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News Story
13 February 2024
Author: Ebba Ragnartz

The impacts and evolution of food systems in a period of urbanisation

SIANI Annual Meeting 2024.

Photo by Marta Anguera

On January 31st, it was time for SIANI’s annual meeting. Over 50 SIANI members and partners gathered in person in Stockholm to discuss sustainability, food security, and new solutions to the challenges posed by urbanisation, rural development, and food security. The theme for this year’s meeting was the impact of rapid urbanisation on food systems, particularly in urban, peri-urban, and rural areas, along with how the SIANI network can gather to identify the appropriate ways to move forward in acting on these issues. 

The SIANI Programme Director, Madeleine Fogde offered an update on the current state of food security and the way it has worsened compared to last year’s annual meeting. Madeleine emphasized that, despite the unfavourable circumstances, these meetings are essential and that participants must build on them. Madeleine said: 

“Conflicts, macroeconomic crisis, climate events, continue to be main drivers for this (food insecurity). Even in Sweden, the news yesterday reported that if anyone were to boycott the country, we would only have enough food to last for three days. This highlights the fact that Sweden does not have a solid food system in place.”

SIANI Programme Director Madeleine Fogde commenced the annual meeting. 

Photo by Aziliz Le Rouzo

A screenshot that shows the scope of countries which the participants are currently working with or have worked with recently.   

Mentimeter created through

Transforming our food systems into being resilient and inclusive in times of crises and rapid urbanisation 

Speakers from various sectors had the opportunity to voice their projects and ideas regarding rural- and urban food systems in a period where urbanisation influences the food streams and poses challenges to both the urban and rural areas.  

Marcos Lana, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Crop Production Ecology (SLU) and General Secretary of Agroecology Europe (AEEU) advocated for agroecology as an approach to designing sustainable food systems. 

Romina Cavatassi, Lead Economist with the Research and Impact Assessment division of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) discussed how local midstream businesses can enable fair and just food systems. 

Maria Zachs, Founder of Voices4Change, shared her insights on the efforts made in Kenya to tackle food insecurity by empowering the youth and strengthening local peri-urban food systems. Maria highlighted the importance of collective action to achieve a sustainable future. 

Presentation on urban innovation and collaboration by Maria Zachs, Founder of Voices4Change 

Photo by Aziliz Le Rouzo

Similarly, Naol Adugna, Co-Founder of Beta Blockers PLC, showcased a local solution to addressing nutritional needs. He emphasized the significant role that networks can play in spreading knowledge and ideas and transforming them into practical projects. The video presented during the meeting can be seen here

Collaboration at the forefront to improve food systems 

Following the presentations, round table dialogues took place where people from different backgrounds and sectors discussed and shared insight, knowledge, and suggestions. Participants were divided into 5 groups, each addressing two main questions: What collaborations are needed to improve food systems? How can SIANI as a network and other organizations contribute to enabling these collaborations? These round table sessions aimed to amalgamate diverse perspectives and promote collaborative efforts. A summary of the discussions can be found here.

Presentation of ideas from one of the round table dialogues. Pictured are Anna Manourova, Coordinator of PlantLink at SLU Alnarp and R&D Project Coordinator at Mendel University, and Selorm Kugbega, Research Fellow and Project Coordinator at SEI. 

Photo by Aziliz Le Rouzo

A multitude of different ideas and proposals were presented, highlighting collaboration ideas between local farmers and technology experts, translating policy into practice, connecting farmers with researchers, and engaging local communities in policymaking to facilitate fruitful solutions for improved food systems.  

The afternoon session continued with Elisabet Montgomery, Senior Policy Specialist for Employment and Market Development at the Swedish Agency for Development Cooperation Agency, Sida. Elisabet introduced Sida’s holistic market development and poverty reduction strategy. 

Following, Kristina Mastroianni, working as Agriculture Sector Lead at Niras, described how an international consulting firm improves strategies and projects for a more effective activity implementation. In line with the aforementioned Sida strategy, Niras also outlined their approach to creating incentives through a Market Systems Development (MSD) approach. 

SIANI’s Project Coordinator Jonna Wiklund introduced the four new expert groups, which are now ready to begin their projects. Farah Hegazi, PhD at the Climate Change & Risk Programme at SIPRI, and Lotta Fabricius Kristiansen, National Competence Centre for Advisory Services at SLU Råd/nu represented two of the expert groups, and further details can be found here. The remaining two other expert groups were introduced via videos, which you can access here (The East African Agrobiologicals working group) and here (A One Health Approach to WaSH in Burkina Faso).

Jonna Wiklund, SIANI Project Coordinator, and Farah Hegazi, PhD at SIPRI, presenting one of the new expert groups working with land rights and food security in Latin America. 

Photo by Aziliz Le Rouzo

Cecilia Nordin van Gansberghe, SIANI Chair Steering Committee, concluded the meeting.

Photo by Marta Anguera

Coming together and building collaboration for development 

Concluding the annual meeting, Cecilia Nordin Van Gansberghe, SIANI Chair Steering Committee, shared thoughts on SIANI’s mission and summarised the day’s discussions and what had been talked about during the day. Cecilia highlighted the significance of unity, sharing, fostering collaboration, and coming together, which was exactly what occurred during the meeting. People in the room exchanged knowledge, found common ground, and built new connections which will contribute to a stronger network of people working towards a more sustainable and food-secure future.  

“When I came into this field, […] we just talked about agriculture, food production, maybe a little bit about food security. But today, we have definitely progressed to talk about food systems, which means that we take this systematic, holistic approach which is absolutely necessary.” 

Cecilia said to conclude the fruitful and insightful day with members of the SIANI network.