African Centre for Cities Senior Researcher, Dr Jane Battersby was honoured as the 2017 laureate of the Premio Daniel Carasso at a ceremony in Valencia, Spain on 18 May. The international prize, first presented in 2012 by the Daniel and Nina Carasso Foundation is awarded every two years in recognition of outstanding scientific research into and social commitment to sustainable food systems and diets for long-term health. Jane was selected as the laureate by a jury of experts from among 40 candidates from 25 countries.

According to the Jury: “Her work on feeding poor populations in urban areas in southern cities undergoing rapid growth is extremely relevant. Strong urban growth will be a major issue in the next few decades. On the global level, our ability to feed urban populations could either be a vector for stability or a destabilising force. Jane Battersby tackles these fundamental questions from the perspectives of social justice, governance, education, fairness and gender equality”.

Her commitment to local actors is remarkable and contributes to the quality, credibility and impact of her academic work, which is considered excellent, was also highlighted.

Dr Battersby currently works as the research coordinator of the ESRC/DFID-funded Consuming Urban Poverty Project, which focuses on governing food systems to alleviate poverty in secondary cities in Africa. Her research for the last 10 years has focused on urban food security and urban food systems in Africa, mainly through the African Food Security Urban Network (AFSUN), the Hungry Cities Partnership and the Consuming Urban Poverty project.

Her fields of research include urban food systems and policies, and analysing why northern and southern researchers overlook these questions in food security theories. She  also examines the role played by food in urban development and change in African cities. She is interested in the relationship between spatial transformation and changing identities – a subject she addresses through young people, education, music and land restitution. She has extensive consulting experience, working with local and international actors such as local authorities, governments, non-governmental organisations and development agencies.

Through her research and commitments, Dr Battersby aims to create reliable, sustainable and transparent food systems that support food security in the long-term. She approaches this issue from the perspectives of social, spatial and economic justice, and seeks to make cities and governments adopt policies that respect these imperatives.

Her work focuses on capacity-building in cities, to ensure they are able to develop and implement fair food systems that meet all residents’ economic and nutritional needs.

This has led her to study the geography and role of local food stores, both informal and formal, as well as the impact of regional planning policies on food supply for vulnerable populations. Her research questions the relationship between urban and rural areas, and analyses the capacities and levers for action available to local authorities. She has also produced constructive criticism of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of 17 global goals to be achieved by 2030, implemented through national action plans in countries around the world.

Battersby’s work also highlights the need to strengthen the ties between related goals: ending hunger (SDG 2), promoting health and well-being (SDG 3), supporting sustainable urbanisation (SDG 11), and encouraging sustainable consumption and production (SDG 12). Currently, these SDGs are considered separate: SDG 11 assumes that there is no hunger in the world, and SDG 2 assumes that global populations all live in rural areas. She also advocates in favour of addressing food issues as part of the implementation of policies adopted at the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development in Ecuador in 2016 (UN Habitat III).

There is a high need of applied research in Southern Africa, especially South Africa, considering the challenges this region of the world faces, as it has high levels of poverty and malnutrition (29% of children under 5 experience delayed growth, 44% of children under 5 lack vitamin A and 52% of adults are overweight or obese according to the IFPRI’s 2015 Global Nutrition Report). Its urban areas, demography, economy, society and environment are changing at one of the fastest rates in the world. If food systems can be used to support economic development, health and social justice in southern Africa, these experiments could serve as models for other regions around the globe. While there are specific local drivers of these changes, there are common global scale economic and political drivers in operation. Understanding the relationships between these local and global scale drivers is central to Battersby’s work.

Given these observations, her work supports a radical overhaul of the ways in which local, national and international food policies are designed and formulated, which includes taking into account towns and cities and implementing new strategies to make sustainable food a key element of urban governance.