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Building a resilient city for whom? Exploring the gendered processes of adaptation to change: a case study of street vendors in Hanoi

Nozomi Kawarazuka

Working paper, 37 pages

Drawing upon examples of street vendors in Hanoi, this study explores gendered strategies to adapt to change and transform, and how street vendors’ responses, in turn, shape the current informal food systems in Hanoi. To do this, the study employs gender analysis drawn from critical social theory.

The findings show that a vast majority of these street vendors are women, and for those women, informal food systems are operated based on social, rather than economic, mechanisms through which those women are able to sustain their livelihoods in the face of policy and/or economic changes.

In contrast, male street vendors’ activities are closer to the formal market systems in the sense that their business is based on capital and economic interactions rather than social relations. Most of the female vendors also often allow their regular customers to buy their produce on credit or purchase low-value or leftover items at lower prices, facilitating poor people’s daily access to micro-nutrient-rich food meanwhile minimising food waste.

In that context, and without a clear appreciation of these gendered adaptive strategies, policy which encourage the formalisation of food systems, run the risk to exclude or marginalize further urban and rural poor female smallholders and low-income consumers. The analysis also shows that some street vendors target not only urban poor but also rich and middle-class people by investing in livestock or fruits production to meet the increasing demand from middle-class for those products. Other vendors grow and sell local vegetables, remaining with limited provision for future change. The study concludes with a series of policy recommendations for building a climate resilient city for the poor.

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The Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN) is an eight-year, multi-country initiative working with cities across the world to increase resilience to climate change. IIED is a regional partner within ACCCRN.

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