Beyond formality: how embracing informal markets can drive inclusive economic growth
Did you know that informal food markets play a fundamental role in providing food and livelihoods to millions of people in low-income countries? Yet, they are often overlooked and undervalued or outright criminalised. Recognising and supporting these informal food systems is crucial to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for food and nutrition security, decent work, gender equality, urban resilience, and climate action.
A recent working paper, published by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and SNV, urges development organisations to work constructively with informal actors, recognising what they do well, rather than relying on formal regulations and interventions that may not fit local contexts. The paper emphasises that informal markets are a dynamic and resilient feature of urbanisation and rural development that provide flexible and innovative solutions to resource constraints and political marginalisation. The fact that vulnerable women and youth play a central role in informal food systems, further underlines the importance of this issue.
‘We can’t ignore the fact that poor women and men depend on a system that we vastly overlook. How unjust is that? By recognising the power of informal food systems and working in partnership with informal actors, we can achieve resilient food and nutrition security and inclusive economic growth,’ says Zala Zbogar, Learning and Communication Advisor for Agri-Food Systems at SNV.
Working in partnership with informal actors, recognising what they do well, and building on their contributions to food and nutrition security, decent work, gender equality, urban resilience, and climate action is essential for achieving the SDGs.
'It's time to stop overlooking and undervaluing informal food systems that play a crucial role in providing food and livelihoods to millions of people in low-income countries. We cannot afford to ignore the potential of these systems and the producers, consumers, and workers who depend on them,' says Bill Vorley, Senior associate for Shaping Sustainable Markets at IIED.
'Any serious strategy for food systems transformation should be working with informality rather than hoping for it to be eclipsed,' he added.
Join us to discuss the new working paper in a webinar on 25 May 2023 hosted by SNV, the Netherlands Food Partnership, and Wageningen University and Research.
Cover photo: A busy street vendor in nighttime Bandung © Kumal Jufri, Panos for Hivos