The common thread is the importance of collaboration

It takes the joint efforts of diverse actors to achieve a transformative impact on the global food system. Barbara Rehbinder, Scaling Up Nutrition Movement (SUN), discusses four key people-centred principles to get closer to this goal.

Local food is often fresher and more nutritious and improves nutrition © Giacomo Rubini, GIZ

By Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN)

The Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement is a multi-stakeholder coalition with the aim of ending malnutrition in all its forms and ensuring better, healthier nutrition for all people worldwide. Since 2010, SUN has been bringing together actors from civil society, the United Nations, donors, businesses and research.

All contributions

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

Global food production could feed everyone, yet equitable distribution, waste, and access persist as challenges. The 2023 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report shows that in 2022, 30 per cent of the world's population faced moderate to severe food insecurity. A staggering 3.1 billion people cannot afford a healthy diet, while a third of all the food we produce goes to waste, squandering precious resources. This not only raises ethical concerns but also propels us towards an unsustainable future. One key underlying problem is an agricultural focus on quantity over quality, based on industrial-scale monocrop farming. This approach depletes resources and harms ecosystems, intensifying global warming and extreme weather events that in turn harm nutrition.

 

A shift needs to happen towards holistic agroecological practices that nourish people and the planet, promoting resilient ecosystems and mitigating climate risks. As advocates of the Scaling Up Nutrition Civil Society Network, a global alliance of over 4,500 organisations working for better nutrition and food systems, we are committed to integrating these practices. SUN's mandate to bring together all stakeholders and sectors in the fight against malnutrition aligns with the goal of fostering strong, inclusive and fair food systems. By uniting diverse perspectives, we aim to drive the required transformation in the global food system, recognising that addressing malnutrition is a critical pillar of this endeavour.

 

Below are some principles that we think are crucial to implement in this regard. They are aimed at a wide spectrum of stakeholders, including governments, international organisations, civil society groups, the private sector and donors. The required changes need to be initiated and driven collectively by this diverse range of actors in order to create a transformative impact on the global food systems.

 

1. Investing in local food systems

Supporting local food production, processing and consumption is essential for many reasons. Firstly, it enhances food security by reducing reliance on distant sources, ensuring a consistent food supply, especially during crises. Local foods are often fresher and more nutritious, improving diets and community health. Economically, it stimulates growth by creating jobs and supporting local businesses, leading to a resilient economy. Additionally, local production typically has a smaller carbon footprint, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting sustainability. It also preserves cultural heritage, values traditional practices, and empowers small-scale farmers while reducing food waste through shorter supply chains.

 

Overall, supporting local food systems contributes to a more sustainable, resilient and equitable food system benefiting communities, individuals and the environment alike.

 

The shift towards supporting local food systems involves a collaborative effort from a variety of stakeholders. Governments must play a pivotal role by re-evaluating trade regulations that may disadvantage local produce. Ensuring convenient transportation and storage of local goods is a shared responsibility, involving both public and private sectors. Additionally, community empowerment is essential, necessitating the involvement of civil society organisations to advocate for and work with local communities. Recognising the intrinsic value of local cultures and crops requires a collective mindset shift, fostered through educational initiatives and awareness campaigns. At the implementation level, practices like agroecology and indigenous farming methods should be promoted, benefiting from the expertise of both local communities and agricultural experts. This multifaceted approach contributes not only to economic growth and the well-being of people, but also to the preservation of our environment.

 

2. Making nutrition central to food environments

Making nutrition central to food environments, rather than prioritising profit, has a range of essential impacts. First and foremost, it prioritises the health and well-being of individuals and communities, aiming to reduce the risk of diet-related diseases and promote overall quality of life.

 

It aligns with long-term sustainability goals by emphasising diverse, balanced diets that are less resource-intensive and reducing the environmental impact of food production.

 

It also fosters nutritional education and awareness, empowering individuals to make informed dietary choices, and promotes a culture of health-conscious decision-making. Nutrition-centric food environments strengthen communities, encourage social initiatives like community gardens, and address food insecurity. Additionally, this approach ensures that vulnerable populations have access to nutritious food and can lead healthy lives, potentially reducing healthcare costs while reflecting ethical considerations by valuing people's health over profit motives in the food industry.

 

This principle underscores the importance of nutritional education within food systems approaches and countering unhealthy food marketing and adverstising. At the implementation level, this involves incentivising and enabling breastfeeding among mothers. It also entails disseminating nutritional information through various channels like advertisements, school programmes, and workplace initiatives. Equally important is the need for transparent food labelling. The principle also highlights the significance of ensuring access to nutritious food for economically disadvantaged individuals, especially mothers and children, through mechanisms such as financial support and food vouchers.

