The challenge of food systems research: What difference does it make?
This article (PDF) in the Sustainability journal aims to assess the conceptual challenges and practical opportunities for analysing the structure and performance of food systems, and identifies how food systems analysis could deliver new and innovative insights for nutrition policy in developing countries. Recent discussion on the results of food security programs devote key attention to complex interactions between policy interventions and business innovation for improving nutrition outcomes. This shift from linear approaches of food and nutrition security towards a more interlinked and nested analysis of food system dynamics has profound implications for the design and organization of research and innovation processes. Concluded is that policies for influencing food systems’ performance need to be based on an adequate understanding of both the relationships between key stakeholders as well as the interactions with the external environment. Important insights from food systems analysis indicate that solutions to major food and nutrition challenges can be found in other parts of the system, sometimes far from the area where the problem became manifest. Based on experiences in food systems research and the parallel adjustment in leading paradigms for operational food policy analysis, three critical conditions are identified that should be considered for an interactive analysis of food system transitions: 1) Multi-level interdependencies between food system activities permit focused actions towards leverage points that may result in coherent outcomes at aggregate system level; 2) Multiple goals optimization that are based on adaptive innovation practices and learning loops towards scaling of food systems’ change strategies; 3) Multiple stakeholder activities that together are able to create synergies and multipliers that permit the bridging of trade-offs. Therefore, it is of importance to develop analytical tools to assess the likely outcomes of nutrition-oriented public policies and investment priorities to evaluate the effectiveness of different instruments for satisfying key stakeholders’ goals and reach strategic development objectives. Broad coalitions between different stakeholders are necessary to overcome possible trade-offs.