The state of urban food insecurity in southern africa


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THE STATE OF URBAN FOOD INSECURITY IN 

SOUTHERN AFRICA 

 

 



Bruce Frayne, Wade Pendleton, Jonathan Crush, Ben Acquah, 

Jane Battersby-Lennard, Eugenio Bras, Asiyati Chiweza, Tebogo 

Dlamini, Robert Fincham, Florian Kroll, Clement Leduka, 

Aloysius Mosha, Chileshe Mulenga, Peter Mvula, Akiser Pomuti, 

Ines Raimundo, Michael Rudolph, Shaun Ruysenaa, Nomcebo 

Simelane, Daniel Tevera, Maxton Tsoka, Godfrey Tawodzera 

and Lazarus Zanamwe. 

 

 



 

 

 



Frayne, Bruce et al. (2010). “The State of Urban Food Insecurity in Southern Africa.” Urban Food 

Security Series No. 2. Queen’s University and AFSUN: Kingston and Cape Town. 

REFERENCES 

 


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AfricAn  food  Security  urbAn  network  (AfSun) 

AfricAn  food  Security  urbAn  network  (AfSun)  

urbAn  food  Security  SerieS  no. 2

The State of  

Urban Food Insecurity  

in Southern Africa 

Bruce Frayne, Wade Pendleton, Jonathan Crush, Ben Acquah, Jane 

Battersby-Lennard, Eugenio Bras, Asiyati Chiweza, Tebogo Dlamini, 

Robert  Fincham,  Florian  Kroll,  Clement  Leduka,  Aloysius  Mosha, 

Chileshe  Mulenga,  Peter  Mvula,  Akiser  Pomuti,  Ines  Raimundo, 

Michael  Rudolph,  Shaun  Ruysenaa,  Nomcebo  Simelane,  Daniel 

Tevera, Maxton Tsoka, Godfrey Tawodzera and Lazarus Zanamwe.

series editors 

Jonathan Crush and Bruce Frayne

urban food security series no. 2

african food security urban network (afsun) 


Note

Those  who  contributed  to  the    development  of  the  survey  on  which 

this paper is based include Marie Caesar, David Coetzee, Percy Toriro, 

Miriam Grant, Belinda Dodson, Thando Gwebu, Alice Hovorka, Susan 

Parnell and Cecilia Rocha. Over 200 students and community workers 

were trained in fieldwork methods and administered the survey. The data 

entry and management was undertaken by Christa Schier and her team at 

the University of Namibia. The Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance 

Project  (FANTA)  is  acknowledged  for  providing  questions  used  in  this 

survey to measure food insecurity. The survey and this publication were 

supported  by  funding  from  the  Canadian  International  Development 

Agency (CIDA) under its University Partners in Cooperation and Devel-

opment (UPCD) Tier One Program and from Queen’s University. 

© African Food Security Urban Network, 2010


© AFSUN 2010

ISBN 


978-0-9869820-1-9

 

First published 2010



Design and cover design by Welma Odendaal 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or 

transmitted, in any form or by any means, without prior permission 

from the publishers.

Bound and printed by Unity Press, Cape Town


1  Introduction 

7

2  Rapid Urbanization in Southern Africa 



10

  AFSUN Survey Methodology 



12

3  Demographic and Social Profile of Urban Households 



14

 

3.1

  Household Size 

14

 

3.2

 Household Headship 

15

 

 



3.3

 Sex of Household Members 



16

 

3.4

 Age Distribution of Household Members 



16

 

3.5

 Household Migration 



17

4  Economic Profile of Urban Households 



19

 

4.1

  Household Income 

19

 

4.2

 Levels of Urban Poverty 

19

 

4.3

 Household Expenditures on Food 

22

5  Sources of Food for the Urban Poor 



24

6  Levels of Food Insecurity in SADC Cities 



27

 

6.1

  Household Food Insecurity Access Scale (HFIAS) 



28

 

6.2

 Household Food Insecurity Access Prevalence Indicator (HFIAP) 



29

 

6.3

 Household Dietary Diversity Scale (HDDS) 



30

 

6.4

 Months of Adequate Household Food Provisioning 

   Indicator (MAHFP) 

32

7.  Determinants of Urban Household Food Insecurity 



34

 

