In this new article Marc Wegerif and Paul Hebinck show how small-scale and interdependent actors produce food and get it to urban eaters at a city feeding scale without large vertically- or horizontally-integrated corporate structures. The research from Dar es Salaam, a city of over 4.5 million people, reveals a ‘symbiotic food system‘ that is an existing alternative to the globally dominant agri-business model. Importantly, it can and does deliver at scale and in a way that better responds to the needs of people in poverty; both food eaters and food producers. Neither is the symbiotic food system static, it is growing in response to the needs of the city, but it does not grow through the popular notion of ‘scaling-up’, rather it grows through a much more equitable process of replication. The article gives particular attention to the functioning of market places and how new actors enter into the food system. These reveal that more important to the system than competition are various forms of collaboration based around symbiosis as a core ordering principle. Moreover, the paper shows that the symbiotic food system connects in many, often unexpected, ways the urban and rural spaces in Tanzania. There is much to learn from such a system which develops without significant support from the state or other agencies.
Also published in this Special Issue: Theorizing Agri-Food Economies by Jan Douwe van der Ploeg, discussing how agri-food economies evolve over time. A central thesis of the paper is that different theoretical representations not only reflect the differences in agro-economies and their developmental tendencies, but are also important drivers that actively shape the trajectories that they describe.