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GDN Working Paper Series - The Role of Urban Agriculture in Addressing Household Poverty and Food Security: The Case of South Africa
September 2009
Jan Cloete, Molefi Lenka, Lochner Marais, Anita Venter

Acknowledgements: FANRPAN acknowledges Global Development Network (GDN) as the source of this document: http://www.gdnet.org/


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The available literature is ambivalent in its assessment of the role of Urban Agriculture (UA) in addressing poverty and ensuring larger degrees of food security in South Africa while claims about the role of UA with regard to nutrition and food security are often made without being based on any empirical evidence in this respect (Webb, 1996, 1998a, 1998b; Rogerson, 2003). In general, research suggests that UA is, at most, a mechanism used by the poor in order to cope (May and Rogerson, 1995). Against the above background, the question is: what type of evidence is there in respect of the role of UA in addressing poverty and food security? In terms of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the relevant question is: to what degree would UA be able to reduce the number of people living on less than 1USD per day? Furthermore, if there is some indication that UA does, in fact, play a role in reducing the number of people living on less than 1 USD per day, it is necessary to determine the urban planning implications in this regard.

The aim of the paper is to determine the role played by UA in the income patterns of households involved in UA activities. An earlier paper in this series (see Burger et al, 2009) provided a thorough overview of the profile of UA practitioners: but no income data were available. This paper aims to provide a further profile of UA practitioners and compare the data with the information in the earlier report, and also to assess the role of UA in terms of income and food security activities.

Against the above background, the paper is structured as follows:
  • It starts off with an overview of the methods used during the survey. As this report reflects on interviews conducted in four of the main urban areas of South Africa a brief description of the institutional responses to UA is provided (a more detailed description is available from Nel et al., (2009)).
  • This description of the methods used is followed by a brief reflection on the literature. Specific emphasis is placed on the available evidence in respect of the role of UA in addressing poverty and food security.
  • In the light of the information provided in the section on institutional responses, the paper then provides a brief overview of the biographical attributes of UA practitioners. The paper by Burger et al. (2009) suggested that UA practitioners are mainly comprised of poorer households. Attention is therefore focussed on the question as to whether the results obtained from this survey are different in any way.
  • Next, a profile of UA production is provided. The earlier report by Burger et al. (2009) did not provide any significant overview of production processes and the value of production. This report attempts to address this gap.
  • The above-mentioned profile is followed by an assessment of the impact of UA on poverty aspects. Consideration is given to aspects of income and expenditure and the role of UA income in assisting lifting people to rise above the 1USD per day indicator set in the MDGs.
  • The emphasis then shifts to an assessment of the role of UA in addressing food security.
  • Finally, some conclusions are reached and recommendations are made.

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