Bridging the gap: Strengthening urban food system in Zambia through resilience initiatives

Delve into an array of outputs from a cartoons to policy notes that aim to address the complex challenges within urban food systems in the region.

In the realm of food security, considerable attention has traditionally been given to rural areas, overshadowing the challenges faced by urban communities. While rural food insecurity remains a concern, it is crucial to recognise the pressing issues affecting urban populations, exacerbated by factors like soaring food prices, climate variability, and spikes in fuel costs. Together, these factors contribute significantly to the ongoing food crisis in Zambia and the broader Southern African region. Addressing these complex challenges requires a concerted effort to build a sustainable urban food system. Recognising this, GRP and the Centre for Sustainability Transitions (CST), through an initiative called Southern African Resilience Academy (SARA), have partnered to enhance regional expert networks and collaboration to advance knowledge on equitable resilience in Southern Africa. 

One of the working groups under SARA focused its efforts on Building Equitable and Resilient Urban Food Systems in Southern Africa, producing several communication materials: 

  1. Meet Mutinta: An animated depiction of the daily challenges faced by low-income households just to have a meal.
  2. Toolkit for Policy: Recommendations for creating equitable and resilient urban food system.
  3. SARA Policy Note: A compilation of existing policies that urban stakeholders and planners can leverage to enhance resilience. 
  4. Poster: A summary of program results and developed communication materials. 

Recognising the importance of accessible and valuable research data, the working group conducted stakeholder engagement meetings in key districts across Zambia. These included stops in Nyimba, Chongwe, Petauke, Pemba, Sinazongwe, Namwala, Itezhi Tezhi, Choma, Kapiri Mposhi, Mkushi, and Mpongwe. 

The Urban Food System Engagement Meeting in Zambia yielded several promising outcomes:

  1. Collaboration and coordination: Emphasis on collaboration between district councils, agricultural experts, and local communities to build a more resilient urban food system.
  2. Understanding local needs: A platform to grasp the unique food system challenges each district faces, tailoring solutions to specific needs. 
  3. Sustainable agriculture: Exploration of sustainable agricultural practices and the potential for urban farming initiatives, promoting agro-ecological approaches.
  4. Food security strategies: Development of strategies to enhance food security in urban areas, reducing dependency on rural food supplies. Involving local communities in the planning and execution of urban food system initiatives, empowering them in controlling their food sources.
  5. Creating economic opportunities: Discussion on the potential for urban agriculture to create economic opportunities for urban residents, particularly for vulnerable groups.
  6. Policy development: Deliberations on the development of urban agriculture policies and regulations that promote sustainability and food security, including a review of by-laws hindering urban agriculture.
  7. Food accessibility: Recognition that not all urban residents have easy access to affordable, high-quality, and nutritious food, especially affecting the urban poor.
  8. Food quality and storage: Identification of inadequate storage facilities in urban markets posing risks and increasing chances of contamination.
  9. Land use and space: Acknowledging the decline in arable land due to rapid urban expansion, reducing opportunities for local food production.
  10. Waste management: Acknowledgment of the significant concern of food waste in urban areas, highlighting the need for environmentally responsible practices to improve food security.

The Urban Food System Engagement Meeting marked a significant stride in addressing the complex challenges posed by shocks, urbanisation, and the increasing demand for food in urban areas. Through collaboration, sustainable agriculture promotion, and community empowerment, these initiatives have the potential to transform urban food systems, ensuring food security and an improved quality of life for urban residents.