Global dynamics and empowerment of the local street food network: a case study on the Ghana Traditional Caterers Association

By Hilde-Marije Dorresteijn, MSc International Development Studies at Wageningen University

For my MSc thesis within the RSO chair group I did research on street food in Ghana. During the master programme I became more and more interested in food issues and its possibilities for local development. These possibilities are beautifully illustrated by the following quotation with which I started my thesis:

“Food provides an answer. Our landscapes and cities were shaped by food. Our daily routine revolves around it, our politics and economies are driven by it, our identities are inseparable from it, and our survival depends on it. What better tool, then, with which to shape the world.” (Steel, 2012 in Viljoen & Wiskerke, 2012:36).

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Despite its importance I found little scientific research on street food, a phenomenon that is particularly relevant in developing countries. Street food can be defined as: ‘ready to eat food or beverages prepared and/or sold in the street and other public places for immediate consumption or at a later time without further processing or preparation’ (FAO, 2012). I decided to look into this topic within the context of Ghana’s capital Accra. An estimated 85% of the urban population in Ghana patronize it, cutting across socio-economic boundaries and thus also designating the important cultural role of street food In Accra, from early morning till late at night all sorts of food are being sold on the streets. Also, there is a great variety in the professionalism of microenterprises. There are many hawkers walking around trying to sell their products, well established enterprises that have fixed stands and seating facilities, and the informal eating houses called ‘chop bars’. Street food make an essential contribution to nutrition of the urban population by providing easily accessible and affordable food, as well as they provide a good livelihood strategy by creating employment and increasing incomes for a large number of urban dwellers. Hereby street food thus makes a great contribution to the local economy. This informal sector requires low start-up capital and low levels of education are needed, making it a good business opportunity for especially women.

The cheapest way to make money, is to cook food. You are a secretary, or you have a shop, and the shop collapses. You can buy a pot, buy silver, cooking utensils, buy water, the pepper, yam and you cook and you’ll get people to buy. Very, very cheap. So day in day out people have been coming into the system. That is why they are plenty. And automatically when you cook, you will get people to buy.” (Mr. Ansong, PRO GTCA, 13 Jan. 2014) Continue reading

New course: Food Sociology

IMG_3023In May we start with a new course – Food Sociology: Emerging theories & themes.
This course addresses the dynamics of food provisioning – i.e. the range of activities from the production, acquisition and preparation to the consumption and disposal of food – from a sociological perspective. These activities are examined in their socio-cultural, political and physical context by specifying and clarifying which activities are carried out, how, why and by whom. Specifically this course focuses on newly emerging food provisioning practices and the networks and institutions shaping these practices as well as on the social theories to reflect on these dynamics, networks and institutions. The specific contents of the course will differ from year to year as it based upon current international scientific collaborative research programmes and PhD projects. The students will enjoy an interesting variety of learning activities. Continue reading

WG on ‘Civic Food Networks’ at conferences ‘Ag in an Urbanizing Society’ IFSA 2012 and IRSA 2012

As follow-up of the successful Working Group on “New Forms of Consumer Engagement in Food Networks: Diversity, Mechanisms & Dynamics” that was held at the ESRS Conference in Chania, Crete last August 2011, we will organize Working Groups on similar topics at different scientific events in the coming year. The different scientific events for which WGs are organised are the following. For specific details see links:

1. International Conference “Agriculture in an Urbanizing Society” on Multifunctional Agriculture and Urban-Rural Relations, 1-4 April 2012 in Wageningen, The Netherlands, Working Group 3 “Exploring ‘civic food networks’ and their role in enabling sustainable urban food systems”, convened by Petra Derkzen, Cornelia Flora, Markus Schermer and Henk Renting, http://www.agricultureinanurbanizingsociety.com/UK/Working+group+themes/WG3

Deadline for abstract submission extended to 20 January 2012. Deadline for paper submission 1 March 2012.

