City Without Choice: Urban Food Insecurity in Msunduzi, South Africa

Urban Forum 2014, 25: 165-75.

The official moniker of the city of Msunduzi in Kwazulu-Natal is “city of choice.” The economic revival of Msunduzi over the past decade has been driven by the influx of capital to a city that claims to offer significant advantages to the investor. This paper examines whether this marketing ploy has enlarged the choices of the poorer residents of the city, with particular regard to their food security. Using data from the 2008–2009 African Food Security Urban Network (AFSUN) baseline survey, the paper shows that Msunduzi’s residents experience higher levels of food insecurity than like neighbourhoods in Cape Town and Johannesburg and many other cities in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. Unlike a number of these cities, the food sourcing strategies of households are severely constrained. Urban agriculture and rural–urban food transfers are limited, and the informal food economy is much less significant than elsewhere. The control of the urban food system largely rests in the hands of supermarkets whose location and pricing policies put quality food outside the reach of most poor households. Although many are forced to buy supermarket food, through lack of choice, food shortages and a lack of dietary diversity are endemic. Worst off are female-headed households whose levels of unemployment are higher than average and whose incomes are lower than average.

Jonathan Crush and Mary Caesar