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Food Systems: how could a food systems approach work for transitions towards SDG2

Food systems update
December 20, 2018 By: F&BKP Office Image: Africadeks
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The Food Systems approach continues to be a key area of interest and exploration among Dutch knowledge institutions, Ministries and other stakeholders, as reflected by several expert meetings and studies during the past few months. They explore the concept of “food systems” further, trying to enhance understanding of what the “food systems approach” is about, and more importantly, how it could work to enhance the food systems transitions required to achieve SDG2 and other sustainable development goals.

This article provides a brief update about these expert meetings and studies, and links to the relevant outcome documents, a video, several publications, and a policy tool.

Food systems analysis for policy

Early December, a report “Food systems: from concept to practice and vice versa” was published by KIT Royal Tropical Institute and Wageningen University, commissioned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality of the Netherlands. It summarizes the latest insights in the food systems approach, using system thinking as a starting point: looking at causal maps, boundaries, relationship dynamics, archetypes and leverage points. This report can serve as key resource for all with an interest to further understand and use the concept of food systems. Along these lines, the team also developed a practical decision support tool to apply the food systems lens for country-based policy planning, for example by Netherlands Embassies. This tool was tested for the Embassy in Ethiopia as well as for Burkina Faso and Niger. The outcomes of the latter were shared in a public consultation session for the Dutch Sahel policy in The Hague on December 18, 2018. The tool had generated a rich and comprehensive overview of the cause-effect chains and feedback-loops of agricultural and food challenges in the Sahel region, and highlighted a number of key leverage points for future Dutch policy making.

Global implications of the European food system

At the European level, a public exchange was organized late October based on the WUR scoping study on the global implications of the European food system. It concluded that EU interventions can be improved to enhance impact on the SDGs, through (better) assessment of economic, ecological and social effects of the European role in food systems in LMICs, yet this demands very new ways of multi-actor cooperation.

Food systems research

On October 19, 2018 the conference ‘Towards healthy and sustainable food systems… in an urbanising world’ took place, organised by the WUR Knowledge Base Programmes ‘Global Food & Nutrition Security’ and ‘Metropolitan Solutions’ programmes supported by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality. It addressed various elements of an effective food systems approach: methods which focus on both formal and informal markets; strengthening data, methods and frameworks to support food systems decision-making at scale; and accounting for multiple outcomes.

There was general agreement that game changers for a food systems approach were its move away from a production focus towards food and nutrition outcomes, where trade-offs with for instance ecological and social externalities of food systems were managed in multi-stakeholder processes. A short video about this conference can be found here and a report comprising key outcomes and recommendations can be found here.

Multi-stakeholder knowledge sharing about food systems

The Wageningen Economic Research (WEcR) advisory report “The food systems approach: sustainable solutions for a sufficient supply of healthy food“, was the basis for a workshop at the WUR SDG conference in August 2018: “A food systems approach to food & nutrition security – from the theory to the practice“. Jointly organized by WEcR, the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality and the F&BKP, with cases of SNV, Hivos, ECDPM and the Ethiopia Sesame Business Network to explore the relevance of the food systems approach in practice. Key take-aways from these discussions were: Further understanding is needed how a food systems approach could help overcoming key food systems bottlenecks with focused, evidence-based interventions. Second, a need was expressed to develop adequate multi-stakeholder mechanisms for decision making on managing the synergies and the inevitable trade-offs.

How food systems approaches can be made practical, to inform strategic interventions that manage trade-offs and promote synergies will be further explored in 2019. Several institutions in the Dutch network will continue working on this, and F&BKP will foster collaborative learning to make sure insights from practitioners and policy makers are combined with those of knowledge institutions.

 

Background information
Food Systems: From concept to practice and vice versa
By Helena Posthumus and Bart de Steenhuijsen-Piters of KIT Royal Tropical Institute, and Just Dengerink and Sietze Vellema of Wageningen University & Research (November 2018)

A decision-support tool for the design of food & nutrition security programming: Bridging concept and practice in the Food System approach
By Helena Posthumus and Bart de Steenhuijsen-Piters of KIT Royal Tropical Institute, and Just Dengerink and Sietze Vellema of Wageningen University & Research (November 2018)

The Food Systems Decision-Support Tool: Application in the case of Ethiopia
By Helena Posthumus and Bart de Steenhuijsen-Piters of KIT Royal Tropical Institute, and Just Dengerink and Sietze Vellema of Wageningen University & Research (November 2018)

Archetypes: Common systemic behaviours in food systems
By Helena Posthumus and Bart de Steenhuijsen-Piters of KIT Royal Tropical Institute, and Just Dengerink and Sietze Vellema of Wageningen University & Research (November 2018)

Global implications of the European Food System: A food systems approach
By P. Berkhout, T. Achterbosch, S. van Berkum, H. Dagevos, J. Dengerink, A.P. van Duijn and I.J. Terluin of Wageningen Economic Research (May 2018)

The food systems approach: sustainable solutions for a sufficient supply of healthy food
By Siemen van Berkum, Just Dengerink and Ruerd Ruben, Wageningen Economic Research (June 2018)

The Food Systems Approach: inspiring an innovative way for SDG2 impact?
By Nicole Metz of the Food & Business Knowledge Platform (September 20, 2018)

 

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