Summer Fellowship Report - Cascade Tuholske



06/25/2018 (All day)


Cascade Tuholske

Earth Research Institute, UCSB Summer Fellowship Report Cascade Tuholske


Urban food security remains one of the least understood, yet fastest changing, component of human- environment dynamics in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Across the region demographics are rapidly shifting from predominately rural to predominately urban, with much of this urban growth among the poorest and most vulnerable populations. Given the potential of climate change to reduce food production in SSA and increase food prices, how climate change and variability may affect the urban poor’s ability to access food in Sub-Saharan Africa is a foremost question of global concern. We can hypothesis that (1) household food security is spatiotemporally heterogeneous throughout a city, (2) poverty is a significant estimator of lower levels of household food security, and (3) because poor households spend a majority of their income on food, climatic shifts that would affect supply and increase food prices would render such households food insecure.However, our lack of baseline urban household food security data for much of the region inhibits our ability to understand how urban food security manifests over space, and time, and how it may be connected to broader environment force.


According to the United Nations, Sub-Saharan Africa is urbanizing at unprecedented rates: nearly 350 million people lived in cities in SSA in 2014 and the region’s total urban population is projected to balloon to 1.1 billion by 2050 (UN 2014). Eastern Africa and Western Africa have the second and third highest rates of urban growth, 1.7% and 1.6% respective, in the world behind of China. Much of this urban growth is concentrated among the poorest and most vulnerable population. Indeed, UN Habitat estimates that 55.9% of urban dwellers in Sub-Saharan Africa live in slums. How such urban growth, poverty, and household food security are related is poorly understood (Frayne et al. 2010; Maxwell et al. 2000). A small body of research suggests that low-income urban dwellers in the region are food insecure. Research from the African Food Security Network that measured household food security in 11 cities across Southern Africa found a significant relationship (p<0.001) between food security and poverty (Frayne et al. 2010). A study estimating the effects of the 2007 price shocks on urban food security in Ouagadougou found that the lowest income households’ food security was not affected by the price shock because they already had low levels of food security. Middle-income urban households, however, reported a decrease in dietary diversity in 2008 (Martin-Prevel et al. 2012). In Nairobi, 85% of households in slums report being food insecure, though these results cannot be compared to areas outside of slums (Kimani-Murage et al. 2014).

Data Collection Summer 2017

During July and August 2017, a team from the University of California, Santa Barbara and the International Food Policy Research Institute’s Accra office (IFPRI), with the assistance of local enumerators, conducted 680 household surveys in low- and middle-income residential areas in Accra, Ghana. Based on a previous structured urban food security survey conducted in Lusaka, Zambia in spring 2017, the Accra survey included question modules covering demographic, dwelling, labor, income, and socioeconomic characteristics, as well as food consumption, food expenditures and market preference. Because fine-scale household demographic data was unavailable for random sampling, the survey employed structured area sampling that targeted households in known low- and middle-income residential areas (Fig. 1) of the city designed. Surveys were conducted at even spatial spacing between houses within a given residential area. Additional food price data was collected from market venders and shops. Meetings with stakeholders, including employees of the Accra Metropolitan Authority, Ghana Statistical Services and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, to assist in the design of this study and obtain secondary datasets.

Figure 1 Residential areas designated by UN Habitat as slums in Accra, Ghana (Source: Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA). (2011). Slum Situation Analysis Report Participatory Slum Upgrading and Prevention: Millennium City of Accra, Ghana. UN Habitat.)

As such, few studies have assessed the demographic, socioeconomic, and dwelling predictors of urban food security and food consumption at the household-level, a crucial food step to connect urban food security to human-environment dynamics affecting the broader food system.

Preliminary Results

Preliminary results indicate that the majority of low- and middle-income households in Accra are food insecurity. Nearly 70% of respondents reported being mildly to severely food insecure (Table 1) according to FAO’s Household Food Insecurity Access Prevalence (HFIAP). The HFIA is a categorical indicator of food insecure constructed from nine questions used to calculate the Household Food Insecurity Access Scale (HFIAS). The nine questions are subjective and designed to estimate a household’s perceived ability to access food, anxiety related to food security, and actions taken to reduce of food quantity and quality (Coates et al. 2007). For example, “In the past four weeks, did you or any household member have to eat a limited variety of foods due to a lack of resources?” explores a household’s deduced dietary diversity. If a household responds ‘yes’ to any of the nine questions, frequency is recorded. The HFIAP uses a logic tree based on responses to divide households into four categories of food insecurity (Table 1). While our results suggest a high degree of food insecurity, most households reported low frequency of situations related to food insecurity. For example, to the question, “In the past four weeks, did you or any household member have to eat fewer meals in a day because there was not enough food,” 36% of households responded yes. However, nearly 50% of these households said it happened only 1-2 times per month. This indicates that

households contend with food insecure situations at low-frequency throughout a month, but are vulnerable to situations that would reduce their ability to access food such as a loss of income or price increases.

Spatially, household food security in highly heterogeneous (Fig. 2). The results suggests that, while respondents live in low-income residential areas or slums, at the household-level, food security varies greatly within a given neighborhood. This casts doubt on a strict slum-verse-non-slum dichotomy to characterize low-income areas of large SSA cities like Accra (Weeks et al. 2007).

Figure 2 Spatial distribution of respondents colored by the Household Food Insecurity Access Prevalence (HFIAP) in Accra.

Future Work

The next step will be to explore the demographic, socioeconomic, and spatial predictors of the HFIAP. These results with be compared to the Food Consumption Score FCS, another food insecurity develop by the World Food Program indicator, included in the survey. The FCS uses a seven-day dietary recall to estimate dietary diversity as a proxy for food security. Demand elasticity will be calculated for specific food categories, as well as the how share of food expenditures vary with income and household characteristics. Additionally, results from Accra will be compared with results from the Lusaka urban food security survey.

Finally, in Zambia, the urban food security data will be integrated into a broader NSF-funded study of Zambia’s food system lead by Professor Kelly Caylor. Along with completing two urban household and market food security household surveys in Lusaka, he and his collaborators have already coupled traditional surveys of smallholder farmers with regular SMS-surveys to understand famers’ decision making and perceptions of climate. The answers farmers have provided to the SMS-surveys will then been compared to climatic data collected from in-situ, real-time climate sensors placed in farmer’s fields and remote sensed data to help understand how farmer’s perceptions of weather, and the decisions they make relate, compare to measurements from the sensors. Connecting farmers’ decisions and climatic data with crop yields, market prices, and urban household food security estimations will aide in building an overall understanding of the rural-urban and human-environment links driving Zambia’s food system.


Along with UCSB’s Earth Research Institute, this work was supported by a U.S. Borlaug Fellowship in Global Food Security and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Special thanks to IFPRI- Ghana’s staff: Dr. Kwaw Andam and Seth Asente.


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Frayne, Bruce, Wade Pendleton, Jonathan Crush, Ben Acquah, Jane Battersby-Lennard, Eugenio Bras, Asiyati Chiweza, et al. 2010. “The State of Urban Food Insecurity in Southern Africa,” June.

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