The supermarket revolution and food security
This report (PDF) by the African Food Security Urban Network examines the surprisingly high rate of supermarket patronage in low-income areas of Windhoek, Namibia. What makes supermarkets so much more accessible to the urban poor, what do they buy, how frequently do they go, and what was the relationship between supermarkets and informal food vendors? Result of an earlier survey showed that 83% of the households in low-income areas of Windhoek obtained at least some of their food through supermarket purchase. The supermarket revolution in Namibia has focuses predominantly at the retail level op the food supply chain. This supermarket revolution is incomplete in the sense that it has not involved wholesale transformation of the agro-food system. The overall number of local producer-beneficiaries is small. New initiatives may lead to more local sourcing of products but the main beneficiaries are likely to be large commercial farms and food processors rather than small farmers. Likely, consumers benefit by getting more varied, cheaper, fresher and safer foods. However, overall dietary diversity has fallen significantly over the years and food security rates have remained almost stagnant. So supermarkets may be making more food available, they are not making it more accessible to improve food security significantly. Informal food vending struggle to make a living in the competitive environment since supermarkets are moving close to low-income mass market with budget subsidiaries. The government leads and controls the process of mall development but has no explicit food security or food system mandate. Mallification represent other urban planning priorities and interests. Obstacles to developing a coherent food security strategy at city level are many but not insurmountable. Advocacy and declarations will make little progress unless they understand the centrality of the supermarket revolution and seek to regulate it in the interests of the urban poor and food insecure.