2. 10th European International Farming Systems Association (IFSA) Symposium on “Producing and reproducing farming systems: New modes of organisation for sustainable food systems of tomorrow” in Aarhus, Denmark, from 1-4 July 2012. Workshop 4.1 “‘Civic food networks’ as driver for sustainable food and farming systems”, convened by Chris Kjeldsen, Markus Schermer and Henk Renting, http://ifsa2012.dk/?page_id=341

Deadline for abstract submission extended to 3 January 2012. Deadline for paper submission 1 March 2012

3. XIII World Congress of Rural Sociology of the International Rural Sociology Association (IRSA) on “The New Rural World: From Crises to Opportunities” in Lisbon, Portugal from 29 July to 4 August 2012, Session number 64 “New Forms of Consumer-Producer Cooperation within Food Networks: Comparing Experiences in the North and the South”, convened by Henk Renting, Gianluca Brunori, Flávia Charão Marques and Claire Lamine, http://irsa2012.com/media/uploads/events/irsa2012/XIII_WCRS_sessions_description_session.pdf

Deadline for abstract submission 15 January 2012, Deadline for paper submission 15 May 2012

We propose to use the concept “Civic Food Networks” as a common denominator for the type of newly emerging food networks that we wish to explore in these different Working Group sessions. This term has several advantages compared to other commonly used concepts such as “Short Food Supply Chains”, which has mainly been used in producer-centred analysis and in relation to rural development impacts, and “Alternative Food Networks” which mainly proposes an opposition to dominant, conventional food systems and implicitly supposes that these types of networks never will become mainstream and will continue to remain marginal. Additionally, the term “Civic Food Networks” clearly expresses that the food networks we want to explore have their basis within civil society and that, rather than merely as economic actors, consumers and producers in these networks mainly cooperate as “citizens” in new forms of collective action to shape the food system. As such, they can be understood as expressions of new forms of “food citizenship” in which consumers and producers together regain control over the ways in which food is produced and relations between state, market and civil society within food governance are actively reshaped.

We have tried to ensure that the various WG meetings have a different thematic focus within the topic of Civic Food Networks so the conferences will complement each other and broaden the geographical range of our debates. We are also trying to establish a mailing list of people interested in debates around Civic Food Networks. If you want to be included in this mailing list, please contact us at rentingh@gmail.com or Markus.Schermer@uibk.ac.at

Developing Czech Sitopia

How to get good quality food from your own region? Where to buy fresh and organic food which is in season in the Czech region of Dvur Kralove and in cities such as Trutnov and Broumov? How to get a network going of (potential) producers and (potential) consumers? These were among the questions discussed during a seminar about quality food and permaculture which was held at MIZ in Zdoňov, near the Polish border around 3 hours northeast from Prague on the 14th of May.

During the seminar different aspects of permaculture were presented in both Czech and English to the 10 participants mainly from around Zdoňov. We discussed how to enhance biodiversity, how to build fertile soil, how to start ecological farming and how to set up a regional food network. The seminar concluded with a joint initiative of three presenters to get themselves and their aims known in the region so that other people with similar interest, both consumers and producers can respond.

In a way, this was a tiny start in making Sitopia, I realized today listening to the guest lecture of Carolyn Steel for the Bsc course ‘Agrarische en rurale ontwikkeling; sociologische perspectieven’. Sitopia, she explained is derived from the words “Sitos” and “topos” meaning “food” and “place”. Making place through food, through meals, through sharing, through caring about the origins of your daily meal and thus, searching for a kind of human connection to food which can hardly be expressed in the anonymous context of the supermarket. In this Czech region, there is not much infrastructure yet beyond the faceless produce from globally operating supermarket chains. But just like in many other countries, mentality is shifting and new networks are born each day.

Smagen af Fyn (the taste of Funen)

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This weekend I stayed in Middelfart on the island Funen between Jutland and Zealand (on which Copenhagen is located). For many Danes, Funen represents the island you simply have to cross by highway to arrive in Copenhagen.

However, it has a really beautiful small scale landscape full of hills! The island is fairly round in shape, around 100 kilometers in diameter and is scattered with villages, old manor houses and wind shielding wood groves and hedgerows. It has a very good sea climate and one of the best soils for farming in Denmark. This is why Funen has a tradition in horticulture. It once served as the Vegetable & Fruit garden of Denmark. Whereas in many other places in Denmark and in Europe the Farm Shop was re-invented during the last decade, here it is a phenomenon which never disappeared. You can find self service shops along the roads and many of them, ranging from horticulture, to dairy and meat, organic as well as conventional, are organized in a network called Smagen af Fyn, which means something like the Taste of Funen. There are quite a number of local food producer networks in Denmark and several researchers at IFUL are studying the various aspects of these networks.