7.1

  Household Type and Food Insecurity 

34

 

7.2

  Household Size and Food Insecurity 

34

 

7.3 

Poverty, Incomes and Food Insecurity 

36

 

7.4

  Employment, Education and Food Insecurity 

38

 

7.5

  Food Insecurity and Sources of Food 

41

 

7.6

  Food Prices and Food Security 

43

 

7.7

  Transfers, Remittances and Food Security 

45

 

7.8

  Migration and Food Insecurity 



47

8  Conclusions 



49

  End Notes   

51

Contents


Figures and Tables

FIGURES

Figure 1:  The Dimensions of Urban 

 

Food Security 



9

Figure 2:  Urban Population in AFSUN  

 

Countries 



11

Figure 3:  SADC Urban Population  

 

Growth  


11

Figure 4:  Distribution of Urban  

 

Household Size 



14

Figure 5:  Age Distribution of Urban  

 

Population 



17

Figure 6:  Sources of Urban Household  

 

Income  


19

Figure 7:  Population Living Below  

 

$2/Day Poverty Line, 2007   20



Figure 8:  Mean Per Capita Household  

 

Income 



21

Figure 9:   Lived Poverty Index for  

 

Selected Countries  



22

Figure 10: Lived Poverty Indexes for  

 

Survey Cities  



22

Figure 11: Perceptions of Poverty 



23

Figure 12: Levels of Household Food  

 

Insecurity  



30

Figure 13: Months of Adequate  

 

Household Provisioning  



33

Figure 14:  Adequate Household  

 

Provisioning by Month  



33

Figure 15: Food Security and Average  

 

Household Size   



36

Figure 16: Food Security and Lived  

 

Poverty Index 



37

Figure 17:  Food Security and  

 

Household Income  



37

Figure 18: Food Security and Source  

 

of Income  



38

Figure 19: Food Security and  

 

Employment Status  



39

Figure 20: Food Security and Level  

 

of  Education 



41

Figure 21: Food Security and Sources  

 

of Food  



42

Figure 22: Urban Agriculture and  

  Food Security 

42

Figure 23: Impact of Food Price  

 

Changes 


44

Figure 24: Economic Condition of  

 

Household Compared to a  



 

Year Ago 



45

Figure 25: Remittances of Cash and  

  Goods as Monthly Income 

47

TABLES

Table 1:  Typology of Households  

 

Surveyed  



15

Table 2:  Sex Breakdown of  

 

Population 



16

Table 3:  Characteristics of Population 



17

Table 4:  Lifetime Migration 



18

Table 5:  Food Purchase as Proportion  

 

of Household Expenditure



 23

Table 6:  Household Sources of Food 



24

Table 7:  Food Transfers to Households  

 

over the Past Year 



26

Table 8:  Average HFIAS Score by  

 

City, 2008 



28

Table 9:  Household Food Insecurity  

 

Access Prevalence 



29

Table 10:  Household Dietary Diversity  



31

Table 11:  Household Type and Food  

 

Security Status 



35

Table 12:  Education and Income Levels  

 

and Food Security Status 



40

Table 13:  Food Aid and Food  

 

 

Security Status 



43

Table 14:  Migrant Households and  

 

 

Food Security Status 



48

Table 15:  Migrant Workers in  

 

 

Household and Food  



 

 

Security Status 



48

urban food security series no. 2

  

7



1  Introduction 

In 1996, Simon Maxwell observed that “it has been impossible since the 

early 1980s to speak credibly of food security as being a problem of food 

supply,  without  at  least  making  reference  to  the  importance  of  access 

and entitlement.”

1

 Maxwell was referring to the sea-change in thinking 



about  food  security  that  followed  the  publication  of  Amartya  Sen’s 

seminal work, 



Poverty and Famines, in 1981. Sen argued that sufficient 

food is often available, even in the midst of devastating rural famine and 

acute  hunger.  Rather,  food  insecurity  was  more  often  about  inability 

to access food rather than the absolute amount of food available.

2

 Sen’s 


vision  of  dearth  amidst  plenty  is  very  relevant  to  the  urban  areas  of 

contemporary Africa. Shelves and bins in supermarkets in most cities 

groan with fresh and processed foodstuffs while on the doorstep poor 

households are unable to access enough staples to feed themselves more 

than once a day. Food may be more plentiful and more diverse in the 

city than the countryside but it is far from being uniformly accessible. 

