Document Type

Migration Policy Series

Publication Date



Balsillie School of International Affairs


By drawing attention to the importance of food remittances for urban and rural food security and identifying the current knowledge gaps, this report contributes to the study of the relationship between migration and food security and creates a platform for the design of a new research agenda. Across Africa, there is considerable evidence of a massive informal trade in food, including staples, fresh and processed products. While most cross-border trade in foodstuffs is a result of commercial transactions by small-scale traders who buy in one country and sell in another, an unknown proportion is actually food remittances on their way from migrants to kin in their country of origin. A SAMP survey of 4,765 migrant-sending households in five SADC countries found that goods remitting was a significant component of overall remittance flows within the region. Within countries there is now considerable evidence that urban migrant households rely to varying degrees on an informal supply of food from their rural counterparts to survive in precarious urban environments. The two case studies presented in this report are designed to highlight different facets of food remitting with potentially broader applicability. The Harare study looks at food remittances under conditions of extreme economic and political duress, and the Windhoek research provides an important example of cash remittances for food remittances reciprocity.