CUP Affiliated Theses

PhD Theses

  1. James Duminy (2018) Scarcity, Government, Population:The Problem of Food in Colonial Kenya, c. 1900–1952, Department of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics University of Cape Town, University of Cape Town


Food security in Africa is a foremost development challenge. Dominant approaches to addressing food security concentrate on availability and increasing production. This ‘productionist’ focus arguably limits the capacity of government policies to address contemporary food problems. It does so by obscuring both the specific food insecurity dynamics linked to the continent’s ongoing urban transitions, as well as the potential for more systemic food strategies. Yet existing research provides an inadequate historical understanding of how a production and supply-oriented bias has emerged and become established in the African context. This undermines the capacity of scholars and policymakers to critique and reform food security thought and practice.

The thesis addresses this gap in knowledge by critically and historically examining the emergence of food scarcity as a specific problem of government in a particular African context: colonial Kenya.

Understanding how colonial officials and other actors conceived of and responded to food scarcities in Kenya is the primary question addressed. The specific roles and duties of the state in relation to this problem are also investigated.

The thesis employs a Foucauldian-inspired approach to the historical analysis of government and problematizations. Primary data were gathered from archives in the United Kingdom.

The argument is that food scarcity, as a problem of government, shifted from an uncertain and localized rural issue to a risk encompassing the balance between market supply and demand at a territorial scale. The role of the state shifted from a last-resort provider of relief to a regulator of maize production and demand, with a focus on ensuring adequate supply for territorial self-sufficiency. Accordingly, anti-scarcity techniques became increasingly economic and calculative in nature, and longer term in focus. This mode of conceiving and addressing food scarcity existed in Kenya by the end of the Second World War, and was stabilized in the immediate post-war period. Elements of this system are recognizable in contemporary food security policies in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa.

The thesis contributes to historical knowledge of African food insecurity and colonial government. It moves beyond previous work by focusing on Kenya, and by examining food scarcity as a distinct problem of colonial government. It enhances knowledge of the conditions under which contemporary modes of food governance have come into existence.


Masters Theses

  1. Fridah Siyanga Tembo (2017) From fork to farm: Understanding Kitwe’s food system through the fish lens, Department of Environmental and Geographical Science, University of Cape Town.


Food production has been a constant feature of food security policies. This narrative has continued despite findings showing that food insecurity is structural, and more driven by issues of access than availability, particularly for low-income households in cities who live in a cash economy. While usually considered a rural issue, the urban poor with low and unreliable incomes also face food insecurity which manifests differently to that of their rural counterparts. Thus, this creates the need to understand how the urban poor get their food. Garneton, a low-income area in Kitwe, Zambia, was chosen as the case study area for understanding the food system that feeds the urban poor. Fish and the fish value chain were used as the lens with which to understand the food system. The primary aim of the study was to understand the flow of fish in the food system and how it gets to low-income households in Kitwe. A qualitative methodology using semi-structured in-depth interviews was used. A bottom up and systems approach which started by finding out what the low-income consumers ate, and following the fish value chain systematically up to the producers enabled the study to capture the actual food system that feeds the poor and uncovered the different issues affecting the food system. The study had three main findings. The first finding was that the low-income households bought their food from both formal and informal markets but were more highly dependent on the informal markets. The factors that drove their purchasing decisions included income, proximity and volumes of fish sold. Secondly, the study also found that informal traders bought their fish mainly through the informal markets although the imported fish was bought from the formal market. Thirdly, the study found that there were a number of factors that affected the food system. These included policy, economic and environmental factors. The pathways of fish were also found to change in accordance with the fish ban. The thesis argues that, there is greater need to have policy that addresses the needs of the urban poor. Food should also be looked at as a cross cutting issue with different food systems perceived as complementing each other to addressing the food needs, particularly of the urban poor. Finally, more attention must be paid to the informal market which plays a significant role in meeting the food security needs of the urban poor.


2. Robyn Park Ross (2017) Planning for urban food security: leveraging the contribution of informal trade in the case of Bellville Station precinct, School of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics, University of Cape Town.

