Looking Beyond Urban Agriculture Extending Urban Food Policy Responses

2015, Sustainable Cities Programme. South African Cities Network (SACN).

Although there are high levels of food insecurityi in South Africa’s cities and towns, the problem continues to be framed as predominantly rural in nature. This has led to policies and programmes that fail to acknowledge urban food insecurity. Local governments have no clear mandate to address food insecurity, and tend to take their lead in any food security programming from national and provincial objectives. This has led to urban agriculture becoming the default response to food insecurity in urban areas.
There is however little evidence to support the continued promotion of urban agriculture as the only local government response. The uptake of urban agriculture varies considerably across the country, but is below 10% in most of the metros. Available evidence indicates that it does not play a significant role in household consumption and is not a viable income generation strategy. There are significant weaknesses in available data, which make it hard to justify current levels of support for urban agriculture.
This policy brief makes two sets of recommendations, the first aim to increase the viability of urban agriculture, and the second set are to encourage municipalities to think beyond urban agriculture. In order to increase the viability of urban agriculture municipalities should develop outcome and impact monitoring and evaluation, partner with NGOs, and facilitate access to land and protect land for urban production. However, more importantly municipalities need to look beyond urban agriculture to address food insecurity. Expecting the urban poor, who have the least access to the resources (money, land, tools, seed, knowledge, equipment) necessary to establish successful agricultural ventures, to “grow their own” in order to uplift themselves out of poverty, fails to recognise the massive barriers constraining urban agriculture in South African cities. Municipalities should therefore view urban agriculture as part of the wider food system, strengthen linkages between urban agriculture and other parts of the urban food system,
seek to develop alternative food security programmes and policies within their existing mandates, and develop food security strategies which address the multiple drivers of food insecurity in order to achieve food security for all.

Jane Battersby, Gareth Haysom, Godfrey Tawodzera, Florian Kroll and Maya Marshak