Urban food security and consumption

Low and irregular incomes are the root cause of urban food insecurity, but inadequate housing and basic infrastructure and limited access to services contribute to levels of malnutrition and food insecurity that are often as high if not higher than in rural areas.

2014 - ongoing
Street vendors in Karachi (Photo: Fareena Chandra/IIED)

Street vendors in Karachi (Photo: Fareena Chandra/IIED)

A broad approach to food systems is needed encompassing all aspects of food production, storage, distribution and consumption, all of which will be affected by climate change and especially by the growing frequency and severity of extreme weather events.

Improving access to affordable food by the urban poor will require boosting their capacity to adapt to climate change impacts, and their access to secure incomes and to both formal and informal food markets. Living conditions, and the interconnections between rural and urban food security will also play their part.

What IIED is doing

Local priorities

Accra's Old Fadama and Nairobi's Mathare are both densely populated low-income settlements with severely inadequate infrastructure and housing. In both settlements, members of the federations of the urban poor, led by women's savings groups, began devising initiatives to alleviate food insecurity. They talked with their fellow residents, mapped the locations of street vendors and their exposure to things like open-air sewers, stagnant water and garbage dumps as well as how well they handled food.

Through meetings and exchange visits and working with local government, both federations were able to agree and act on the priorities: improving shelter options, building closer relationships with street food vendors to improve food, accessibility and safety.

Balloon mapping

A balloon, a camera and some interviews are helping researchers map a hidden aspect of food insecurity in an informal settlement in Nairobi. Read more about how IIED is working with Muungano wa Wanavijiji, a federation of Kenyan slum-dwellers' associations on this cheap and clever balloon mapping project: balloon mapping.

IIED is a partner with the University of Liverpool and others working on the Urban Zoo project in Nairobi looking at disease emergence in urban areas with a focus on looking at food systems within this.