Women Feeding Cities Project: Gender-Transformative, Resilient, and Sustainable Covid-19 Recovery of the Informal Food Sector in Secondary Cities

This project funded by IDRC will ‘scale-down’ our NFRF-funded Women Feeding Cities Project by focusing on these gaps in secondary cities of less than 500,000 in partner countries. Using a gender-responsive lens, we will investigate the multiple ways in which the Covid-19 crisis has disrupted the livelihoods of women in the informal food economy and the challenges and prospects for sustainable pandemic recovery in four secondary cities in partner countries: Xai Xai (Mozambique), Montego Bay (Jamaica), Oshakati (Namibia), and Cholula (Mexico).

Women Feeding Cities Project: Building a Gender-Transformative, Resilient, and Sustainable Informal Food Sector for COVID-19 Recovery

This Hungry Cities Partnership (HCP) comparative international project is funded by NFRF. It will examine the food security impacts of COVID-19 on micro-enterprises owned by women in the informal urban food sector, their households and communities in four HCP cities: Maputo, Windhoek, Kingston (Jamaica) and Mexico City. It has four main objectives: (a) compare the impact of the pandemic and public health policies on women in the informal food sector in Africa and LAC; (b) examine the responses and strategies of female-owned enterprises to the COVID pandemic and pandemic recovery challenges; (c) analyze the impact of pandemic disruptions on the food security of female-owned enterprises, their employees, their households and their customers; and (d) mobilize knowledge for the support and sustainability of women’s enterprises in the informal food sector going forward.

Strategies to mitigate the public health impacts of COVID-19 have led to a secondary pandemic of global food insecurity. Our project will ‘scale up’ our First Round CIHR Grant on the negative impacts of COVID-19 on household food security in Wuhan and Nanjing, China to three additional cities: Quito (Ecuador), Cape Town (South Africa) and Kitchener-Waterloo (K-W) (Canada). This CIHR-funded project will have a particular focus on the food insecurity experience of marginalized immigrant and refugee populations during the pandemic and how to build greater resilience post-pandemic. We will undertake a comparative study of the food security and related health impacts of COVID-19 on immigrants and refugees who have settled in these three cities and who come from countries experiencing political and economic crises or natural disasters: in Quito, migrants from Venezuela and Haiti; in Cape Town, migrants from the DRC, Somalia and Zimbabwe; and in K-W, refugees from Afghanistan, Somali and Syria.

The project will be implemented collaboratively by a team of Canadian, South African and Ecuadorian researchers and has the following objectives: (1) to examine the impact of public health containment and mitigation responses to COVID-19 on the food security of marginalized refugee and immigrant groups in urban areas; (2) to assess the similarities and differences between the three sites in terms of access to government, business, and community food security and social protection mechanisms; (3) to provide critical decision-making and pandemic response data to local stakeholders to inform food policy responses; and (4) to strengthen the capacity of Canadian and LMIC researchers and research institutions to respond rapidly to ongoing and future food security shocks.

The project is part of the Migration and Food Insecurity in Cities of the Global South project (MiFood Project), which offers the opportunity to expand the network to additional countries including Qatar in the Hungry Cities Partnership that has currently partners in eight countries: Canada, China, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Mexico, Mozambique and South Africa.

The proposed research will identify the immediate and longer-term impact of COVID-19 on household food security in Chinese cities, and will assess and improve fast-evolving social and policy countermeasures to enhance food security. Our research objectives are to: 1) Investigate the immediate food security challenges resulting from China’s quarantine measures, unstable food supply, and fear of shopping in two COVID-19 affected cities (Wuhan and Nanjing); 2) Assess how COVID-19 has impacted food security in Nanjing by longitudinal comparison with the baseline survey data collected through Hungry Cities in 2015; and 3) Synthesize and assess policies established and community response in addressing food security challenges and promote effective measures by engaging local stakeholders.

AFSUN was founded in 2008 with funding from the Canadian Government’s University Partners in Cooperation and Development (UPCD) Tier One Program to conduct research, capacity-building and policy work on the relationship between rapid urbanization and food security in 9 countries and 11 cities in Southern Africa. The research themes and outputs are all available on the WLU website.

AFSUN and the HCP have received a grant from the SSHRC Insight Grant program for a program of research, training and policy advocacy on food security in secondary cities in Malawi, Namibia and Cameroon.

The FUEL project highlights the rapid transformation taking place in African secondary cities and its impact on food security, food systems, livelihoods, poverty, and governance. Defined broadly as cities with fewer than half a million inhabitants that are not a capital city, secondary cities are absorbing the majority of Africa’s urban growth but receive less infrastructure investment, policy focus, and academic attention than large primary cities. The lack of resources and policy attention to secondary cities is acute across sub-Saharan Africa, where highly centralized national governments in partnership with global actors control much of the policy agenda for geographically dispersed and culturally diverse populations, often leading to severe policy gaps in addressing the needs of residents in secondary cities.

FUEL builds on research findings of three allied projects: (1) the African Food Security Urban Network (AFSUN), which identified widespread food insecurity in southern African cities, (2) the Consuming Urban Poverty (CUP) project, which explored poverty, governance and urban planning through a food lens in secondary cities in Kenya, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, and (3) the Hungry Cities Partnership, which produced new insights into the linkages between urban food security and informal food systems in primary cities across the Global South. FUEL provides a unique contribution to this emerging field of scholarship by focusing on:

  • Secondary African cities in all regions of sub-Saharan Africa
  • The interaction of household food security with food system transformation
  • City-wide surveys of household food security and informal food system actors
  • Interdisciplinary approaches

FUEL is located at the intersection of three bodies of scholarship:

  • “Southern” urban geographical theory that challenges Western biases by studying diverse human settlements in the Global South;
  • Secondary urbanization in Africa, which has received insufficient empirical study and where there is untapped potential to develop policies at the local level to address residents’ daily needs; and
  • secondary urban food systems in Africa, which are shaped by cultural, ecological, economic, and political factors across multiple scales and provide a focal point for imagining tangible pathways to ecologically sustainable and socially inclusive urban futures.

FUEL aims to produce research that facilitates policy innovations for sustainable food governance in secondary cities by generating new evidence and by working with local researchers, communities and policy-makers to develop progressive development strategies. The evidence and policy recommendations will influence a broad set of actors in global development, municipal and national governments, and interdisciplinary scholars in food studies, urban studies, development studies, and policy studies.

SAMP was founded in 1997 as a network of organizations in Southern Africa committed to advancing a regional migration and development agenda through research, training and advocacy. SAMP is an internationally-recognized leader in migration and development research in Africa and has been funded at various times by CIDA, UK-DFID, IDRC and the Open Society Foundation. SAMP is based at the IMRC at the Balsillie School and the University of Western Cape.

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