Course Meeting Times

1 session / week, 1.75 hours / session
1 session / week, 1.5 hours / session

Additional two week commitment in Cartagena during January.


There are no prerequisites for this course.

Aim of the Course

The purpose of this seminar is to provide a context for understanding the challenges of urban food provisioning from a perspective of sustainability and social inclusion in cities of the global South. The seminar will be specifically geared towards preparing students for direct participation in urban markets and food policy project intervention in Cartagena, Colombia. The overall objective of the project is to collaborate with government officials and academics in Cartagena to study the current food supply system with particular focus in the Bazurto Food Market plaza, identifying key challenges and opportunities, and developing policy recommendations. This seminar will serve as an introduction to the critical issues in urban markets and food provisioning, considering the key elements of efficient, sustainable, and inclusive urban food systems. We will work with three transversal areas of knowledge: food chain supply, mobility/logistics and economic development. The seminar will draw on contemporary Latin America, as well as a wider set of historical and geographical experiences.

The direct client for the course is the city government of Cartagena and the Food Market Management. Other relevant stakeholders for the seminar include Bazurto wholesale vendors and retail vendors association, local residents, community groups, the city health department and the non-governmental organization  Cartagena Cómo Vamos.

This seminar examines urban sustainability at the neighborhood level, in the city of Cartagena, Colombia. Specifically, the course aims to:

  • Build on the strengths of inter-disciplinary and cross-cultural interaction to effectively confront community challenges related to “food chain systems, “Mobility/logistics” and “Economic Development”
  • Develop concrete, local-level proposals for “food sustainable development,” in Cartagena’s central Food Market (Bazurto) that can be presented to the community and relevant authorities and other organizations/stakeholders
  • Incorporate the concepts of sustainability and citizen participation into the process of developing and evaluating these proposals, as well as their content


Feeding Cities in the Global South (FCGS) builds on experiences from previous MIT-Department of Urban Studies (DUSP) Latin American Metropolitan Practica (2006, 2007, 2008), carried out two years ago in Mexico City and last year in Cartagena. FCGS is a partnership between DUSP and the Center for Transportation and Logistics (CTL) with the Universidad Tecnológica de Bolívar in Cartagena (UTB), with additional cooperation from other government agencies. Specifically, the “DUSP-side” seminar will work in close collaboration with, and proceed in parallel with, a special studies course being offered to advanced undergraduates from UTB. Integrated MIT-UTB teams will be formed during MIT’s January break, and students will be responsible for effectively working in those teams. The collaboration will focus on Bazurto, representing distinct development challenges. Student teams will develop policy proposals focusing on the concept of sustainable development opportunities as they relate to challenges in food chain systems, mobility/logistics and economic development. In addition, students will use lessons learned from this exercise to inform UTB’s “Agenda Against Poverty” and the city’s plans for the new administration of the Food Market.

Students from UTB began their semester in early October and will have developed initial diagnoses and process indicators of the Food Market when these diagnoses will be shared with MIT students and faculty. Formal face-to-face collaborations between MIT and UTB will occur during an MIT visit to Cartagena. Additional collaboration will occur via email and other relevant media. The intention is for students from the two schools to learn from each other and use relative strengths in developing their final products.

Specific Objectives of the Course

Pedagogically, the course aims to develop students’ skills and capabilities in:

  • Carrying out fieldwork, including observation, information gathering, communication skills
  • Working in multi-disciplinary teams
  • Working with a client
  • Analyzing new urban contexts and identifying challenges, opportunities and possible interventions
  • Assessing the feasibility of interventions based on sustainability concepts
  • Reflecting on practice and fieldwork experience

Practically, the course aims to develop specific recommendations for the city of Cartagena to confront challenges related to the sustainable development of the city’s food system. More precisely, the students will work in Bazurto, the city’s main traditional market area. Students will examine challenges related to the basic themes of food chain systems, mobility/logistics and economic development and propose and evaluate solutions. Finally, students will make recommendations, based on these experiences, for the Cartagena City Mayor’s office, The Bazurto Management office and the UTB’s own “Agenda Against Poverty.”


Students will have a number of deliverables over the course of the seminar, culminating in a final report and presentation, to be developed as a team and completed by the end of the January break. Course readings and class discussions will be prepared by students to understand and address food systems challenges in global South cities, and relevant themes (sustainability, mobility, logistics and community enterprise).

Each student will be responsible for intermediate deliverables, including exercises in “reflective practice.” In addition, students will be expected to conduct independent research and information gathering, related to relevant “Best Practices” on urban food policy analysis from a global South city to present in Cartagena to the team and to the stake holders.

The students will be responsible for developing a single, integrated final report, which will include:

  • Introduction
  • Visioning the Bazurto Market
  • Recommendations for policy interventions in Bazurto
  • Recommendations for UTB’s Agenda Against Poverty
  • Conclusions: Synthesis and recommended next steps

The final report will be written in Spanish and disseminated to project sponsors, participants, stakeholders, etc.


Class will meet seven times over the semester. Each class will feature a short introduction by the instructor and each student will pick a reading to present and engage a group discussion, so it is important that all students prepare the reading material before class meets. After the weeks of instruction, and prior to the field trip to Cartagena, each student will be expected to write an 8 to 10-page document reviewing a recent case of successful food market reform from a city at the global South. Further details about the content, form and due date of the paper will be provided at a later date. The seminar is also a prerequisite for the field trip to Cartagena.

Beyond meeting the basic schedule and skill requirements of the course, students must be prepared to work as professionals in a difficult political and socioeconomic context. This will require acting responsibly, courteously, and flexibly. The course direction and schedule may need to change depending on the dynamics of the on-the-ground conditions, community needs, client goals, etc.

Students are expected to come to all classes prepared, i.e., having done the readings. The reading load varies throughout the semester, reflecting an early need to “come up to speed” on the context and depending on other tasks and deliverables as noted below. Each meeting, different students will be required to summarize each of the required readings, posing interesting discussion questions for the group and highlight relevance for the Cartagena case.

Students will be evaluated based on their participation in class, their performance on individual assignments, and their performance in group/team assignments.

Schedule, Readings, Assignments

Every Week

Students should read the on-line daily newspaper El Universal and come prepared to talk about major events, etc. with particular relevance to Cartagena and the objectives of the Practicum: 

In addition, students should familiarize themselves with the client, la Alcaldía Distrital de Cartagena de Indias, by closely examining the website and the numerous useful documents and other information contained therein: