The Symbiotic Food System: An ‘Alternative’ Agri-Food System Already Working at Scale

Marc Wegerif, Paul Hebinck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


This article is an analysis of the agri-food system that feeds most of the over four million residents of the fast growing city of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. It is based on qualitative research that has traced the sources of some important foods from urban eaters back through retailers, processors and transporters to the primary producers. Particular attention is given to the functioning of the
market places and how new actors enter into the food system. These reveal that more important to the system than competition are various forms of collaboration. Of particular interest is how a wide range of small-scale and interdependent actors produce the food and get it to urban eaters at a city feeding scale without large vertically- or horizontally-integrated corporate structures. This “symbiotic food system” is an existing alternative to the corporate-dominated agri-business food system; it can and does deliver at scale and in a way that better responds to the needs of people in poverty who are buying food and the interests of food producers. It is not perfect in Dar es Salaam, but the food system is working and is a model that should be built on.
Original languageEnglish
Article number40
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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