As Bryant notes: “The donor [and government] emphasis on increasing 

production  as  a  response  to  hunger  is  limited,  since  a  substantial  part 

of the problem is that poor people cannot afford to purchase the food 

they need.”

3

 That comment was made over 20 years ago but is just as 



pertinent today. 

International  organizations,  donors  and  governments  have  recently 

reached a new consensus that the solution to food insecurity in Africa 

lies  in  massive  inputs  into  smallholder  production  across  the  conti-

nent.

4

 Yet, in many countries, more than enough food is already being 



produced. South Africa, for example, produces sufficient food to guar-

antee an adequate diet for all. Why, then, is the incidence of urban (and 

rural)  under-nutrition  shockingly  high  in  that  country?  And,  more 

generally,  why  do  government  and  international  agencies  and  foreign 

donors  continue  to  insist  that  increasing  agricultural  production  by 

small farmers is the solution to food insecurity, even in countries like 

South Africa? 

5

 Urban food security is not, and has never been, simply 



an issue of how much food is produced. 

At the 1996 World Food Summit in Rome, the international commu-

nity adopted a much broader definition of food security which has since 

become the industry standard: 

 

Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and 



economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their 

dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.

6

 


African Food Security Urban Network (Afsun)  



the state of urban food security in southern africa 

The definition reflects the post-Sen consensus that food production is 

only  one  element  of  food  security.  Other  key  elements  included  food 

availability, food accessibility, food reliability, food quality and food pref-

erence (Figure 1). 

Comparative information on the various dimensions and determinants of 

food insecurity in Southern Africa’s towns and cities is currently lacking. 

One of the key unanswered questions is whether the state of food inse-

curity varies not only between countries but between urban areas, and 

why.  Clearly,  the  level  of  food  insecurity  in  any  particular  city  cannot 

be  explained  outside  of  its  global,  regional,  national  and  local  context. 

While these contextual factors are well beyond the control or influence 

of individual households, they profoundly affect their food security. The 

food price shocks of 2008-9 brought this home in a powerful way.

7

 In 


many parts of the world, the food insecure responded to the price shocks 

with protests and bread riots. 

In order to provide baseline information on the state of urban food inse-

curity in Southern Africa, AFSUN planned and implemented an eleven 

city survey in eight SADC countries in 2008-9. The resultant regional 

data base is a rich source of information for evidence-based policy-making 

on  food  security.  This  paper  begins  with  an  overview  of  the  growing 

importance  of  urbanization  in  Southern  Africa.  It  then  discusses  the 

methodology used in the AFSUN Survey. Basic demographic informa-

tion on the urban poor follows. Then the paper presents and discusses the 

survey findings, focusing on the following questions: 

I  What  are  the  levels  of  food  insecurity  amongst  poor  urban  house-

holds?

I  What is the relationship between poverty and food insecurity?



I  Where do the urban poor get their food?

I  What factors influence urban household food insecurity?

The analysis focuses on the picture that emerges from the regional data-

base but also highlights important differences between participating cities. 

Finally, the paper examines the SADC policy environment from an urban 

food security perspective, and highlights various policy implications that 

arise from the research.


urban food security series no. 2

  

9



nutritional 

status


Under nutrition

Over nutrition



Source: Adapted from Kennedy, “Food Security in the Context of Urban Sub-Saharan Africa.”

Figure 1


The Dimensions of Urban Food Security

socio-economic 

and political 

context


Global context

Trade & global markets

Agricultural subsidies

Food prices

Food aid

Agribusiness

Global policy agenda

Supermarketization

regional context

Regional integration

Regional trade flows

national context

Macroeconomic policy

Agriculture

Agribusiness

Urbanization

Population

Food security policies

Resource endowment

Municipal context

City governance

Food supply chains

Pop distribution

Land


Water

Transportation

Informal sector

food  


reliability

Seasonality

Drought

Income variation



food  

preference

Cultural practices

Personal taste

Convenience

Taste transfer

food  

accessibility



Income

Market access

Home production

Social protection

Household size

food  


quality

Dietry diversity

Nutritional quality

Energy intake

food  

availability



Rural production

Imports


Urban agriculture

Rural-urban

Transfers

Supermarkets

Informal sector


10 

African Food Security Urban Network (Afsun)  



the state of urban food security in southern africa 

2  Rapid Urbanization in  

  Southern Africa

In 2007, the proportion of humanity living in urban areas passed 50%, 

marking the first time in the history of the planet that more people live 

in urban centres than in rural areas.

