention to the importance of the three-way interface through a review of literature on issues including the nature of households, household strategies, and the nutrition transition, with reference to economic, cultural, social, environmental, and epistemological concerns.

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Edited by Jonathan Crush, Bruce Frayne and Gareth Haysom

The ways in which the rapid urbanization of the Global South is transforming food systems and food supply chains, and the food security of urban populations is an often neglected topic. This international group of authors addresses this profound transformation from a variety of different perspectives and disciplinary lenses, providing an important corrective to the dominant view that food insecurity is a rural problem requiring increases in agricultural production.
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Tony Weiss, Marylynn Steckley and Bruce Frayne

From the middle of the 20th century onwards, the productivity gains associated with high-input, high yield monocultures and livestock operations have become increasingly central to global food security and to dynamics of urbanization across the global south. On one hand, competition has deflated prices and helped undermine the viability of small farm livelihoods in many places. On the other hand, rising flows of cheap food have effectively subsidized urban migration in impoverished urban and peri-urban settings. But this cheapness is highly deceptive, as it hinges on the failure to account for an array of biological and physical costs - which can be seen as an implicit environmental subsidy - including heavy fossil energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, soil degradation, the loss of biodiversity, proliferating toxicity, rising pesticide and antibiotic resistance, the transformation and pollution of freshwater ecosystems, and the depletion of underground aquifers. Unpacking this implicit environmental subsidy and the mounting problems it masks reveals why the bounty of industrial agriculture is at once destabilizing and ultimately unstable, and when this subsidy begins to fade it will not only affect rural landscapes and livelihoods but will raise profound questions about the scale of urbanization. To understand the biophysical contradictions of cheap industrial food points to the urgent need to find ways to valorize more sustainable, land- and labour-intensive forms of agriculture in order to simultaneously feed cities better and contain their growth.

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Jodi Koberinski, Zhenzhong Si and Steffanie Scott

Socioeconomic and structural changes in the global food system, driven by rapid urbanization in the Global South, shape the nature and scale of food safety problems as well as the strategies designed to cope with them. These changes create new challenges for ensuring food security, given that food safety is an essential dimension of food security. By reviewing existing studies, this paper summarizes three key types of contaminant (microbiological, chemical, and physical) that compromise food safety. With analyses of three cases (avian flu, genetic modification contamination, and melamine-tainted milk) in the Global South, the paper explores how food safety is being driven and shaped by socioeconomic restructuring, particularly market liberalization in the food sector. The paper then provides an overview of various initiatives being taken by consumers, grassroots organizations, governments, and the food industry to address food safety challenges. It calls for a more holistic understanding of food safety that connects food safety and urban public health and recognizes food safety as a social and cultural issue connected with the food safety impacts of structural changes in food systems.