A recent article on the Cape Town Partnership website (30 April) reports on the work of Jane Battersby and colleagues at the African Food Security Urban Network (AFSUN) about how supermarkets are expanding into low-income areas and ‘causing people to move from traditional diets to ones that include more refined, processed, energy dense foods that are low in nutrients.’
One aspect of this concerns social grants – people used to spend this money on food from nearby hawkers, street traders and other vendors, but this is changing as large retailers start to pay out these grants rather than community facilities, and recipients switch to shop for food in the supermarket.
The article also discusses how, despite the important role that township traders, hawkers and other informal food traders play as part of peoples’ resilience against hunger in cities, the informal urban food economy is under threat from city policies to move informal traders out of inner cities and from the rapid growth of supermarkets.
You can read the full article here – where there is also a You Tube about ‘Operation Clean Sweep’ that evicted informal traders from the inner city in Johannesburg in 2013.
Sarah Turner and Laura Schoenberger (Urban Studies 2012, 49(5) 1027–1044) have written about the effects of government policy, introduced in 2008, on street vendors in Hanoi, Vietnam as part of the drive to develop a ‘modernized’ capital city, and Veronica Crossa (Urban Sudies 2014, DOI: 10.1177/0042098014563471) has written about similar developments in Mexico City – banning street vendors from key public places in urban cities across the Global South has become part of regeneration policies.
Both articles discuss the effects of change on these traders (who are frequently women) as cities transform ‘at break-neck pace’ amidst massive urban-rural migration, and they discuss the ‘everyday politics’ of the urban poor who try to operate within the ‘informal’ economy in an attempt to provide very basic support for their families (Turner and Schoenberger quote US2 dollars a day in 2009).