 

3. Empowering civil society

Civil society organisations play a crucial role in food systems transformation. They represent marginalised voices, leverage local expertise and engage with communities to ensure that solutions align with local needs and inclusivity. They serve as accountability watchdogs, advocating for policies prioritising people's well-being. Civil society brings innovation, acting as a bridge between diverse stakeholders, responding effectively to food crises, and championing social and environmental justice. Empowering civil society might entail providing funding and resources for community-driven initiatives, facilitating training programmes to enhance their advocacy and leadership skills, and involving them in policy-making processes.

 

To make this happen, it is essential to recognise and support civil society's capacity to drive local solutions and amplify marginalised voices.

 

Governments and donors should actively empower it to bridge gaps and advocate for holistic, context-specific solutions. This approach promotes community-led, locally relevant transformative changes, creating more equitable, effective and sustainable food systems that embrace ethical, inclusive and environmentally responsible practices.

 

4. Ensuring accountability and fulfilment of commitments

Ambitious pledges are easy to make, but upholding these promises requires vigilant oversight and data-driven evaluation of progress. Transparency and integrity lie at the core of this endeavour, necessitating alignment between commitments and actions. Robust monitoring of countries' adherence to their promises, in alignment with strategic frameworks such as the food systems transformation pathways stemming from the national dialogues held in the lead up to the UN Food Systems Summit, serves as a compass. The Nutrition Accountability Framework, a comprehensive tracking mechanism endorsed by the government of Japan, UN agencies, the SUN Movement and others, to hold all data on commitments made for the Tokyo Nutrition for Growth (N4G) Summit 2021, empowers stakeholders to track progress made and turn commitments into transformative actions in nutrition and food systems. These platforms thus ensure accountability and progress towards a healthier and more sustainable future.

 

Likewise, vigilant oversight of corporate conduct is essential. While encouraging ethical practices is crucial, placing sole reliance on the goodwill of the private sector is insufficient. Instead, a comprehensive approach is required to ensure that commercial interests align harmoniously with the broader objectives of equitable and sustainable food systems. Robust frameworks for corporate accountability can act as a safeguard, preventing the undue concentration of power and mitigating the potential for conflicts of interest. They create an environment where companies are incentivised to prioritise long-term sustainability over short-term gains, acknowledging their role as critical stakeholders in the pursuit of a nourished and resilient global population.

 

One common thread that becomes unmistakably clear in this transformative journey is the profound significance of collaboration.

 

While civil society emerges as a driving force, it is vital to recognise that the sheer scale and complexity of the task at hand extend far beyond the realm of any singular entity. Governments, with their regulatory powers and policy-making capabilities, wield a central role in steering the transformation. International organisations bring expertise, resources and a global perspective that are essential for coordinating efforts across borders. Donors play a pivotal role by providing financial support to catalyse change and propel initiatives forward. The private sector's innovation, investment and technological advancements can reshape industries and practices.

 

Within this context, the beauty of the SUN Movement lies precisely in its ability to harness the collective power of these diverse stakeholders – governments, international organisations, donors, the private sector and civil society – all converging with a shared resolve. This convergence is what enables equitable and sustainable food systems, ultimately leading to a thriving global population and a sustainable planet.

 

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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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Shu Wen Ng, the Clear-Sighted

A Contribution by Jan Rübel

Shu Wen Ng is a health economist. She knows what is best suited to go on a plate. But how can this be achieved on a mass scale in countries with lower incomes? "The solutions to gett there already exist," she says, "but what is often missing is courageous leadership to implement them."

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'The Doors are Open - We Farmers are Ready'

An Interview with Shamika Mone (INOFO) and Elizabeth Nsimadala (EAFF)

At the UN Food Systems Summit, farmers organizations have been represented on the international stage for the first time ever. Two representatives talk about bridging personal aspirations with the representation of regional needs and international negotiations.

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What is Our Food Worth to Us?

A Contribution by the TMG Think Tank for Sustainability

Towards integrated accounting standards in the food and farming sector with the help of True Cost Accounting (TCA).

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African Nutrition - 'Try It at Home'!

A Video Series by Agribusiness TV and GIZ

Share in the taste of African Nutrition – Try it at home! The mini-series showcases traditional, nutritious dishes across the African continent.

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The lessons learned from the last food crisis - A solution?

A Contribution by Agnes Kalibata

Inadequacy and fragility of food systems becomes more apparent with every food crisis. The question we must answer is “Where do we go from here?”

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"Human capital will play a pivotal role in the transformation of African economies"

A contribution by Ben Leyka

The potential the African food sector holds is still far too strongly associated with the continent’s natural resources, Ben Leyka maintains. He seeks to change this with the African Agri Council.

