Skip to content
Start of page content below the header

We don’t have the luxury of time: urgent calls to transform food systems governance

Food market in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo by Kuntum Melati.

Our food systems are fragmented

Food systems can be a game changer for achieving sustainable development goals (SDG) as they are interconnected with issues such as poverty, health, and land use. However, the current food systems face complex challenges as it coincides with issues such as depletion of natural resources, biodiversity loss, unsustainable consumption and production, among many others. The interaction and connections among different stakeholders in food systems have been contested and fragmented, which led to climate crises. Efforts to solve the food crisis often fall shorts due to sectoral focus. Transformation needs to consider the different needs and experiences of various stakeholders involved. However, although progress has been made, there remain significant gaps in achieve sustainable food systems.

How can we close the transformation gap?

Inclusive food systems governance and alignment policy of action

Ensuring inclusive participation and coordination across diverse stakeholders in the food systems is essential to effectively aligning food systems with the 2030 Agenda. Building synergies with other agencies, such as health, education, fisheries, and labour force, is critical for achieving a more holistic approach. It is essential to promote policy coherence and convergences across different actors and build on evidence-based approaches. In addition, political will is a prerequisite in creating legislative policies that support food security and promote healthy and nutritious diets. The policy and decision makers should promote agroforestry, nutritious and affordable diets, and minimise food waste.  In addition, it is imperative to enhance the participation of marginalised groups such as women, youth, Indigenous People, and smallholders to ensure their voices are taken into account and meaningfully incorporated into decision-making processes that lead to a more equitable and inclusive global governance architecture for food systems.

Food market in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo by Kuntum Melati.

Going local and ensuring food systems applicable on the ground

The United Nations Food Systems Summit serves as a global accelerator framework to create a strategy ranging from food loss, decarbonising food systems, sustainable livestock, and other transformational pathways. However, it is crucial to implement context-specific approaches at the local level and secure buy-in from local governments to transfer global commitments to national policies. In addition, it is important to set metrics and or measurements frameworks to assess the progress. Currently, food systems transformation lacks defined indicators, emphasising the need for a shared vision of sustainable food systems, effective monitoring, and accountability frameworks.  Utilizing the SDGs as a benchmark shows promise, but there must be a clarity on how SDG indicators can be used to guide the progress of food systems transformation. While targets related to poverty and hunger are aligned, those on biodiversity and climate change require further elucidation. To achieve this vision, government efforts at national and local levels require support from private actors, research institutions, and other stakeholders to apply research and innovation based that are applicable to the national context.

Leveraging finance supported by science, technology, and innovation.

Financial products and business models need to contribute to securing equitable food systems and strengthening inclusive food governance. Smallholders, women-led enterprises, young farmers, and Indigenous People often face challenges in accessing financing due to a lack of collateral and security. They are usually excluded from national financing and private funds due to limited budgets and unattractive investment scales. For example, most smallholders do not have crop insurance, leaving them at risk regarding climate change impacts and fertiliser price volatility. In reshaping public support and incentives, we must integrate environmental and social risk into decision-making processes to strengthens their resilience and food governance for all, finance and incentives need to be supported by innovation and science. Mobilising funding could be done through increasing public sector spending, private sector participation, and designing targeted programmes based on the different needs of communities. The programs could encompass the adoption of irrigation technologies, innovation to enrich soil restoration, and building capacities of agriculture extensionist.

Food market in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo by Kuntum Melati.

Building the supportive ecosystems

Various interests and barriers have hindered the pathways for sustainable food systems, resulting in policies incoherence and unsustainable practices. Recognising that the right to food is a fundamental human right is essential. Hence, in adopting a food systems approach, we need to put the rights of marginalised people in the centre along with just and gender equality. Science and policy interface is crucial in informing evidence-based decision-making processes and creating an enabling policy environment that supports marginalised groups’ resilience. Additionally, this interface can contribute to the foundation of localized initiatives and actions. Furthermore, policies must be aligned with international frameworks that ensure we operate within planetary boundaries while achieving our food systems goals.


Written by Kuntum Melati, Research Fellow at SEI.

The reflection was based on the author participation on the 4th Global Conference of the One Planet Network’s Sustainable Food Systems Programme was concluded in Vietnam from 24-27 April 2023. The conference gathered key actors in food systems, such as policymakers, youth, private sectors and other experts, to discuss our challenges in transforming the food systems. The event serves as a stocktaking moment of the UN Food Systems Summit that will be held in June 2023 in Rome.




Liknande innehåll