Gender Justice – a Precondition for Resilience

By

Women and girls in poorer countries are affected in particular ways by the multiple crises the world is currently facing. Uncovering the linkages between gender, resilience and food security, Elizabeth Bryan (Senior Scientist, IFPRI), Ruth Meinzen-Dick (Senior Researcher, IFPRI) and Claudia Ringler (Director of the Natural Resource and Resilience Unit, IFPRI) look at ways to support women and girls’ capacity to respond to crises and make them more resilient. Also, they explore what can be done to address underlying gender inequalities.

© GIZ / Climax Film Production, 2021

By IFPRI

Since 1975, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) provides research-based policy solutions to sustainably reduce poverty and end hunger and malnutrition in developing countries. The CGIAR research center currently has more than 600 employees working in over 50 countries.

All contributions

This article appeared first in Rural21 and is part of a media cooperation between Rural21 and foodfortransformation.org.

The world has witnessed a series of compounding, overlapping and, in some cases, reoccurring shocks and stressors in recent years, including the Covid-19 pandemic, the global food crisis triggered by Russia’s war on Ukraine, several localised conflicts around the globe and the intensifying climate crisis. Thus, policies, investments and interventions focused on increasing resilience have become essential to help vulnerable populations rebound from these disturbances, while becoming better prepared to handle inevitable future shocks and stressors.

 

The Concept of Resilience

Resilience is a complex concept that is understood and utilised in different ways by different disciplines. We adopt the definition by USAID which describes resilience as “the ability of people, households, communities, countries, and systems to mitigate, adapt to, and recover from shocks and stresses in a manner that reduces chronic vulnerability and facilitates inclusive growth” (USAID, 2012, p. 5). Thus, building resilience requires investments and interventions that build adaptive capacities, such as expanding economic opportunities, education, and nutrition and health services, while also identifying and reducing context-specific risks.

 

Whereas these multiple crises affect many vulnerable communities in low- and middle-income countries, there are particular gender-differentiated impacts which present unique challenges to the well-being of women and girls. Careful consideration of these gender-differentiated impacts is required for policy and programme responses to meet the needs of women and girls, tackle long-standing gender inequalities and promote sustainable pathways to recovery. Without a gender lens, the proposed measures will fail to meet the specific needs of women and girls and may even exacerbate gender inequalities.

 

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (2023) report The Status of Women in Agrifood Systems shows that as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the related economic crisis, 22 per cent of women lost their jobs in off-farm agri-food systems work in the first year of the pandemic, compared to only 2 per cent of men. Furthermore, the gap in food insecurity between men and women widened from 1.7 percentage points in 2019 to 4.3 percentage points in 2021. These gender gaps are driven by underlying gender inequalities in agri-food systems, such as the fact that women’s livelihoods and working conditions are marginalised, informal, irregular and low-skilled and thus more vulnerable to shocks than men’s. Moreover, girls and young women face particular risks when confronted with shocks and stressors, such as a higher likelihood of being withdrawn from school, gender-based violence and economic or sexual exploitation.

 

Vulnerability and resilience also depend on other intersectional identities, such as age, marital status, class and ethnicity. For instance, women heads of household may face greater limitations in access to land, capital, social networks and labour, while married women may benefit from access to these resources through male household members but have less decision-making authority or autonomy. Similarly, women in different food environments (such as rural or urban contexts) may face different challenges. For example, while women in rural farming communities may experience adverse impacts of droughts on their water security and livelihoods, women in urban contexts may face greater challenges related to flooding and associated health risks, like cholera, given poor water infrastructure and crowded conditions.

 

Towards gender-transformative change

So what can be done to support the capacity of women and girls to respond more effectively to disturbances and contribute to the resilience of their households and communities while addressing underlying gender inequalities that make women and girls more vulnerable in the first place? One useful framework for thinking about the approaches needed to achieve gender equality and resilience goals is the Reach-Benefit-Empower-Transform Framework.

