The Key to Transforming Food Systems Lies in Inclusive Governance

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". The workshop was organised by the TMG Sustainability Think Tank, the Andreas Hermes Academy (AHA), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Welthungerhilfe (WHH) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Land grabbing is one of the main areas of conflict in Ethiopia. Responsible governance can counteract this. © GIZ / Climax Film Production, 2021

By TMG Research gGmbH

TMG Research gGmbH as part of the TMG Think Tank for Sustainability supports the implementation of sustainable development targets and the Paris Climate Agreement. The work of TMG Research gGmbH aims to listen to the voices of local actors in global processes while at the same time influencing the global processes in such a way that they become effective for concrete transformation processes at the national and local level

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By Daniel Montas

Daniel Montas is part of the Governance of Food Systems Transformation team at TMG Research gGmbH. He is currently finalizing a Master's degree in Global & Development Studies at Humboldt University, University of Pretoria and Chulalongkorn University. Previously, Daniel Montas worked for the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) and the European Union-Latin America and Caribbean Foundation (EU-LAC). He was also chosen as the Dominican Republic's Youth Representative to the United Nations for 2019.

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In a world plagued by food insecurity, malnutrition, climate change and biodiversity loss, the pressing challenges of our current food systems demand immediate attention. While extensive research on the necessity to transform our food systems exists, a crucial aspect has often been overlooked - the guiding principles that should steer this overhaul. As the need for comprehensive governance of food systems transformation (FST) becomes increasingly apparent, the international community is grappling with this critical issue.

 

Recently, the Partners for Change (P4C) Conference, held between June 14th and 15th, 2023, shed light on this pressing matter. Hosted by the Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung (BMZ), the conference aimed to assess the experiences and insights gained from nearly ten years of German collaboration with selected partner countries. Here, the spotlight shone brightly on the critical role of governance in facilitating FST, as the various working groups demanded heightened attention to this fundamental aspect.

 

Responding to this pressing need for governance, TMG Sustainability Think Tank, Andreas Hermes Academie (AHA), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Welthungerhilfe (WHH), and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) reconvened a group of experts from Cambodia, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, and Malawi, assembled in January to delve deeper into the subject. This subsequent workshop titled: Inclusive Governance of Food Systems Transformation, featured an expanded group, welcoming Burkina Faso as a participating country and ensuring representation from the most pertinent stakeholders.

 

The workshop aimed to directly address stakeholder contexts and foster future collaborations, leveraging events like the UN Food Systems Summit Stocktaking Moment or COP 28 to catalyze governance of FST. Government bodies, civil society organizations (CSOs), youth advocates, farmer organizations (FOs), and private sector representatives all gathered to bridge the gap between theory and practical realities. It was quickly recognized that as long as substantial power imbalances persist, the mere establishment of multi-stakeholder platforms will fall short unless a level playing field is guaranteed. And even if those platforms can be established, their effects must also reach the local level.

 

Participants called for a concerted effort to bridge the gap between governments, CSOs, and the communities they aim to assist, including the younger generation.

 

These challenges within vertical governance were further exemplified with a focus on the importance of including smallholder farmers in policy formulation and implementation. With FOs representatives going further, advocating not only for policy inclusion but also for enhanced agency and empowerment among farmers. To address these challenges, participants called for heightened awareness, capacity-and institution-building initiatives, and empowerment programs encompassing social, economic and political dimensions. Other solutions stressed the importance of improved coordination within their own groups, or horizontal governance, and emphasized the necessity of speaking with one voice.

 

During the workshop, the looming specters of pandemics, climate change, conflicts, and unforeseen events served as a sobering reminder of the fragility and lack of resilience within current food systems. Even if we succeed in sufficiently transforming our food systems, our resources will have been wasted if we fail to establish sustainable and resilient systems. In response, participants called for a shift towards a rights-based governance model (as opposed to inclusive governance), incorporating people's rights as an integral part of comprehensive change. The workshop also stressed the importance of recognizing externalities resulting from FST, such as climate impacts, and evaluating the trade-offs associated with such actions.

 

Looking ahead, participants discussed the upcoming UNFSS Stocktaking Moment and COP 28, expressing concerns about the UNFSS and the tokenization of marginalized communities. Some proposed leveraging the network established during the workshop to fill the void left by the UNFSS and actively engage in international discussions. Recognizing this, participants welcomed the initiative of hosting a side event dedicated to this topic during the UNFSS stocktaking moment in Rome.  Not only will this opportunity allow for sharpening the workshop's focus on marginalized groups and their pivotal role in FST but foster broader conversations on the future of collaboration and partnerships between European and African countries, expanding and reassessing the boundaries of so-called "Food Diplomacy”.

 

To ensure comprehensive change, some actors emphasized the need to equally redirect the discourse back to the national level. The Kenyan delegation expressed their intention to promote the ideas and conclusions voiced in the workshop at their upcoming National Agriculture Summit, further fostering dialogue and setting the stage for future collaborations at the national level.

 

In a closing statement, Martin Hoppe from BMZ reiterated the intricate complexity of FST and the necessity of a shared vision and understanding of respective roles. Hoppe emphasized the empowerment of farmers as central actors in the food systems and the paramount importance of a holistic, climate-smart, just, and resilient transformation.

 

Ultimately, the workshop echoed the crucial need for effective guiding mechanisms to achieve sustainable and inclusive FST. Such mechanisms must bring together governments, civil society organizations, farmers, academia, and the private sector in a continuous and collaborative manner.

 

Proper governance entails addressing challenges and difficulties arising from divergent perspectives, to foster policy coherence, transparency, and equitable resource allocation to those most in need.

 

In this regard, donor countries must reevaluate their approaches to supporting partner countries and explore a novel form of "food diplomacy" rooted in dynamic political dialogues that engage with multiple levels of food systems.

 

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