The informal sector’s role in food security: A missing link in policy debates?
This paper (PDF) by PLAAS, UWC and the Centre of Excellence on Food Security reviews what is currently known about the role played by the informal sector in general and informal retailers in particular, with regard to the accessibility of food in South Africa. The review seeks to identify policy relevant research gaps. Drawing on Statistics South Africa data, the authors show that the informal sector is an important source of employment, dominated by informal trade of which the sale of food is a significant subsector. Although the focus is on South Africa, the authors say that in general, the informal sector needs to be viewed as more than just an economic activity. They argue that the informal sector enables food access, and having access to affordable and reliable food further contributes to the utilisation dimension of the FAO food security definition. The authors conclude their study with critique on the policy environment. They highlight a production and rural bias in the food security agenda and argue that the policy environment for informal operators is at best benign neglect and at worse actively destructive, with serious food security implications.