 

There is growing recognition among development practitioners, researchers and policy-makers that simply reaching women (e.g. including women in programme activities) is not enough to address gender inequalities. Policies, interventions and investments must ensure that women benefit from these interventions through measured improvements in their well-being (e.g. food security, income and health). This means ensuring that women have access to information and finance needed to increase productivity on the plots they manage, take advantage of economic opportunities and grow their enterprises. It means expanding social protection and violence prevention programmes to women in rural areas and providing other incentives to keep girls in school.

 

Increasingly, interventions aim to facilitate women’s empowerment by providing them with more opportunities to make decisions and realise their own goals. Women’s groups and networks often represent an important source of resilience as well as a platform for women’s empowerment by offering opportunities to share labour, childcare responsibilities, access to savings, credit and government services, the ability to access and build assets, and increased political engagement.

 

However, even efforts to increase women’s agency may not be enough to reduce gender inequalities in agri-food systems and increase women’s resilience. Gender-transformative approaches (GTAs) may be required for deeper and more lasting improvements in the status of women. Gender-transformative change goes beyond the individual and household levels to remove structural barriers in society. Thus, GTAs require multi-pronged, multi-scale approaches that involve challenging patriarchal norms which underpin harmful cultural beliefs and attitudes, gender inequalities in institutions, policy frameworks and governing structures at multiple scales, and gendered power dynamics and relations. They also depend on engaging men and boys as partners for gender equality.

 

Group-based approaches are promising

One example of a project that incorporated gender-transformative approaches is the “Joint Programme on Accelerating Progress towards the Empowerment of Rural Women (JP RWEE)” led by numerous UN agencies and implemented across several countries including Ethiopia, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal and Niger. JP RWEE activities for transforming gender relations included dialogues at the household and community levels to promote more inclusive decision-making processes and engaging men and boys as champions for gender equality.

 

Among these approaches are IFAD’s Gender Action Learning System (GALS) intervention and FAO’s Dimitra Clubs, which bring men and women together at the household and community levels to listen to each other and work together to solve local challenges. These dialogues also provide a platform for trained facilitators to raise awareness of harmful gender norms, attitudes and beliefs, and to challenge unequal structures (such as local rules governing resource access). Importantly, JP RWEE relied on group-based platforms or approaches aiming to expand economic and livelihood opportunities for women and/or increase their access to resources like microcredit or savings.

 

Research shows that the group-based approaches were core to the successes of the project, which included increasing women’s involvement in livelihood decisions, asset ownership, credit decisions and, in some cases, income decisions. Having men take part in the interventions was also crucial to avoid potential backlash from the activities focused on women’s groups and to promote changes in gender relations and norms.

 

While there is limited evidence of the effectiveness of applying gender-transformative approaches as part of resilience-building interventions, clearly, the status quo is not working. Intentional efforts and commitments from the development community to tackle persistent gender inequality is essential to ensure that women from all walks of life are actively engaged in efforts to restore their economies and communities. Achieving this transformation will require interventions that prioritise gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, instead of pivoting from it. Women-led and women’s rights organisations must take centre stage in designing and implementing interventions and have their voices heard in national and international platforms. A strong focus on justice, equality, inclusiveness and human rights must be at the heart of every effort to build resilient agri-food systems and rural livelihoods. Despite the many challenges that women and girls are facing, they remain essential to the success of any crisis response.

 

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An Interview by GDPRD

Why are short- and long-term responses important to address current and future global crises? Sebastian Lesch, Head of the Agriculture Division at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), provides answers to these and other questions in an interview with the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development (GDPRD) and explains how much Germany welcomes all donors pulling together and acting in concert.

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Strengthening food markets across the rural-urban continuum

A Contribution by Thomas Forster

How to maintain functioning food markets in global food supply chains in the face of vulnerability and disruption? Markets that support local and territorial food systems are part of the solution. Thomas Forster presents proposals for these markets to cope with future shocks.

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A dashboard as a key tool for global food security

A Contribution by BMZ

The Global Alliance for Food Security (GAFS), jointly launched by the German G7 Presidency and the World Bank, released the Global Food and Nutrition Security Dashboard during COP27: A Rapid Response Tool for Coordinating Global Action for Food Security.

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The importance of water for sustainable rural development

A contribtion by WE4F

How can the challenges related to water, rural development and climate resilient agriculture be addressed? What innovations need to be promoted? The Water and Energy for Food (WE4F) initiative presents strategies and innovations for sustainable, integrated water management in German and international cooperation.

