The Symbiotic Food System of Dar es Salaam – new publication

Just published in a Special Issue of Agriculture: ‘The Symbiotic Food System: An ‘Alternative’ Agri-Food System Already Working at Scale

Wegerif - WomanMaizeTradersUnderTree

Woman Maize Traders in Dar es Salaam, source Marc Wegerif

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.

Feeding Dar es Salaam: where does all the meat come from?

By Marc Wegerif. PhD-candidate at the Rural Sociology Group, Wageningen University and carrying out research on food provisioning in Dar es Salaam. Contact: marc.wegerif@wur.nl

It was a Sunday afternoon, I sat at a table drinking beer and eating a grilled goat’s leg with Larry and Samuel. We were at the Pugu cattle market on the edge of Dar es Salaam and my companions were and are meat traders, butchers I suppose, there to buy some cattle. Dar es Salaam is Tanzania’s largest city with a fast growing population of around 4.5 million making it a major market for animals from across the country. From our table in the shade we could see groups of cattle and observe negotiations going on and the odd fight between bulls and arguments between traders. Continue reading

On the milk trail – Food provisioning in Dar es Salaam

By Marc Wegerif. PhD Candidate, Rural Sociology Group Wageningen University, carrying out research on food provisioning in Dar es Salaam. Contact: marc.wegerif@wur.nl

It’s Saturday morning in Dar es Salaam, no rushing to school and work today. I walk to the duka (shop) a few metres from my house, (you can read more about the duka in http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/6/6/3747). After greeting the shop owner and another customer standing at the counter, I buy eggs, chapattis cooked that morning by one of my neighbours and fresh milk in a plastic half litre package for 1,100 Tanzanian Shillings (Euro 0.52). Ready for breakfast and I think it is time to write a few lines about where the milk I just bought comes from.

Man and Women after delivering milk to the collection centre in Pongwe Village

Man and Women after delivering milk to the collection centre in Pongwe Village

On a morning a few weeks earlier I was standing in Pongwe Village, Tanga Region, watching as buckets and other containers of milk were lined up at the Tanga Fresh milk collection centre. Most of the containers were brought by young men on bicycles and motorbikes, women of all ages came on foot buckets on their head or in their hands and some older men were there as well. Tatu (not her real name), in her twenties, dressed in a clean white coat, hair net and boots – the classic uniform of hygiene – was taking samples from every container to check the quality of the milk and for any impurities. The milk that met the standards (most of it did) was poured into a shiny stainless steel container, weighed, then filtered before being put into one of two large shiny and cooled tanks in the back room of the building. Later in the day a truck would collect the milk and take it to the Tanga Fresh dairy. Continue reading