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A systematic review of the literature that focuses on both the ‘informal economy’ and ‘food security’ in South Africa

14 September, 2016 @ 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm SAST

Food is fundamental not only to well-being, but to our social and economic lives. Despite this, one of the biggest challenges facing many people in cities all over the world today is hunger. As cities rapidly urbanise, different pressures are placed on the food system which has resulted in the least nutritious food being the most affordable. This seminar series will explore the informal economy, food systems, food security and urbanisation.

The second seminar is entitled ‘A systematic review of the literature that focuses on both the ‘informal economy’ and ‘food security’ in South Africa’ presented by Candice Kelly and Etai Even-Zahav (Research Fellows at the Sustainability Institute).


Despite the importance of the informal food economy in fulfilling the daily and weekly food needs of a large proportion of South Africa’s low-income population, it appears little research exists on the exact nature of the relationship between the informal food economy and food security. This paper performed the first qualitative systematic review of research from South Africa that addresses both these aspects. The methods used in the review are described in detail, to increase the readers’ ability to assess the reliability of subsequent findings and analysis. Findings confirmed the low level of research focus on the informal food economy (and food security), in particular the stages of the value chain beyond the farm gate and before the consumer. Food safety research is common, although applied narrowly and with mixed findings. The conceptualisation of nutrition research is encouragingly wide, encompassing both over- and under-nutrition, but does not seem to consider the broader urban informal context in which consumers are embedded. Lastly, the research approaches used are predominately quantitative, and the voices of those who survive within the informal food economy are largely absent.


Candice Kelly’s doctoral research focuses on people leading food system transitions in South Africa. She teaches into the MPhil at the Sustainability Institute, focusing on sustainable food systems.

Etai Even-Zahav is also part of the Food Systems team at the Sustainability Institute. He is particularly interested in the informal food economy.


14 September, 2016
3:00 pm - 4:30 pm SAST
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Studio 3
ENGEO Building, Upper Campus. University of Cape Town,
Cape Town, Western Cape 8001 South Africa
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