Evidence Resources

CEE Evidence Syntheses

What are the impacts of urban agriculture programs on food security in low and middle-income countries? (systematic review)



Urban Agriculture is considered to contribute to improved food security among the income poor in urban contexts across developing countries. Much literature exists on the topic assuming a positive relationship. The aim of this review was to collect and analyse available evidence on the impact of urban agriculture in low and middle-income countries.


We employed systematic review methods to identify all relevant and reliable research on UA’s impact on food security and nutrition. Only impact evaluations that set out to measure the effectiveness of UA interventions on food security, as compared to the effects of not engaging in UA, qualified for inclusion. Studies had to have a comparison group and at least two data points.


Systematic searches resulted in 8142 hits, and screening of abstracts resulted in 198 full texts identified. No studies met the review’s inclusion criteria. Therefore, the review found no available evidence that supports or refutes the suggestion that urban agriculture positively impacts on individual or household food security in low and middle-income countries. The largest proportion of studies at full text stage was excluded based on study design, as they were not impact evaluations, i.e. they did not have a comparison group and at least data points. Two observations were made: Firstly, searches yielded a range of studies that consider associations between UA and certain aspects of food security. Secondly, there is a large pool of cross-sectional studies on UA’s potential to contribute to increased food security, particularly from west and east Africa.


The research currently available does not allow for any conclusions to be made on whether or not urban agriculture initiatives contribute to food security. The fact that impact evaluations are absent from the current evidence-base calls for increased efforts to measure the impact of urban agriculture on food security in low and middle-income countries through rigorous impact evaluations. With regard to systematic review methodology, this review alludes to the value of compiling a systematic map prior to engaging in a full systematic review.


Urban agriculture; Food security; Nutrition; Impact; Systematic review; Urbanisation

Who's in the review team?

Marcel Korth
Ruth Stewart
Laurenz Langer
Nolizwe Madinga
Natalie Rebelo Da Silva
Hazel Zaranyika
Carina van Rooyen
Thea de Wet

At what stage is the review?

Completed Systematic Review

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