Formal/informal employment and urban food security in Sub-Saharan Africa

Jordan Blekking, Kurt Waldman, Cascade Tuholske, Tom Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is expected to add nearly 800 million urban residents by 2050. Due to this rapid urban population increase there is an urgent need to understand the drivers of urban food security across the region. Understanding food security in an urban environment is difficult due to the complexity of the relationships between urban consumers and food suppliers. Unlike rural communities, urban residents produce little of their own food, and are largely reliant on food suppliers to meet their dietary needs. Identifying urban food insecure households is further complicated by the lack of food security metrics specifically designed for the urban context. We use household-level data from 718 low-income households in Lusaka, Zambia, to assess urban food security through two measures, the Food Consumption Score (FCS) and the Coping Strategies Index (CSI). Our assessment investigates the association between food security and different employment types across the city, with particular attention paid to spatial variance of outcomes and statistical differences between households with majority formal or informal employment. Our study reveals three substantial findings. First, we find statistically significant differences in FCS and CSI of households predominantly engaged with formal employment over households engaged in informal employment. Secondly, we find significant associations between purchasing food from informal and formal food suppliers and the use of coping strategies and consumption of higher calorie foods. Lastly, we identify substantial challenges in using FCS and CSI to evaluate urban food security. Both metrics are predicated on underlying assumptions that may not accurately represent household food consumption and coping strategies in urban areas of SSA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102131
JournalApplied Geography
StatePublished - Jan 2020


  • Informal employment
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Urban food security
  • Urban food systems
  • Urbanization
  • Zambia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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