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From reaction to action

A contribtion by GIZ

A Year of Multiple Crises: Russian war against Ukraine, extreme weather events, high prices for energy and fertilizer, food crisis had severe implications for food security and agriculture globally and especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. A Transformation of the food systems is needed.

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How the War against Ukraine Destabilizes Global Grain Markets

A Contribution by GIZ

Since early February 2022, two of the biggest grain and oilseed exporters have been at war. An overview, which countries are affected most severely by the destabilized grain markets, and what comes next.

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Five Questions for Dirk Meyer

An Interview with Dirk Meyer (BMZ)

Development cooperation needs to place good governance and a sustainable agri-food systems transformation at its center: After the first 100 days in office have passed, Dirk Meyer from the German Development Ministry (BMZ) spells out the goals, guidelines and priorities of the Ministry’s new lead.

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The Black Sea Breadbasket in Crisis: Facts and Figures

An infographic by ONEWORLD no Hunger

Rising food and gas prices, physical destruction and supply chain disruptions: Why the Black Sea region matters and how the war in Ukraine affects global food security.

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Fair Trade and Climate Justice: Everything is Conntected

A Contribution of the 'Initiative for Sustainable Agricultural Supply Chains' (INA)

Fair Trade organisations and the Initiative for Sustainable Agricultural Supply Chains (INA) have launched the #ichwillfair campaign during COP26 to highlight the link between global supply chains and climate change.

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The Rice Sector in West Africa: A Political Challenge

New insights on trade and value addition in the rice sector in West Africa

Low import tariffs, smuggling activities, unpredictable tax exemptions and weak enforcement of food safety standards: The potential of local rice value chains is undermined in West African countries.

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5 Questions for Jann Lay: What is Corona doing to the economy?

Interview with Jann Lay (GIGA)

The Corona pandemic is hitting economies around the world very hard - but developments in African countries are quite diverse. There are different speeds, resiliences and vulnerabilities. What are the reasons for this? Apl. Prof. Jann Lay of the GIGA Institute provides answers.

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Sustainable, feminist and socially just: The new Africa strategy of the BMZ

A contribution by Prof. Dr. Anna-Katharina Hornidge

In the video format "#99SecondsWith" of the German Institute of Development and Sustainability (IDOS), Prof. Dr Anna - Katharina Hornidge talks about the new Africa-Strategy of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

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The goals of transformation should leave no one behind

An Interview with Mareike Haase and Stig Tanzmann

Four interviews kick off the relaunch under the new name „Food4Transformation“, asking the same questions from different perspectives. Mareike Haase and Stig Tanzmann from Brot für die Welt explain why the right to food, inclusivity, agroecology and food sovereignty are the central levers for a successful transformation.

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Agricultural policy belongs in prime time

An interview with Dr. Julia Köhn

Four interviews kick off the relaunch under the new name „Food4Transformation“, asking the same questions from different perspectives. Dr Julia Köhn, Chair of the German AgriFood Society, points out in the interview: Only if innovation and transformation are profitable in the medium term can they close the food gap in the long term.

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BMZ releases video on the transformation of agricultural and food systems

A contribution by GIZ

The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has released a video on the transformation of agricultural and food systems. In the video, Federal Minister Svenja Schulze also speaks about the urgent need to combat global hunger and contribute to resilient agricultural and food systems.

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“More of the same is not enough - we need to rethink”

An interview with Dirk Meyer

Four interviews kick off the relaunch under the new name „Food4Transformation“, asking the same questions from different perspectives. Dirk Meyer, Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, thinks: less individual solutions are needed, but more systemic approaches. Because in addition to the goals for food security, the issues of climate and biodiversity must also be taken into account.

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Agricultural prices and food security – a complex relationship

A Contribution by Dr. Fatima Olanike Kareem and Dr. Olayinka Idowu Kareem

High agricultural prices affect developed and developing countries alike, but the problem is aggravated for the latter through the lack of or inadequate resilience measures. Dr. Fatima Olanike Kareem, AKADEMIYA2063, and Dr. Olayinka Idowu Kareem, University of Hohenheim, explain what can be done to mitigate the negative effects on food security.

