SLU news

New SLU project about entrepreneurial urban and peri-urban agriculture in Tanzania

Published: 28 February 2018

Between 2010 and 2030, FAO projects that Africa’s urban population will double. With urbanization taking place at such a fast pace, it becomes important to understand how urban and peri-urban agriculture (UPA) can contribute to sustainable urban development. A new SLU project, funded by FORMAS, will specifically research entrepreneurial UPA in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, from a gender and generational perspective. The project will be carried out at the Department of Urban and Rural Development by researchers Katarina Pettersson and Johanna Bergman Lodin, together with a PhD candidate.

SLU Global interviewed Katarina Pettersson and Johanna Bergman Lodin about their new project.

SLU Global: So what is actually entrepreneurial UPA and why are you focusing on that?

Johanna Bergman Lodin: Entrepreneurial UPA is referring to when food is produced mainly for the purpose of selling to generate income. Although the pathway from UPA to food security can both be direct through own food production and indirect through the market, there is not much research that has explored the forms and functions of entrepreneurial UPA. Actually, we have not found any similar research considering Dar-es-Salaam, yet UPA has been identified as the second most important livelihood source in the city. 

Additionally, UPA is usually perceived as a survival, subsistence or risk buffering strategy by the poor, born out of an urban crisis and in response to rising global food prices. But we argue that UPA is evolving in contexts not only characterized by poverty but also by innovation and dynamism, creating unique market opportunities for particularly high value perishable products such as meat, dairy, fish, eggs, fruits and vegetables. Thereby, UPA can also be a deliberate accumulation strategy actively pursued by entrepreneurial persons from different socio-economic classes. So, this project will focus on those having diversified into agriculture instead of out of it, at a time when much research describes diversification out of agriculture as the general pathway out of poverty and where the urban is associated with the non-agricultural.

We hope that our project can contribute to a broadening of the conceptual understanding of UPA and its roles and functions in feeding and providing a livelihood for urban populations in developing contexts.

SLU Global: And you are going to research how entrepreneurial UPA is gendered.

Katarina Pettersson: Yes, that is correct. Entrepreneurship in other sectors and geographical contexts have led to gendered social change and women’s empowerment. But there is a lack of research on how entrepreneurial UPA in the African context is gendered.

We have also noticed how research both on how UPA is gendered and how entrepreneurship is gendered mainly have focused on women to date. We will research both adult and young women and men, and explore how entrepreneurship can empower them. By including men and by considering masculinities, we want to escape the inherent weakness of ‘women-only’ approaches that in the long run risk reinforcing gender stereotypes and intensify gender inequalities. Accounting for generational aspects is equally important.

SLU Global: We could not agree more. Youth in agriculture for development is also high on our agenda here at SLU Global.

Katarina: This makes sense. Africa’s population is very young, and Tanzania’s is no exception, and there is an increasing attention amongst researchers, policymakers and practitioners on how to address youth unemployment, youth’s migration to the urban areas and their reluctance to pursue a farming career. By considering young UPA entrepreneurs in this project, we hope to contribute to these discussions by both identifying opportunities and challenges for young women and men to engage in this sector and to what extent entrepreneurial UPA may provide a pathway to empowerment for them.

SLU Global: The focus on empowerment seems important to you.

Johanna: It is. We want to understand how women’s, men’s and youth’s engagement in entrepreneurial UPA affects their gendered positions within the household, community and market in terms of their empowerment. Women’s empowerment is not only an end in itself but also an important mediator between entrepreneurial UPA and intra-household food security, since research shows that women spend more of their income on healthcare, education and nutrition than men. But we sometimes tend to forget that also marginalized men – whether we speak in terms of income, ethnicity or social class – may be disadvantaged and disempowered. They may be vulnerable to unemployment, exploitative labor relations and violent regimes of masculinity, which negatively affects food security and gender relations in their households. Therefore, entrepreneurial UPA may empower them vis-à-vis high-status men. Also, as Katarina mentioned, Tanzania’s population is very young with many living in cities that extend few opportunities to them. UPA may offer an outlet for their resourcefulness, creativity and adaptability to flourish.

SLU Global: Finally, what do you anticipate will be the major contribution of your project to policy and practice?

Katarina: We anticipate that this project will contribute to the identification of the policy and practice interventions needed to develop the UPA sector in a gender and generation sensitive, inclusive and sustainable way. In the short term, our project can help the various UPA stakeholders to understand the ways in which urban agriculture and entrepreneurship is gendered. It will also identify practical and strategic needs for the improvement of the urban food sector in Tanzania. The project will also provide knowledge that can inform policy decisions on critical issues related to for instance urban planning and development, urban farming, entrepreneurship, gender equality and youth employment that in the long run may impact the possibility to feed and create livelihood opportunities for large parts of the urban populations.

The gendered and generational opportunities and challenges for entrepreneurial UPA farmers in Dar-es-Salaam that will be charted in this project will also enable us to identify policy and practice interventions for gender and generation sensitive integration of UPA in urban planning in contexts similar to our empirical case.

On a final note, the thematic focus of the project is aligned to contribute to attaining a number of the sustainable development goals, particularly those on inclusive and sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11), gender equality and women’s empowerment (SDG 5), reduced inequality within and between countries (SDG 10), and improved food and nutrition security and sustainable agriculture (SDG 2).

For further information, please contact:

Katarina Pettersson,

Johanna Bergman Lodin,