The dynamic food procurement strategies of women living in Cape Town’s low-income areas
The combination of persistent levels of inequality and poverty, alongside the advent of rapid urbanisation, mean urban food insecurity is set to be one of the biggest development challenges of this century. As women play a crucial role in the food security status of urban poor households, understanding and supporting the life-sustaining food procurement practices used by women ought to be a key strategy in addressing urban food insecurity. Particularly, the paper draws on primary qualitative research I conducted with women from Khayelitsha, Cape Town’s largest informal settlement. This case study explored the beliefs, practices and preferences that govern women’s food procurement choices. The study found that women adopt a range of innovative food procurement strategies, which significantly improve household food security prospects. These include buying in bulk, skilfully navigating the informal and the formal food economies, utilising their social networks and trading off food with other important non–food expenses. Understanding these practices can provide greater insight into how best to enhance urban food security. The implications are that women need to be better supported rather than, as most mainstream programmes suggest, encouraged to take on more work outside the household, whilst still faced with the lion’s share of housework.