P064 – Contested Networks of Food Production in Urban Africa
10 July, 16:00 – 17:30

Schareika Nikolaus / Georg August University of Goettingen, Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology
Bellwood-Howard Imogen / Georg August University of Goettingen, Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology


The production of foodstuffs increasingly manifests in African cities in response to both food insecurity and market opportunity. Urban food producers – depending on their social, cultural and economic capital –access the diverse physical, technological and economic resources and socio-political networks concentrated in cities in order to create opportunities for farming or livestock-keeping and gaining shares in the food market. In doing so, they face challenges that are particular to the urban environment: legitimacy crises overland, water and market access, health threats from recycling wastes as inputs, laws discouraging agriculture and strict enforcement of safety regulations and user fees. Due to such conditions, urban food production is associated with multiple forms of contestation and negotiation between various actors. Diverse social groups agitate for representation in the public sphere through collective action, social movements and civil society organizations. Faced with State and market failure to regulate democratic access to productive assets, some mobilise around control and use of resources for food sovereignty. Others emerge where local and global dynamics juxtapose conflicting ideas about agricultural production standards and legitimate socio-economic networks of exchange and consumption.

Réseaux contestés de production alimentaire en Afrique urbaine
La production des denrées alimentaires se manifeste de plus en plus dans les villes africaines comme une réponse à l’insécurité alimentaire et aux opportunités du marché. Les producteurs urbains accèdent à diverses ressources matérielles, technologiques et économiques et aux réseaux socio-politiques, concentrés dans les villes, pour créer des opportunités pour l’agriculture ou l’élevage du bétail tout comme pour bénéficier des parts du marché alimentaire. Ce faisant, ils font face à des défis spécifiques à l’environnement urbain: les crises de légitimité foncière, l’accès à l’eau et au marché, les menaces sanitaires, lois non incitatives à l’agriculture, l’application rigoureuse des règles de sécurité et les redevances d’usager. Au regard de ces conditions, la production alimentaire urbaine est tributaire de multiples formes de contestation et de négociation entre divers acteurs. Différents groupes sociaux compétissent – à travers l’action collective, les mouvements sociaux et les organisations de la société civile – pour leur représentation dans l’espace public. Face à l’échec de l’État et du marché à réguler l’accès démocratique aux ressources productives, certains de ces groupes se mobilisent autour du contrôle et de l’usage des ressources pour la souveraineté alimentaire.

Paper 1

Korbéogo Gabin / GRIL-University of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

Competing Rules of Water Use in Vegetables Production in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso)

Water is a scarce productive resource whose accessibility and management determine productivity and quality of products of urban agriculture in Ouagadougou. Regarded as a common-pool resource, water is a source of many stakes, cooperation and conflict relationships between urban strategic groups. In the configuration of urban agriculture, civil servants, producers and consumers do interact in order to produce and influence legitimate standards of water and vegetables quality and flows; it is a sort of interplay between official statecraft and grassroots’ abilities.
However, water resource governance is not autonomous; it is intimately embedded in land tenure, material and symbolic medium of water flows that irrigate vegetables. Thus, changes of urban land practices – marked by application of State law, competition and commodification – induce development of norms and technologies of water use in urban agriculture in Ouagadougou. The competing strategies of water control should therefore be analyzed in the light of socio-economic, political, cultural and technological processes that irrigate perceptions and practices of actors and strategic groups of vegetables production in Ouagadougou.

Paper 2

Nchanji Eileen Bogweh / Georg-August Göttingen University

Land access networks in Urban Agriculture in Tamale, Northern Ghana

In Tamale, as many West African cities, vegetable cultivation generates income and secures food supply. However, scarce resources mean urban vegetable farmers contest strategic assets, particularly land. In Tamale, urbanization has accelerated land sales. Here, traditional rulers, as land custodians, allocate plots to buyers. This paper uses actor network theory to describe how different actor groups mobilise resources around urban agriculture. A network is conceptualised as a configuration of heterogeneous actors, negotiating with various socio-political institutions to advantage their activities. Farmers negotiate land access with chiefs, peers, private landowners and the government. They use non-governmental organizations as intermediaries in their land struggles. These organizations petition the state and paramount chief for formalization of urban agriculture and curtailment of the powers of chiefs to sell ‘green zone’ land. Chiefs have also enrolled land buyers into networks to enable sales. They use private surveyors to draw site plans and enlist support from paramount chiefs. Would-be landowners who feel cheated out of land they bought construct networks around the legal system. They have enrolled lawyers to secure lands, get compensated by fraudulent chiefs and stop them from reselling land already sold. Actors in Tamale have thus built and maintained technical, political and legal networks through contestations within their ever changing socio-political environment.

Paper 3

Bellwood-Howard Imogen / Georg-August Universität Göttingen

Urban farmers and marketers mobilise identities to manipulate market access

In Tamale, Northern Ghana, vegetable marketers and farmers are entangled in kin and neighbourhood networks. This shapes access to resources, including markets. Such relationships mean that trade occurs not in open marketplaces but arenas characterised by liaisons, opportunities, barriers and cartels. Many farmers establish long-term agreements with specific wholesalers to guarantee year-round trade and credit opportunities. Simultaneously, others constantly reconfigure allegiances, in order to accessing multiple outlets and more lucrative deals. In another profit enhancing strategy, some farmers retail directly to consumers, particularly in peak season. The vegetable farmers’ union has unsuccessfully attempted to organise collective retailing. The union is the most formal expression of alliances within farmer and marketer networks. Members of both trades may mobilise collective identities based on occupation, kinship or gender to negotiate transactions. However, competition between peers may also be exploited by their customers or suppliers. Within all these situations, actors mobilise the physical and ecological properties of the vegetables and the environment to facilitate or block price negotiations. Farmers and marketers thus simultaneously manipulate social and natural elements to advantage their economic activity. Through this, their common aim of optimising profit and reducing risk reinforces the role of their social context in coping with ecological variability.

Paper 4

Loehde Barbara / Georg-August University of Göttingen

Mobilization of formal organizations and personal social networks in the urban cattle production sector, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

Beef and dairy cattle husbandry, one of the most promising production sectors of Burkina Faso and commonly associated with a rural activity, has become an increasingly attractive enterprise for the urban population. Despite several hurdles inherent to the urban environment, the diverse cattle farming systems in the capital city Ouagadougou continuously adjust to and profit from to urban setting that offers opportunities for socio-political (gender and labor aspects), technical and policy change.
Beef and dairy farmers are commonly organized in cooperatives of different size and scale. The proliferation of livestock cooperatives in Ouagadougou is a response to the state’s inclination to support organized collectives rather than individuals. Farmer leaders also stress the need to organize in collectives to effectively lobby for the recognition of the livestock sector as an essential contribution to the national economy and to assert farmers’ interests and claims to farming space in the dense urban setting.
Yet case studies reveal the importance of individual innovative strategies and mobilization of social networks external to the formal organization of cooperatives. In the process of competition and cooperation in acquiring highly desired farming inputs, farmers mobilize their personal social networks to gain access to subsidized feedstuff, labor, land and non-material resources such as information and knowledge through which they continuously develop their enterprises.

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