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Urban Agriculture: A Response to Food Insecurity? Lubumbashi city, Democratic Republic of Congo

Guinea pig keepers in the North Kivu Province of Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by Neil Palmer. Larger image here.

By Nyumbaiza Tambwe
Conference paperKMAfrica
2009 Dakar



The paper attempts to establish a relationship between urban agriculture and food security. In other words, it seeks to examine the impact of agricultural activities taking place within and around the city of Lubumbashi on household level. The paper uses the sustainable livelihood approach based on the theories of alternative development. Instead of identifying all strategies used in urban areas, the study focuses on urban agriculture because of its potential as source of food and income. On methodological level, using the non-probability sampling, the city was divided into its seven administrative wards. As each ward is administratively divided into areas, each area was taken as reference for the selection of informants.

A quota sampling of two farmers was given to each area regardless the fact that the number of urban farmers or gardeners was unknown. By selecting at least two farmers in each area of each ward, this means that all Lubumbashi wards were representative in the sample. Also most of the socio-economic categories of people living in this city were represented. Gender as well as a third criterion of selection completed the two-mentioned criteria. More than a half farmers selected was women. With 41 administrative areas, a total of 100 farming households were selected.

The body of this paper is structured as into five main sections. The first section explains why the city of Lubumbashi has been chosen as a study site. Secondly, a brief review of the anthropological literature on household strategies is presented with a focus on the household economy. Alternative development literature considers the household as the starting point in the process of production and consumption. The third section as a practical section examines two major components of food security to see whether urban agriculture permits food to be available and accessible to farming households living in the city of Lubumbashi. The section deals with three farming households representing the major categories of farmers. Fourthly, the paper identifies various types of strategies used by individuals and households to address the question of food insecurity in the city of Lubumbashi. Finally the fifth section emphasizes the role played by women in the household as caregivers and managers. Here, particular attention is drawn on the reinforcement of women’s role in the household and the burden it implies.


In the context of economic crisis with a weak state, the household economy is already becoming a response to food insecurity. The practice of cultivation in the city of Lubumbashi has rendered almost all selected households self-sufficient in vegetables through the techniques of diversification, rotation, and alternation all along the year.

Temporary food security (harvest) has also been observed concerning maize. During that period, two to three maize meals a day become possible. But it must be added that only very few households became food secure for the entire year (the Kadony household). The case of Kilambe household is in between the Kadony and the Ngoy household. While through urban agriculture Kadony household succeeded to move out of food insecurity, the Ngoy standard of life continued declining. Kilambe did not necessarily move out of food insecurity, but his condition was not declining. This category of households may become food secure and move out of poverty if a financial support is given to them. Therefore, the role of the government and development agencies is crucial. The case of urban agriculture in Great Gaborone (Botwsana), which through grants received from the government became an entrepreneurial activity, is illustrative (Hovorka, 2004).

The complete paper can be read here.