Problematizing the effect of rural-urban linkages on food security and malnutrition in Guatemala´s western highlands

By: Ioulia Fenton (IESAD)

Strong rural-urban linkages are increasingly seen as key to achieving sustainable livelihoods and food security in developing countries. However, not all linkages are positive and, although this is recognised in literature, few explore their potential unfavourable characteristics. Based on twelve weeks fieldwork in Guatemala this paper aims to contribute in four ways. Firstly, it details the extent of rural-urban linkages in the lives of ordinary Guatemalans, the reasons for their existence and the contribution they make to food security. Secondly, it highlights the existence of rural-urban criminal networks that negatively impact livelihoods and food security. Thirdly, it illustrates how poor quality linkages in government administration and service provision render them ineffective in alleviating food insecurity and malnutrition. Finally, by focusing on the case of Coca-Cola, it illustrates how extensive rural-urban networks of processed food and drink companies bring with them economic benefits, but adversely affect food security and nutrition through a number of mechanisms. The paper concludes that in order to better design policies aimed at improving livelihoods, food security and nutrition, the growth of rural-urban linkages in different spheres of private and public life should be analysed for its negative as well as positive contributions.

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