The impact of rural-to-urban migration on the sustainability of urban diets in sub-Saharan Africa

Grantham Scholar Carol Auma is currently a Teaching Fellow in Nutrition at the University of Leeds, School of Food Science and Nutrition.

She also works as a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Geography at the University of Sheffield. This project looks at dietary habits among consumers in low and middle-income countries. Additionally, Carol has taught the postgraduate Food Security and Food Justice module in Geography.


Carol does consultancy work on various aspects of food, nutrition and public health. You can contact her on:

Carol’s project at the Grantham Centre

Global obesity is reported to have reached epidemic proportions. Urbanisation – the increased movement of people from rural areas to urban areas – is cited as one of the driving factors for this trend. Additionally, ‘diseases of affluence’ (non-communicable diseases like diabetes and hypertension) which have historically been more prominent in more ‘urbanised’ countries, are now a leading cause of death in middle- and low-income countries.

These changes in the pattern of disease are particularly relevant in the developing economies of sub-Saharan Africa, where accelerated economic growth is fuelling rapid urbanisation.

This study will look at how the migration of people from Uganda’s rural to urban areas has changed what and how people eat, and consequently, the impact of these changes on how healthy the diets are. This study will also assess how environmentally sustainable these dietary changes are. Data will be collected on dietary patterns between rural and urban areas, people’s attitudes towards the gradual shift from ‘traditional’ to more ‘westernised’ diets, and the impact of both diet types on greenhouse gas emissions.

Information from this study will be fundamental in informing the policy process towards creating a more sustainable Ugandan food system in the future.


Carol went to 2017’s A Sustainable Food Future conference at Chatham House. She reported back on the discussions there. The conference focused on supply and demand. And different solutions to feed the world sustainably were considered. Read: A sustainable food future at Chatham House by Carolyn Auma.

It’s widely recognised that diets need to change if we are to live more sustainably. But what that diet should be isn’t clear, especially when sustainability competes with other factors like health. Carol led a Journal Club session to discuss these issues and wrote up the debate. Read: What does a sustainable diet look like? By Carol Auma.

Carol Auma’s publications

Factors influencing dietary practices in a transitioning food environment: a cross-sectional exploration of four dietary typologies among rural and urban Ugandan women using Photovoice
Carolyn I. Auma, Rebecca Pradeilles, Megan K. Blake, David Musoke & Michelle Holdsworth
Nutrition Journal volume 19, Article number: 127 (2020)

DOI: 10.1186/s12937-020-00634-9

What Can Dietary Patterns Tell Us about the Nutrition Transition and Environmental Sustainability of Diets in Uganda?

DOI: 10.3390/nu11020342



Dr Megan Blake

Department of Geography