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Coping with urban food insecurity: findings from Kampala, Uganda*

  • Johan Pottier (a1)


Research carried out in two densely populated wards of Kampala in 2012 shows that food-insecure households dropped, or significantly decreased, their consumption of matoke, the plantain staple, soon after its availability declined and the market price rose. They shifted to a diet for which the base was a stiff maize porridge (posho), eating just one meal a day. Many such households were headed by grandparents, single grandmothers especially. For the full set of household heads interviewed (118), access to rural family land (kibanja) stood out as critical for achieving year-round urban food security. With few exceptions, households that farmed ‘at home’ – about half the sample – saw themselves as food secure. Access negotiations, however, could be difficult, especially for women. The growing number of grandparents responsible for raising grandchildren and nieces/nephews, many of whom were orphaned, has given rise to a new discourse whereby care is increasingly given to maternal grandchildren.


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I am grateful to the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science for funding my research in Kampala and Lilongwe (Grant-in-Aid Ref: A-22242029), and to Professor Eisei Kurimoto and Dr Akiko Ueda for inviting me to participate in the GLOCOL (Osaka University) Food Security research programme. Thanks are extended to everyone who collaborated in this research and facilitated my presence in Kampala, especially Drs Paul Bukuluki and David Kaawa-Mafigiri, from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Makerere University, and Judith Nyanzi and Mustafah Mubiru, researchers at the Centre for Social Science Research on AIDS (CeSSRA), Makerere, who provided excellent interpreting services. A draft of this paper was discussed at the International Symposium on the Anthropological Study of Food Security, Osaka, 19–20 December 2013; I alone am responsible for its content. I also wish to thank the anonymous reviewers for their invaluable comments and suggestions.



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