Urbanization processes and nutrition supply systems

Cedric Janowicz

The problem background of the sociological part of the project is the ongoing discus-sion about the connection of demographic growth processes in developing countries and nutrition supply systems. In the discussion about the connection of demographic growth processes and nutrition supply systems the phenomenon of world wide urbanization plays an increasing role. The beginning of the 21st century is accompanied by a far-reaching social-spatial reorganization of the world population. Urbanization is one of the central social processes of the last 150 years and an ongoing trend towards urbaniza-tion is noticeable. Already at this moment the population of the cities is growing by more than 60 million per year and according to UNO prognosis in the year 2025 for the first time in the history of mankind the majority of the world population will be living in cities or urban conurbations. Especially developing countries show - with all their regional differences - a historically unique rate of urbanization.

In the context of nutrition supply of the population, urban spaces have always played an important role: on the one hand they are the place where almost all kinds of produce and nutrition resources are spatial tied to, so that cities play a central role in the administra-tive coordination of the production and the distribution of all kinds of produce. On the other hand they consume themselves a great deal of produce. The, with urbanization processes combined town and country migration causes furthermore structural weaken-ing and supply problems of the cities, as well as rural areas: with the loss of efficient manpower the rural productivity is decreasing all the way to jeopardizing self-sufficiency. In addition to that agricultural characterized supply structures, which can be found in most parts of the southern region, depend on a relatively stable population be-cause of necessary local knowledge of successful agriculture and also because of most complex property arrangements of means of production.

Against the background of demographic changing processes in developing regions it is necessary to state more precisely in which relation urbanization processes are to nutri-tion supply systems. Altogether so far there is little knowledge about this context. The relevant studies are mainly on a purely descriptive level and argue that already a mere change of the social–spatial distribution structure of the population (size and denseness) imply serious consequences -such as food shortage- for the urban nutrition supply. To grasp the dynamics of urban transformation processes within the supply systems, the study is determined to be carried out from an actor-theoretical perspective, consequently the focus of the analysis lays in the different action strategies of the rural actors. Such a perspective reveals that the in the context of urban food supply to be analyzed regula-tion patterns are results of intended and non-intended social practices, concrete social contexts and existing ecological conditions. As research region the city of Accra in Ghana was chosen. The region around Accra was chosen for different reasons: even if Ghana has compared to the whole African continent a rather average demographic growth and urbanization rate, Accra is one of the most dynamic regions in West Africa: was the average urbanization rate in 1930 at 6%, nowadays the rate is at 40%. With a population of 1,8 million the region of Accra has more than doubled within the last 20 years. At the same time the city’s area grew by an incredible 318%. Accra is encounter-ing typical problems of fast developing population centers in developing regions (high unemployment, shortage in food supply, destruction of farm land due to fast growing urban areas, etc.) and is therefore especially suitable to specify complex social-ecological connections between urbanization processes and nutrition supply systems empirical.

February 2005