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Urban and peri-urban agriculture: an analysis of the perceptions and use of food sovereignty among low-income dwellers in Harare, Zimbabwe.

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Urbanisation has transfigured the urban landscape and heightened food acquisition within cities. Urbanisation, coupled with systemic socio-economic, political and climatic challenges, has heightened food security concerns. Food sovereignty, which is grounded agroecological and political centred principles has been touted as an alternative avenue to attaining food security. Yet, studies investigating agricultural issues frame responses seldom consider alternatives to the food security approach and rarely examine the urban dynamic. By unfurling extensively debated concepts of urban and peri-urban agriculture and food sovereignty, considers the interaction between food and politics. Mixed methods was employed to identify and draw on indicators associated with food sovereignty principles such as food security and nutrition, the impact of institutional arrangements, climate change adaptation and agroecological practices. Multiphase sampling was used to draw data from 400 urban farmers from four study sites in Harare, including 35 participants in four focus group discussions and eight key informant interviews. Ordinal, binary and multinomial logistic regression was used to analyse quantitative data and NVivo was used to analyse the qualitative data. To reinforce our analysis, Henri Lefebvre’s Right to the City and the Food Sovereignty Framework were used for exploring practices and processes holistically. By so doing, we explored the use and benefits of food sovereignty and corresponding constraints were explored. The key finding is that the practices of urban farmers resonated with food sovereignty, however, lack of attention to UPA, inadequate land, lack of information, undervalued indigenous crops and deteriorating economic environment reduced their control over productive and consumptive practices. This negatively affected their ability to apply principles of food sovereignty to their food systems. Findings also confirm that not all forms of UPA are inherently agroecological, particularly for those that cultivated on a large scale. These findings prompt a re-casting of urban and peri-urban agriculture. Recognition that intricacies produced by the interaction of socio-economic, political and environmental vulnerabilities also affect urban dwellers and concerted effort to pursue alternative avenues have the potential to reinforce food security at both household and national level. It is therefore critical for authorities to formulate policies that support urban and peri-urban agriculture in order to address urban food insecurity.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.