Food security

The role of traditional food systems in rapid urbanisation

The global population is increasingly urbanised, with Sub-Saharan Africa experiencing the fastest rate of urban population growth. South Africa is a centre for regional migration, with Johannesburg the destination for the largest proportion of both within-country and international migrants. Urban populations are dependent on markets for food, hence it is essential that access to affordable, acceptable and nutritious food through markets is prioritised by cities. 

The project will focus on two migrant groups in Johannesburg – South Africa; rural to urban migrants and international regional migrants. By identifying the drivers of food choice in these urban migrant populations around traditional African vegetables and fruits and the barriers to their consumption, this project will generate knowledge that can be used in urban planning and development to help tackle the problem of urban food insecurity and malnutrition. 

This interdisciplinary two-year project aims to: 

• explore how consumption of traditional fruit and vegetables changes post-migration in the two different urban populations, capturing differences between recent and longer-term migrants.
• investigate the structural, economic, behavioural and cultural factors that shape the consumption of traditional fruit and vegetables and changing diets post-migration.
• map the availability and supply chain of traditional fruit and vegetables and co-produce materials to enhance access to these traditional foods in urban environments and inform support mechanisms, including development of sustainable enterprises.
• strengthen knowledge and research capacity on traditional food systems among UK and Southern African researchers through collaborative research and knowledge co-creation with consumers, sellers and producers.
• develop an academic, business and policy network of researchers from different disciplines and countries, together with key stakeholders, such as local government, to investigate how traditional fruit and vegetables can help tackle urban food and nutrition insecurity and provide evidence to influence urban food policy and planning in South Africa, and other similar African contexts.

This project is primarily located in the Developmental, Capable and Ethical State division at the HSRC.

Primary Investigator (United Kingdom):
Professor Alexandra Hughes (Department of Geography, Newcastle University)

Co- Investigators (United Kingdom):
Professor Henrice Altink (Department of History, University of York)
Professor Katherine Denby (University of York, Biology)

Co- Investigators (South Africa):
Dr Tim Hart (Developmental, Capable and Ethical State, HSRC)
Dr Precious Trivanhu (Developmental, Capable and Ethical State, HSRC)
Dr Mathias Alufabi Fubah (Developmental, Capable and Ethical State, HSRC)

Post- Doctoral Research Associate (South Africa):
Dr Blessing Masamha (Africa Institute of Southern Africa, HSRC)

The British Academy Knowledge Frontiers International and Interdisciplinary Research Award

Project Duration:
May 2022-April 2024