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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds It’s so exciting to be talking about this subject now. Because we’re in a situation actually where there is no blueprint for us to work from. Taking a food systems approach at the national level, I believe, is the way forward. If we start to look at things away from or further than a national level, so at regional level, then things start to get a bit too complicated. And of course, the context, the policy context in which food systems have originated are very specific to the particular country. So as far as I’m concerned, looking at national and subnational level approaches to food system governance are really where we should be starting and where we should be concentrating on.

Skip to 0 minutes and 57 seconds And there exists, of course, no one model of a sustainable food system. Therefore, if we are going to take this approach, we have to understand that there are going to be principles in the way that we work within the particular policy context of a particular country. And that enabling conditions have to be context specific and have got to be driven by local diets, for example, local practises, local policy conditions. So therefore, we’ve put together seven principles, which I think relate very nicely back to the interventions table on page 114 of the IRP Food Systems report.

Skip to 1 minute and 46 seconds So the first one is, as we’ve mentioned before, we have to take an interdisciplinary approach to looking at food systems at a national level, which involve stakeholders across the food system to be represented in, for example, nationally convened dialogue. And where possible, to actively participate in the development of policies. This is very important. I’ve got an example. And I won’t tell you where, but I’ve been in a room in a closed session where in a country, representatives of the same government but from different ministries have actually realised, for example, that the land ministry was doing something that the water ministry didn’t believe was feasible or a good thing.

Skip to 2 minutes and 41 seconds And I’ve actually been in an environment where people stood up and said, why are you doing this? This is ridiculous. Why didn’t you tell us? And it’s too late. So understanding, therefore, that sustainable production of food, sustainable consumption of food are interconnected. And they must mean that people very much come together and talk about issues in the process of policy-making. Second point, consensus building. If we’re going to get together to talk about food systems, we have to have consensus about what are the underlying issues when it comes to unsustainable food systems. And there are ways to do that. Taking a participatory approach to really build an understanding of what the key issues are.

Skip to 3 minutes and 32 seconds And therefore, flipping those over and looking at, right, OK. So what are the key issues that we have to deal with, that we have to focus on? Whether it’s specific issues around production and water, or whether It’s specific issues around food waste, or again whether it’s specific issues around diet. This will allow us to very much take a very focused approach at the national level. The UNEP has worked on a methodology on round tables for sustainable food systems. This should be coming out in the coming months, but this really takes us through the process of building consensus. OK, fine. So we know there’s a problem, where are the key underlying issues that need to be addressed? Robust mapping and assessment.

Skip to 4 minutes and 20 seconds Really understanding from a lifecycle point of view where the issues are when it comes to food system and understanding which of the stakeholders really have an influence or an impact on these particular issues. Part of the policy-making process is to make sure that decision-making and policies are interconnected. So by doing these other issues like taking a non-silo approach by creating consensus, we’re assuming therefore that the decision-making and policy-making will be interconnected. But again, it’s very important that we understand that. Evidence-based, making sure that all the decisions are based on really good strong and robust evidence. Making sure the statistics and data are clear. Keeping actions measurable and action-oriented.

Skip to 5 minutes and 9 seconds Making sure that we take– excuse the pun– that we take bite-size actions that really can be measured. And the last but not least, continuous learning. Keeping this dialogue going so that, OK, fine. If you want to talk about it, let’s say very simplistically, we talk about a sustainable food systems roundtable in a particular country. That this is regularly convened. That people report back. That there’s a proper understanding and mandate given to that particular roundtable going forward.

A national level approach

While action by all food system actors and at all levels of governance is critical for improving our food systems, the national level may be where the most significant decision-making occurs. Here, James Lomax, of the UNEP Division of Technology, Industry and Economics, highlights the importance of moving towards taking a food systems approach at the country level.

James takes us through his key principles for what effective national food systems governance might look like, and emphasizes the importance of context-specific policies. UNEP, under the 10YFP that James introduced in Week 2, is continuing to support countries in designing coordinated and integrated policies that enable sustainable food systems to emerge.

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Food and Our Future: Sustainable Food Systems in Southeast Asia

Stockholm Environment Institute