Improving food systems in less-favoured areas in East Africa

This project focuses on the transition of food systems in rural areas in East Africa, where vulnerable population groups are most affected by global processes of change and where achieving food and water security are priorities for improving local livelihoods.


In East Africa, a rapidly growing population and economy lead to accelerated urbanisation. Current food systems in the fertile highlands of East Africa will intensify further to meet the increasing demand for food. However, food supply in urban areas will become increasingly dependent on rural areas, which already struggle to feed their own population and to provide them with a livelihood.

Based on case study regions in Uganda and Ethiopia, this project will explore how existing food systems in these rural areas can be improved to produce sufficient food for a healthy diet and to offer a livelihood and employment to the local population. These goals must be achieved in light of climate change processes, rapid population growth and migration. The case study region in Northwest Uganda, the Arua district, provides shelter to refugees, who make up approximately 25% of the entire population.

Current food aid for these refugees is gradually being decreased in favour of financial aid, which means that to obtain food, this population group will become increasingly dependent on food they produce themselves and/or on the market. The current agricultural system, which is mainly aimed at the local population’s self-sufficiency, will be affected hugely by this.

Using a scenario analysis describing various transition pathways, possibilities to improve local food supply will be outlined and potential consequences and trade-offs will be made clear. Towards the end of 2019, a fact-finding mission took place in a different case study region in North Ethiopia, near Bahir Dar.

The food systems of two districts were described and explored; one district had good transport links to Bahir Dar, favourable climate conditions and fertile soils and one district had poorer transport links, unfavourable climate conditions and less fertile soils. In early 2020, a decision will be made as to which starting points the food systems in the two districts offer that can be studied in more detail.