Hello, my name is Sofie Versmissen. I am 23 years old and I am a master’s student in Sustainable Development at the geography department of the University of Leuven, Belgium. My undergraduate degree is in sociology, so I have a particular interest in dynamics and relations between individuals, social groups and institutions.
For my master thesis research, I am studying the importance of informal food vendors in rapidly growing cities. As money is a necessary means to survive in a city, the lack of formal jobs in rapidly growing cities often pushes urban dwellers into the informal economy. Informal subsistence trade of food products is dominant in the informal trade sector and it contributes significantly to the diet of urban dwellers. This urban food security nexus involving gaining a daily wage and access to low-cost food is what I will be assessing, with Kampala as my case study. My research is quantitative and as for the data collection, I will be conducting structured interviews with households and food vendors in several parishes of Kampala. My master thesis is part of the Food4Cities project, in which both KU Leuven and Makarere University are involved. This project explores food system transformations and scenarios in rapidly changing African cities with the goal of reducing risks of urban malnutrition and food insecurity. The interviews that I will carry out in Kampala will primarily contribute to data collection for this entire research project.
When this research project was introduced to me, I was very much motivated to put my shoulder into it. During my master’s degree, I really enjoy courses related to urban studies because it involves an analysis of complex situations with various stakeholders and their connections. Different perspectives are considered and contextually appropriate solutions must be found within this puzzle. In addition, urban studies often deal with concrete situations in which current and relevant problems are addressed and studied. I am very pleased that with my master’s thesis I can also investigate a current situation that increasingly requires additional consideration, under the good supervision of a multi-university research group.