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And a semicolon in the middle

A contribution by Jan Rübel

After a two-year break due to Corona, the doors of the International Green Week (IGW) in Berlin are opening again. From 20th to 29th January, visitors from all over the world can discover, marvel and taste the produce. But the event is not only feasting and fun. The BMZ stand asks questions about where food comes from & where it goes – and in the process becomes a crash test for many habits.

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How to govern food systems transformation

A contribution by Daniel Montas and Jan Rübel

The transformation of food systems is regarded as the new magic code, but effective strategies are lacking. A new group of experts discussed the prerequisites for efficiently managing this process. The experts representing politics, youth, civil society, farmers' organizations, private sector, and academia unanimously concluded: transformation is possible, but it needs a strong drive from within.

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How farmers are facing the crisis

A contribution by GIZ

Russia's war against Ukraine and its impact on food, energy and fertiliser prices is worrying farmers all over the world. Young farmers, farmer organisations and politicians from Kenya, Chad and Ukraine tell their stories and what keeps them in agriculture.

 

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When sustainability becomes part of the curriculum

A contribution by Jan Rübel

During the trade Grüne Woche, school classes visited the BMZ (German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development), Brot für die Welt and Misereor. Each class spends one hour at their stand to learn about the global challenges posed by food systems. A review by Jan Rübel.

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David versus Goliath: Consequences of mainstream agricultural export commodities and niche products

An Artikel by the Initiative for Sustainable Agricultural Supply Chains (INA)

A study published by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) examines the differences between globally traded agricultural commodities and domestic niche products in terms of economic, environmental and social impact on the region of origin. The results provide new evidence to make supply chains more sustainable.  

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Organic certification as an opportunity for developing and emerging countries

An Interview with Dr. Julia Bellinghausen (IPD)

The Import Promotion Desk (IPD) accompanied organic producers from developing and emerging countries to Biofach. In an interview, Dr Julia Bellinghausen, head of the IPD, explains the importance of organic certification in export promotion.

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COVID-19 and Rising Food Prices: What’s Really Happening?

A Contribution by IFPRI

Taking a look at the data (as of February 11th 2022) what the current price hike means for world hunger and what can be done to prevent from another food crisis.

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Côte d’Ivoire: Sweet Temptation without a Bitter Taste

A Story by GIZ

Until Easter 2022, GIZ publishes a new episode every fortnight introducing people who are committed to fair and sustainable cocoa in Côte d'Ivoire and Germany.

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COP27: Agri-food systems in the focus of the climate discussion

Stephanie Heiland, Project Manager at Sector Project Agriculture and part of this year’s Observer Delegation of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) at COP27, shares her insights on the role of agriculture and food systems at the climate conference. Among other things, she reports from GIZ’s COP27 side event ‘Climate resilient agriculture and food systems in times of multiple crises and fragility’.

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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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The Key to Transforming Food Systems Lies in Inclusive Governance

A Contribution by Daniel Montas

Experts from Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Ethiopia, India, Kenya and Malawi came together to discuss inclusive governance in a workshop entitled "Inclusive Governance of Food Systems Transformation". Daniel Montas, TMG Research, on the findings.

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The Agri-Food Map: An interactive map to explore sustainable agri-food systems

A Contribution by GIZ

The complex interrelationships of the sustainable transformation of agricultural and food systems are not always easy to understand - the Agri-Food Map, an interactive online app, makes the comprehensive relations accessible by providing a wide range of comprehensibly prepared information.

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Climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies for the African livestock sector

A Contribution by ILRI and GIZ

The production of animal-source foods is becoming increasingly difficult due to the impact of climate change on the livestock sector in Africa. Though, Livestock make a crucial contribution to food security in Africa. Three papers by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), GIZ, ILRI and World Bank analyze, how Africas future livestock sector can look like.

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Young farmers as custodians of transformation

An Interview with William Madudike

How can rural economies become viable and modern? William Madudike, youth representative of the Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) and a potato farmer himself, examines this question. He argues that the whole rural economy and actors from producers to consumers need to be considered. An interview on the initiative role of youth.

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Towards Climate Justice: Securing Women’s Land Rights for a Resilient Tomorrow

A Contribution by TMG

In the midst of global climate discussions, a resounding call emerges: Women's land rights must be the cornerstone of our climate actions. They're not just pieces of the puzzle; they form the foundation for true climate resilience. TMG Think Tank for Sustainability reports from the first African Climate Summit.

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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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Learning from Each Other

An Interview with Dr. Jacqueline Mkindi

Partnerships are needed to face the multiple shocks for food systems. This is what Dr. Jacqueline Mkindi, president of the Agriculture Council Tanzania (ACT) and CEO of the Tanzanian Horticulture Association (TAHA) states.

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