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Strengthening the market linkages of smallholders in the face of global supply shocks

A Contribution by Niladri Sekhar Bagchi

The consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine have enabled many countries to open up new export markets for their agricultural goods. However, smallholder farms have been largely left out. Drawing on his experience in India, our author gives a brief overview of how this can be changed.

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Innovative donor approaches and sustainable finance – A Review of UNFSS+2

A contribution by the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development

Two years following the UN Food Systems Summit, the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development and the Shamba Centre for Food & Climate hosted an official side event at the UNFSS+2. The event explored how public donors can increase the impact of their investments.

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“It created hope. It created a life”

An interview with Ally-Raza Qureshi, WFP

Iraq suffered many years of war, sanctions and economic crises. However, Ally-Raza Qureshi from the World Food Programme in Iraq sees progress. But now the effects of climate change are becoming apparent in the country. What is to be done?

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What is needed for a long-term fertiliser strategy?

A contribution by Michael Brüntrup

The world is currently experiencing a historic food crisis. High fertiliser prices are part of the problem. In addition to the necessary short-term aid measures, the crisis ought to be made use of to develop and implement longer-term fertiliser strategies for sustainable, in particular smallholder increases in production in the Global South.

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New Podcast – Out now!

A Podcast by Food4Transformation

In a world facing crises – from pandemics, armed conflicts, and climate change – how do we ensure everyone has enough food within planetary boundaries? A new podcast by Food4Transformation discover solutions talking to government officials, scientists, NGOs and farmers around the world.

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What the Middle East conflict means for the children in Gaza

An Interview by Jan Rübel

The Gaza Strip depends heavily on humanitarian aid, more than ever with the current war. Gaza population is very young: Half of them are children. What is their situation on the ground? Questions for Lucia Elmi, Unicef Special Representative to the State of Palestine.

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Nature conservation around the world

A Contribution by WWF

From measures to promote biodiversity in Germany to more sustainable cocoa cultivation methods in Ecuador: WWF works at many different levels. At the Green Week, it will be demonstrated just how multifaceted nature conservation work is and what role each individual's decision plays.

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Agricultural Financing – from a broader Perspective

A Contribution by GIZ

In Sub-Saharan Africa, not all financial institutions (FIs) have access to knowledge about how to implement processes to enhance rural financial inclusion. The pan-African Community of Practice (CoP) plays a pivotal role in supporting these institutions along this transformative journey.

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Agriculture is more than Culture or Tradition

A Contribution by Simeon Kambalame

How can agriculture engage more young people in rural areas? Advocacy and education campaigns can play an important role here. Simeon Kambalame, Timveni Child and Youth Media Organisation, has launched such a campaign in Malawi.

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Where can international cooperation in Gaza come in, Ms. Asseburg?

An Interview by Jan Rübel

The armed conflict between Israeli forces and the Hamas is escalating. What does this mean for a Gaza, region that was already heavily dependent on external aid? Questions for Dr. Muriel Asseburg, Senior Fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin.

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Podcast: Fighting world hunger together

Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Podcast of the Federal Government

At the start of World Food Week around World Food Day on 16 October, Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed that the fight against global hunger will only be successful with international responsibility and solidarity (german only).

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Together for food security in Zambia

A Contribution by Claudia Jordan (GIZ)

The Agriculture and Food Security Cluster of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in Zambia shows how synergies among different projects and partner organisations can help people to eat healthier, diversified food. A delegation of the Bonn based Division of Agriculture and Rural Development learned this in a field visit in the Eastern Province of the Southern African country.

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(c) Nina Schroeder/World Food Programme

Policy against disasters

Interview with Thomas Loster

Insurance companies could provide protection during droughts in Africa. How exactly this could be done is what the industry is currently trying to figure out. First experiences are available. An interview with the Managing Director of the Munich Re Foundation, Thomas Loster

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„You must be multisectoral in your thinking”

Interview with Adriano Campolina (FAO)

For years, place-based approaches to development have been considered important features in development cooperation, at the BMZ and in FAO. Both organisations are aiming at advancing these approaches: an interview with Adriano Campolina from the FAO on territorial and landscape perspectives.

