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Rapid urbanization of the planet has placed pressure on humanity to build sustainable, healthy, and socially just cities. In particular, key challenges associated with food access threaten the livability of the urban environment. For this reason, research on urban food systems has increased significantly, as scholars have studied the production, distribution, acquisition, consumption, and waste of food. However, key research gaps persist, as it remains unclear how urban food systems are governed and the roles that different institutions play to ensure that cities are livable. In particular, while food civil society organizations (FCSOs) have emerged as important players in urban food systems in lower-income regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa, FCSOs are poorly understood. This has resulted in an inadequate theorization of their institutional roles, governance structures, and potential impacts. To fill this critical research gap, this paper analyzes the roles of FCSOs, including the range of food non-governmental organizations (FNGOs), food community-based organizations (FCBOs), and food social movements (FSMs) in Sub-Saharan Africa. While this paper highlights the range of scholarship devoted to urban food systems, key empirical and theoretical gaps remain unanswered by scholars. Importantly, the size, structure, and spatiality of urban food systems are not well understood. In addition, it remains unclear how FCSOs intersect with broader political, economic, and social processes of inequality. Moreover, given the range of informal livelihood strategies that urban residents utilize to access food, more scholarship is needed to understand the innovative ways that FSCOs are integrated into the daily lives of people residing in Sub-Saharan Africa.


© 2016 The Author(s)