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UO Geog alum Dr. Easther Chigamura to give talk on Thursday, Aug 4th

Easther Chigamura is back in town, visiting from the University of Zimbabwe. She will be giving a talk entitled Consuming Urban Poverty: Twists and Turns in Zimbabwe’s Urban Food System and Food Security: A case of Epworth, Thursday Aug. 3, 12:00-1:00PM, Condon Hall 260. Come join us in welcoming her back!

Easther is also available for individual appointments on Aug 3, from 9AM to noon. Contact jweeks@uoregon.edu for scheduling.

Abstract

Africa is considered the fastest urbanising continent in the world, however, rapid urbanisation is not going hand-in-hand with economic growth and increased well-being (Van Vark, 2013). Policy-makers and international institutions, such as the United Nations and the World Bank, recognise the problems resulting from urbanisation in African mega-cities, and frame cities as overpopulated, chaotic and as representing a failed urbanism full of poverty, disease and slums (Auclair 2005, McLees 2012). Despite this recognition of ‘failed urbanism’ and that even more poor people are living in African cities, development intervention and government policies continue to be biased toward rural localities.

The ESRC/DFID –funded Governing Food Systems in African Secondary Cities project, commonly referred to as the Consuming Urban Poverty Project (CUPP) focuses on the dynamics of poverty in Africa’s secondary cities in order to provide information and insights which can address poverty reduction. The project argues that poverty cannot be understood or addressed by focusing on poor individuals or households alone. Rather it needs to be understood as having many intersecting drivers operating at a range of scales, from the individual, to the neighborhood, to the city and beyond. The project therefore sought to understand the dynamic connections between poverty, governance and urban poverty. It positioned food as a powerful lens to understand these connections, by embracing Carolyn Steel’s assertion that “in order to understand cities properly, we need to look at them through food”. Therefore the central question for the project was “what does the urban food system in three secondary cities in Africa (Kitwe, Zambia; Kisimu, Kenya; and Epworth, Zimbabwe) reveal about the dynamics of urban poverty and its governance?”

This seminar focuses on key empirical findings from the project, which include a reverse value chain analysis of five key food products, spatial mapping of the formal and informal food retail environment, and in-depth household interviews to determine food systems and experiences of food insecurity in Epworth, Zimbabwe.  This research coincided with the ‘twists and turns’ in economic policy instruments set by the government of Zimbabwe (GoZ), which led to food-related protests and civil unrest across most urban localities. Civil unrest primarily centred on food and access thereof and was mostly visible in secondary cities like Epworth that have high prevalence of poverty and food poverty. The ‘timely’ coincidence of collecting data during such a period in which the GoZ introduced economic instruments that adversely affected the urban food system and household food security, reinforced the positioning that food is a critical entry point for understanding urban poverty, particularly in secondary cities and in shaping a new urban agenda and policy for Zimbabwe.