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Why food remittances matter: rural-urban linkages and food security in Africa

Jonathan Crush, Mary Caesar

Briefing, 4 pages

The transfer of funds by migrants to their home countries (cash remittances) is at an all-time high. By 2017, it is predicted to rise to US$500 billion – and there is a growing policy consensus that cash remittances can be mainstreamed into development. Equally, food remitting also has a role to play in urban and rural food security. Yet despite its importance, researchers and policymakers tend to ignore food remitting. This briefing is aimed at researchers and policymakers interested in transforming rural-urban linkages and the implications for food security of rural and urban residents. The current rural-urban binary is arbitrary, outdated and unhelpful. At a time of rapid urbanisation in the global South, a wider lens is needed: focusing on rural-urban linkages and moving beyond cash-based, market transactions to consider the bidirectional flows of goods – including food – and their impact on food security. Using case studies from Zimbabwe and Namibia, this report demonstrates how lessons related to food remitting can be applied in other African contexts – and highlights the urgent need for a new research agenda.

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Urbanisation drives profound transformations in rural areas and in food systems, presenting both challenges and opportunities for poverty reduction, rural development and food security. Policies at the local, national, regional and global scales are of critical importance in shaping rural-urban linkages and the political economy of food systems.

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Urbanisation, rural-urban transformations and food systems