Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)


General comment: It’s great that FAO is hosting this on-line forum as it has been my experience that the work on streetfoods and, associated literature, tends to be quite separate and needs to be more thoroughly integrated.

1.    Are you aware of actual direct links between street food vendors and local urban farmers?

The following answer is based on evidence I am aware of and can vouch for due to my involvement in both streetfoods and urban agriculture research for more than 20 years.  Here is my attempt to answer question 1 with answers to the other questions coming over the next week or so.

In my report for the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) entitled “Urban Agriculture in India” available at: the case of Dr RT Doshi is described on p. 25 talks about how Dr. Doshi – an internationally recognized leader in urban food production – obtained biomass from sugar cane vendors for his own food production work (hence, the relationship is the inverse in this case to the assumed one of vendors selling the products of urban agriculture). Since this report was published, a plethora of information on Dr. Doshi’s work has become available on the internet, including videos.

On pp. 32-33 there is following quote “The M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) estimated that there is a great potential for flower cultivation, especially orchids, in urban and peri-urban parts of India. At a workshop on women and food security, this type of micro enterprise development was identified as a potentially profitable source of income for women (MSSRF 2000, Annexure 2b).” However, there is no reference to supply chains leading to their sale by street vendors.

The document also has reference to wastewater aquaculture in West Bengal, which can be in peri-urban areas and typically supplies the needs of urban dwellers (pp. 29-30). There is also reference to animal husbandry in urban areas as well as cultivation of ornamental plants.

In the technical report I edited for FAO entitled Feeding Asian Cities (available at while there is discussion of both urban agriculture and street vending, there is little on linking the two, though both are associated with poverty alleviation.  Having said that, pp. 17-22 are very useful for understanding food supply and distribution to cities, including production in urban and peri-urban areas.

There is a bit more in my book, Bangkok’s Foodscape ( A section beginning on p. 57 talks about supply linkages and the role of market gardens in Rangsit (just outside of Bangkok, which I would classify as peri-urban agriculture), which supplied some of the vendors interviewed. Having said that, the economic boom of the early to mid-nineties resulted in significant amounts of agricultural land on the urban periphery being converted to other uses. Vendors reported buying their fish from wholesale markets in Bangkok which obtained their supply from the eastern seaboard with meat, poultry and particularly eggs (which are less regulated) coming from urban/peri-urban areas.

Conclusion: there needs to be a thorough literature review to elucidate the relationship between streetvending and UPA (with both being clearly defined – particularly the latter which should include commercially oriented market-gardens, etc. I suspect decisions by vendors as to where they obtain their supply are primarily related to pricing, particularly in low-income situations.