Home-based agricultural production as a food security coping strategy for urban households: A case of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
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Urban food insecurity in Zimbabwe is a serious stumbling block to the attainment of sustainable urban livelihoods. The casual factors of the urban food crisis in the country include widespread poverty, an unstable economic environment, a reduction of viable employment opportunities and climate-related shocks. The cash-based nature of urban livelihoods, coupled with the economic crisis in Zimbabwe has generated a serious challenge for urban households as basic food prices have increased to such an extent that most urban dwellers experience difficulties in purchasing food. In a context of high poverty and unemployment, urban agriculture has emerged as a food security and livelihood diversification strategy for many poor urban households. Whilst there is a growing body of literature focusing on urban agriculture in Zimbabwe, it has largely focused on community and allotment gardens. There has, however, been little empirical investigation of home-based (or backyard) agricultural production. While backyard gardens have always existed, they have grown in response to poor economic conditions and adverse livelihood conditions. The Bulawayo Municipal Council Agriculture Policy has facilitated this expansion, especially the growth of poultry production. This study addresses this gap in the literature by investigating the contribution of home-based agricultural production in promoting household food security and livelihoods in Bulawayo. A mixed methods approach was utilised for the purposes of the study. In the quantitative part of the study, 99 households were randomly sampled whilst 10 purposively sampled interviews with urban farmers, 3 key informant interviews and 1 focus group discussion were employed for the qualitative part of the study. The Sustainable Livelihoods Framework, which was used as a theoretical framework of the study, helped to unpack the various livelihood diversification strategies and asset portfolios that poor people depend on for their well-being. Contrary to our initial assumption, the results of the study revealed that 71 percent of the households in the study area were food secure. The findings of the study reveal that home-based urban agriculture is an important food security coping strategy in Bulawayo. The high levels of food security in Bulawayo should however, not be solely attributed to the practice of urban agriculture as 75 percent of the respondents bought their food from supermarkets and other shops. Urban agriculture thus plays a complimentary role to household food security in Bulawayo.