Feeding Dar es Salaam: A symbiotic food system perspective
This dissertation (PDF) of Marc Wagerif from Wageningen University and Research is a sociological analysis of the agri-food system of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, that feeds most of the over four and a half million residents of this fast-growing city. It is based on qualitative research that has generated a picture of the food system that supplies the important foods for the majority of residents of the city. The research takes an actor orientated approach and starts from urban eaters and follows the food back through retailers, processors and transporters to the primary producers. Instead of dismissing what has been found as ‘informal’ or trying to fit it into structuralist paradigms, from orthodox economic or political economy perspectives, the authors tries to understand the core ordering principles and rationality of this system that has shown a remarkable resilience over many years. Of particular interest are various forms of collaboration, instead of competition. This study comes at a time when global food production and distribution is dominated by powerful transnational corporations through an agro-industrial food system that is widely critiqued for its negative environmental and social impacts. Many argue that this industrial food system is unsustainable, yet its expansion can seem inevitable and alternatives are seen by many as incapable of feeding the world’s growing and increasingly urban population. ‘Value chain’ interventions have become popular among ‘development’ practitioners and policy makers seeking to integrate more producers into the global industrial food system rather than challenging that food system. Wagerif however presents in this thesis a ‘symbiotic food system’ made up of multitudes of small-scale and interdependent actors that produce the food and get it to urban eaters at a city feeding scale.
For those with an interest in food systems, please also check recent discussions on the website of the Food & Business Knowledge Platform: https://knowledge4food.net/transforming-food-systems-improved-nutrition/