Governance of traditional markets and rural-urban food systems in sub-Saharan Africa

Julia Davies, Jordan Blekking, Corrie Hannah, Andrew Zimmer, Nupur Joshi, Patrese Anderson, Allan Chilenga, Tom Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Traditional markets form a critical part of rural-urban food systems in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Aside from providing more affordable and physically accessible food to low-income consumers, traditional markets serve as wholesalers to street vendors, create market entry points for smallholder farmers, and provide essential employment opportunities for sellers. However, many traditional markets face ongoing challenges such as infrastructure deficits, poor waste management, and internal conflict that undermine their effectiveness. Markets that perform effectively can provide requisite services to vendors and manage relationships between actors within and outside the market. We propose that the degree to which traditional markets are able to play an effective role in rural-urban food systems depends on the governance structures in place in individual markets. We aim to take initial steps toward developing an institutional analysis methodology that can be used to identify the set of institutional arrangements that are appropriate for successfully governing traditional markets. Using data from a 2021 phone call survey of 81 urban and rural markets in Zambia, and drawing inspiration from Ostrom's design principles for enduring common pool resources, we identify some of the institutional arrangements that tend to lead to effective market performance in Zambia, including market formality, the role of market committees, government engagement in markets, and conflict resolution protocols. Our study alone does not definitively identify the set of institutions that are appropriate for successfully governing traditional markets, particularly beyond the Zambian context. However, we highlight the types of data that need to be collected to achieve this objective by contributing a survey instrument and an empirical dataset of traditional markets across the rural-urban food system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102620
JournalHabitat International
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • Food security
  • Food systems
  • Governance
  • Institutions
  • Rural
  • Sub-saharan Africa
  • Traditional markets
  • Urban

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urban Studies


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