South African cities, similarly to other cities across the Global South, experience high levels of food insecurity. Urban food insecurity is particularly prevalent in low- income households, with 72% of households in low-income urban areas in Cape Town identified as food insecure in a 2013 African Food Security Network survey. In the context of rising urbanisation, poverty, and unemployment levels this issue is expected to increase into the future in the absence of proactive intervention. Despite the severity of the issue, urban food insecurity continues to be largely neglected by planners and policymakers. This invisibility can be attributed mainly to the persistence of the popular conceptualisation of food insecurity as an issue of production, resulting in a focus on increased rural food production and urban agriculture as the panacea for food insecurity. This limited rural and productionist framing has resulted in a persistent neglect of the dimensions of access in food security, specifically in urban settings. This neglect has included the invisibility of the contribution that informal trade makes to urban food security through supporting access to food.
Through the case study of the Bellville Station Precinct in Cape Town, I argue that informal food traders are playing a crucial role in supporting urban food security through enabling greater access to food for economically stressed urban residents. This argument is made through the exploration of the extent that these traders are using various entitlement enhancing strategies that support physical and economic access as well as access to viable food options that cater to food preferences. Based on the understanding and acknowledgement that informal food traders, in this case, are supporting access to food for economically stressed users of the space, I then explore the role that spatial planning should play in leveraging this contribution. This is done through exploring the myriad of challenges faced by the traders currently in making this important contribution, and specifically through highlighting how this role has been undermined by the way the City has interacted with, intervened in and managed the space.
While the research reveals a reality where traders currently face a myriad of compounding and growing challenges, I argue that a different path is possible. This path necessitates spatial planners acknowledging and valuing the contribution of informal trade to urban food access as the basis for taking responsibility for protecting, supporting and maximising it. This is explored through a three-pronged supportive planning proposal for the precinct. Firstly, this proposal includes necessary legislative and institutional changes. Secondly, it provides a spatial design concept for how food trade could be spatially priorotised as the precinct develops through the provision of a system of supportive infrastructure. Lastly, the proposal outlines a transition to a form of management that is grounded in collaboration and facilitation through the gradual rebuilding of trust between stakeholders. In this way, this dissertation provides an indication of the form that context-specific food sensitive panning could take in the case of the Bellville Station Precinct.

3. Ali Pulker (2017) The relationship between urban food security, supermarket expansion and urban planning and policy in the City of Cape Town: A Case of the Langa Junction Mini Mall,  School of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics, University of Cape Town.


For many years, urban food insecurity has been ‘invisible’ to urban planners and policy makers. This is due tothe misconception of food insecurity as being primarily a rural issue and attributable to a lack of supply of food; however, it is clear that the issue of urban food insecurity is systemic, embedded in socio-economic and spatial disparities.

Rapid supermarket expansion in low income areas in the City of Cape Town (CoCT), has in many ways limitedaccess to food security, due to the urban poor’s lack of financial access to this food. Through a case study method approach, the area surrounding the Langa Junction Mini Mall was used to explore the effects ofsupermarket expansion in low income areas on the urban poor’s access to food security. Fieldwork consisting of observations at the Langa Junction Mini Mall, semi-structured interviews with the Langa Junction Mini Mall manager, the Langa Shoprite manager, informal street traders around the Langa Junction Mini Mall and City of Cape Town land use and spatial planners, as well as three focus groups conducted with Langa residents was conducted. The research findings show that supermarket expansion in Langa has drastically reduced the amount of informal street trade which is an important point of access to food security for the urban poor. Therefore, the Langa Junction Mini Mall has had an effect on the way in which the residents access food security. In addition, these findings suggest that the increase in supermarket expansion in the area are contributing to the food desertification of Langa.

Despite an Urban Agriculture Policy, the City of Cape Town has made no spatial or land use interventions in order to alleviate urban food insecurity within the City. Due to the systemic nature of urban food insecurity, interventions must take place at an institutional level in order to appropriately address this issue. This research provides recommendations towards the creation of a Municipal Urban Food Security Policy for the City of Cape Town through the formation of an Urban Food Security Policy Council, an Urban Food Charter as well as an Urban Food Security Strategy. Land use and spatial planning interventions are recommended as ways in which an affordable and equitable urban food system can be created. In addition, this research suggests that there is a need to increase awareness regarding urban food insecurity amongst land use and spatial planners within the City of Cape Town.


4. Robby L. Ordelheide (2017) ‘A Tale of Two Sea Points: Gentrification,Supermarkets and Food Security for Lower-Income Residents,’ School of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics, University of Cape Town.


This research is founded on the argument that food systems are (and should be) a core mandate for urban planners, particularly as food is connected to many other functions relevant for built-environment professionals. To date, city officials and built-environment professionals in South Africa have adopted a laissez-faire attitude to food systems, simply assuming that for their constituents, food security can be easily solved by supporting urban agriculture projects and allowing the private sector to open new supermarket retail outletsacross a city. While the literature on food security in South Africa’s poorer areas is vast, noother published South African studies have considered the ways in which inner city regeneration and commercial supermarket expansion combine to impact the food security of the urban poor. Using a case study approach, this research aims to uncover the food security implications, which arise from gentrification and the growth of the commercial supermarket sector, for middle- and low-income households in Sea Point, an inner-city neighbourhood of Cape Town. This study used techniques including interviews, photography, mapping, food- price recording, document and archival research, and direct observation. It was discovered that gentrification creates an environment where local food systems are altered by policy prescriptions and improvement projects which, in turn, enable the growth of commercial food retail and high-end food service outlets. This research shows being located close to asupermarket is no guarantee of being able to afford what’s being sold, and this is importantbecause inadequate access to good-quality food has implications for health and human development over time. The experience and knowledge gained from this research has been used to support appropriate food security policy recommendations for the City of Cape Town.