8

 As the global population continues 



to grow toward a mid-century estimate of 9-10 billion, the majority of 

this  demographic  increase  will  be  in  cities;  and  approximately  95%  of 

that growth will be concentrated in the cities of the developing world.

Future urban growth will be most intense in Asia and Africa, and these 



two regions will have the largest urban populations on the planet by 2030: 

2.66 billion and 748 million respectively.

10

 At twice the global average, 



the pace of urbanization is already highest in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). 

The average rate of urban growth for SSA is close to four percent and this 

positive trend is expected to persist for decades to come.

11

 



The number of people living in urban areas is rising particularly rapidly 

in  the  Southern  African  Development  Community  (SADC).  With  an 

annual urbanization rate that exceeds the global average and persistent and 

growing urban poverty, urban development challenges are set to intensify 

over the coming decades. Southern Africa has a regional population of 

approximately 210 million, at least 100 million of whom already live in 

urban and peri-urban areas. By 2020, this figure is estimated to rise to 150 

million and to exceed 200 million by 2030.

12

 In the nine SADC countries 



in which AFSUN currently operates, more than one third of the popu-

lation is already urban (Figure 2). Although this distribution is uneven 

between countries, more than 60% of the population of Botswana and 

South Africa is urban. The UN’s urban population projections for SADC 

as a whole indicate that the city-based population of these countries will 

reach 40% in 2010 and climb to over 60% by mid-century (Figure 3).

Rapid urbanization is not associated with increased incomes and better 

standards  of  living  in  the  SADC  as  it  is  in  some  other  developing 

regions.

13

 Moreover, poor urban households are facing significant pres-



sures as a direct result of the current global economic crisis and the high 

price of food staples. Consequently, urban food security is an emerging 

area of development concern which is fundamentally different to ques-

tions of food security within the rural and agricultural sectors. Yet little 

is known about the extent of food insecurity in the cities and towns of 

Southern  Africa,  making  it  difficult  for  development  practitioners  and 

policy-makers to quantify the challenge and to proactively plan to reduce 

the food gap that exists in urban areas. There is some case study evidence 



urban food security series no. 2

  

11



70 –

60 –


50 –

40 –


30 –

20 –


10 –

0 –


Botswana

60

61



25

25

19



37

37

37



37

38

37



Lesotho

Mala


wi

Mozambique

Namibia

South 


Africa

Swaziland

Zambia

Zimbabw


e

Mean


Midean

fig 2.pdf   1    15/07/2010   8:45 AM

70 –

60 –


50 –

40 –


30 –

20 –


10 –

0 –


1990

2000


2010

2020


2030

2040


2050

31

35



40

46

50



57

66

fig 3.pdf   1    13/07/2010   1:34 PM



Figure 2

Urban Population in AFSUN Countries



Source: Adapted from UN, World Urbanization Prospects: 2007 Revision Population Database

Figure 3


SADC Urban Population Growth  

Source: Adapted from UN World Urbanization Prospects: 2007 Revision Population Database

12 

African Food Security Urban Network (Afsun)  



the state of urban food security in southern africa 

about the extent of food insecurity in some SADC cities, but the different 

methodologies used make comparisons difficult. 

In order to instate urban food security on the general food security policy 

agenda, and to develop evidence-led policy responses, rigorous and reli-

able data on the extent and determinants of urban food security is needed. 

A regional picture of urban food insecurity in Southern Africa requires 

a coordinated regional household survey with a common methodology 

and research instrument. No such exercise has been conducted to date, 

partially accounting for the relative ‘invisibility’ of urban food security in 

policy making and national food security strategies.

14

 In order to provide 



a  picture  of  the  state  of  urban  food  insecurity  in  Southern  Africa,  the 

African Food Security Urban Network (AFSUN) undertook a baseline 

urban food security survey in eleven cities in nine countries in Southern 

Africa in 2008-9. 




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