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Is the international community still on track in the fight against hunger?

Interview with Miriam Wiemers (Welthungerhilfe)

The Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2020 shows that the world is not on track to meet the international goal of “zero hunger by 2030”. If we continue at our current speed, around 37 countries will not even have reached a low hunger level by 2030.

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(c) GIZ

COST-BENEFIT ANALYSES FOR MORE SOIL CONSERVATION

With the help of sustainable farming methods, soils can be preserved and made fertile again. The investment required is also worthwhile from a financial perspective.

A project of GIZ

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©WFP/Rein Skullerud

Revolutionising Humanitarian Aid

A contribution by Ralf Südhoff

Financial innovations can prevent a crisis turning into a catastrophe. The livelihoods of people in affected areas may well depend on intervention before a crisis – and on risk funds.

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© GIZ

One Health – What we are learning from the Corona crisis

A contribution by Dr. May Hokan and Dr. Arnulf Köhncke (WWF)

Due to the coronavirus crisis, the connection between human and animal health has gained new attention. Politicians and scientists are joining forces to propagate the solution: One Health. But what is behind the concept? And can it also guarantee food security for all people worldwide?

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School Feeding: A unique platform to address gender inequalities

A contribution by Carmen Burbano de Lara (WFP)

Besides the well known impacts of Covid19 lockdowns for the adult population, the associated school closures led to 90 percent of the world’s children with no access to schools. However, school meals are in often the only daily meal for children. Without access to this safety net, issues like hunger, poverty and malnutrition are exacerbated for hundreds of millions of children.

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Not waiting for a savior

An article by Lidet Tadesse

While Africa is the least affected region by Covid-19 so far, the number of confirmed cases and deaths on the continent is quickly rising. Despite the challenges many African countries continue to face, the African response to the coronavirus pandemic displays innovation and ingenuity.

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Good health is impossible without healthy food

A contribution by Heino von Meyer

Corona makes it even more difficult to achieve a world without hunger by 2030. So that this perspective does not get out of sight, Germany must play a stronger role internationally - a summary of the Strategic Advisory Group of SEWOH.

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Quinoa could have a huge potential in Central Asia, where the Aral Sea Basin has been especially hard-hit by salinisation.

Planetary Health: Recommendations for a Post-Pandemic World

A contribution by Dr. Kathleen Mar and Dr. Nicole de Paula

Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, health is receiving unprecedented public and political attention. Yet the fact that climate change is also affecting the environmental and social determinants of health in a profound and far-reaching way deserves further recognition.

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How can the private sector prevent food loss and waste?

An interview with David Brand (GIZ)

From a circular food system in Rwanda to functioning cooled transports in Kenya: The lab of tomorrow addresses development challenges such as preventing food loss and waste

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Building Better Resilience to Transboundary Threats

A Contribution by the TMG Think Tank for Sustainability

Fuelled by climate change, desert locust plagues become increasingly frequent. A plaidoyer for a paradigm shift on handling transboundary crises.

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A New Mindset to Reform Agriresearch

A Contribution by Lennart Woltering (CGIAR)

In context of the 15th CGIAR System Council Meeting, Lennart Woltering shares his assessment of the ongoing One CGIAR reform process.

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Building climate-resilient and equitable food systems: Why we need agroecology

Agroecological methods target diversity and resilience and can thus promote the protection of forests, water and soil. Julia Tomalka and Christoph Gornott, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), on the potential of agroecology to safeguard against climate change and build resilient agri-food system.

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How are transformation and crisis intervention related, Dr. Frick?

An Interview by Jan Rübel

Martin Frick has been director of the WFP office in Berlin for a year – since then one hunger crisis has followed another. What are the diplomat's answers? A conversation about opportunities in agriculture, the interplay of multiple crises, the importance of resilience and tighter budgets.

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The Power of the Urban

A Contribution by Jan Rübel

Cities play an important role in the transformation of food systems. But what exactly are the potentials and challenges? A three-way discussion between Ruth Okowa (Gain), Delphine Larrousse (World Vegetable Center) and Conrad Graf von Hoyos (GIZ).

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