Are the cities of West and Central Africa so dependant on food imports?
 © Yves Le Bars

Since 2007, international food prices spikes have relaunched the discussions on food dependency of vulnerable countries and cities. In the 1990’s, many studies argued that local food production is stimulated by urbanization; this is not the case anymore and most researches focus on the issue of import dependency. In this study, we aim at identifying the main structures of food consumption in 15 west and central African countries.

Based on 36 national household consumption surveys in these countries, we show that cities are not so heavily dependent on imports as usually assumed.

First, although imported wheat and rice are dominant in starchy products consumed by city dwellers, we show that local starchy products (maize, cassava, sorghum, and to a lesser extent yam and plantain) are still heavily consumed.

Second, starchy products represent only one third of the urban food consumption, in economic value. Animal products (another third of urban food consumption) and sauce products (vegetables, legume, oils, sugar and condiments) plus fruits and beverages (the last third) are mainly locally sourced.

Such a finding reveals that urban food market is able to lead the development of local food chains. Given that calorie inputs are less and less important limiting factors for nutrition in the region under study, and that over-consumption of calories is often combined to micro-nutrients deficiency, we conclude that food policies must take into account all food products (instead of cereals only), and in particular those which contribute to diet diversification.

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Nicolas Bricas, Claude Tchamba, Pauline Martin
Cahiers Agriculture