This project aims to impact the nutrition of the urban poor in Africa. This is achieved by gathering and analysing missing evidence on African urban food systems (UFS) to outline a partnership concept for effective interventions in the food environment of the urban poor. The research will investigate: a) urban food sources, characteristics and rural-urban linkages as systemic drivers of food choices and nutrition, b) peoples access to nutrition-related knowledge (formal and informal, indigenous and Western), income, food tastes, habits and culture, as individual drivers of food choices, c) how systemic and individual drivers determine peoples food consumption and nutrition status.
Africas cities are expanding, with adverse consequences for food and nutrition security of an increasing share of their population. In urban Africa, malnutrition is a complex issue related to factors including the middle class growing purchasing power, but also poverty, poor health environments and insufficient access to safe, quality food. African urban food systems and their rural-urban value chains are characterized by the intersecting formal and informal food sectors: small scale producers, transporters, processors and retailers provide a multitude of food products, the composition, quality and final destination of which is largely undocumented.
This project aims at investigating the structure and dynamics of urban food systems in Africa (including rural-urban food value chains), to reveal the co-existence of different facets of malnutrition and their drivers, for a transect of poor to moderately wealthy countries, settlements and neighborhoods, and to develop partnerships for coherent, nutrition-sensitive policies. To that end, the project will rely on participatory research with stakeholders of the food system in selected urban study sites in Ghana, South Africa and Uganda. In particular, the project will describe the systemic drivers of food choices, by mapping the formal and informal urban food sectors, their interactions and rural linkages, and by tracking urban food sources and their characteristics. Second, the project will examine individual drivers of food choices: income, access to nutrition-related knowledge, or food tastes, habits and culture. Finally, researchers will assess the impacts of systemic and individual drivers of food choices on peoples actual consumption and nutrition outcomes. Together with nutrition and public health practitioners and the identified actors of the three local food systems, they will devise and test policy scenarios to develop a blueprint for partnerships seeking improved urban nutrition in Africa.