Food systems: From concept to practice and vice versa (Including decision-support tool)
This working paper (PDF) by KIT and WUR summarizes academic litarature on food systems and systems thinking, in order to inform a system approach for the development of food and nutrition security (FNS) programming. Food systems have usually been conceptualized as a set of activities ranging from production through to consumption, often represented as a value chain. However, the increasing attention to food security has also expanded the understanding of food systems. Food system approaches increasingly consider a more holistic system beyond the value chain to include more (global) environmental and socio-economic drivers and food security outcomes. The food system activities are categorized into five components: the value chain, the enabling environment, business services, the food environment and consumer characteristics. Three types of outcomes are considered: socioeconomic outcomes, FNS outcomes and environmental outcomes. A systems approach involves exploring the complexity of interactions within the ‘hard’ system (i.e. the bio-physical components that can be modelled), and within the ‘soft’ system (the interactions between the biophysical components, technology and people).
The authors of the working paper developed a decision-support tool (PDF) to translate the insights on food systems invo actionable recommendations for FNS programming. The decision-support tool uses theoretical insights from systems thinking literature and tacit knowledge of key informants. It aims to base intervention programming on insights into the underlying dynamics of food systems and societal challenges. Moreover, it uses system thinking to focus interventions on typical system behaviours and on leverage points for bringing about transformative change. The seps of the tool are: 1) Identify FNS (policy) goals; 2) Map the food systems; 3) Draw causal processes; 4) Label system behaviour; 5) Identify leverage points; 6) Define spheres of influence; 7) Define FNS programme strategy.