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Growing Out of Poverty: Does Urban Agriculture Contribute to Household Food Security in Southern African Cities?


The literature on urban agriculture (UA) as a food security and poverty alleviation strategy is bifurcating into two distinct positions. The first is that UA is a viable and effective pro-poor development strategy, and the second is that UA has demonstrated limited positive outcomes on either food security or poverty. These two positions are tested against data generated by the African Urban Food Security Network’s (AFSUN) baseline food security survey undertaken in 11 Southern African cities. At the aggregate level, the analysis shows that (1) urban context is an important predictor of rates of household engagement in UA—the economic, political, and historical circumstances and conditions of a city are key factors that either promote or hinder UA activity and scale; (2) UA is not an effective household food security strategy for poor urban households—the analysis found few significant relationships between UA participation and food security; and (3) household levels of earnings and land holdings may mediate UA impacts on food security—wealthier households derive greater net food security benefits from UA than poor households do. These findings call into question the potential benefits of UA as a broad urban development strategy and lend support to the position that UA has limited poverty alleviation benefits under current modes of practice and regulation.

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The authors would like to thank the Canadian Government for its research support and the AFSUN partners for their contributions to the food security baseline survey on which this paper is based.

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Correspondence to Bruce Frayne.

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Frayne, B., McCordic, C. & Shilomboleni, H. Growing Out of Poverty: Does Urban Agriculture Contribute to Household Food Security in Southern African Cities?. Urban Forum 25, 177–189 (2014).

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  • Cities
  • Food security
  • Poverty
  • Southern Africa
  • Urban agriculture