Co-creating recipes for food-systems transformation
When we sit down to eat a meal, grab a roadside snack or do our regular grocery shopping, we are most likely focused on the food itself, its taste, its cost. What we are less likely to think about is the complex system within which that food is made available to us, as well as the long-term effects of the food on our health and our environments.
Yet it has become increasingly clear that global food systems are threatening many aspects of human development and environmental wellbeing, including the rights of people to safe, affordable, healthy and sustainable foods. Clearly, we must look beyond the silos of food security, sustainable agriculture, or nutrition alone: the systems within which our food exists are as important as the food itself.
The necessity of food-systems transformation is now being acknowledged at the highest levels, including by African governments and the African Union. However, the methods and concrete steps to take this journey of transformation are still in their infancy.
The Food Systems Transformative Integrated Policy (FS-TIP) initiative was initially developed in 2021 as one of the first attempts to explore a food system-wide approach to integrated policy development and implementation with governments. Within the context and momentum of global preparations for the first-ever UN Food Systems Summit, FS-TIP brought together a multidisciplinary coalition of partners to address an identified need for cross-sectoral discussion and rapid food-systems analysis.
Within this initial phase, three countries were identified whose governments demonstrated courageous and visionary political will to embark on the food-system transformation journey: Ghana, Malawi and Rwanda. Within these three countries, the FS-TIP process complemented the national dialogues organized for the UN Food Systems Summit, providing key data and analytics to better understand each of the country’s food systems. Yet the benefit of FS-TIP did not end there.
Imagine that you are a policymaker in a national government ministry or a practitioner who recognizes the importance of food-systems transformation in your country. The challenge you face is massive and, despite your passion and commitment and perhaps those of many others interested in the topic, you lack a recipe for change. Without the concrete tools and methodologies to help you embark on this journey, where do you begin?
Through an ambitious implementation agenda, FS-TIP resulted in the development of an innovative methodology to conduct a rapid but rigorous landscaping and diagnostic analysis of national food systems. The Food Systems Analysis Toolkit is an open-source resource that can be used by food-systems stakeholders including governments, policymakers and other practitioners who want to better understand and support food-systems transformation.
The toolkit provides users with guidance, tools and templates on how to conduct a systematic analysis of a country’s food system. At its core, the FS-TIP methodology is inherently multi-sectoral and collaborative and it was designed to be adaptable to different country contexts. The methodology is centred around three key tools:
- diagnostic analysis of the food system;
- policy landscaping; and
- stakeholder mapping.
By identifying key challenges and opportunities as well as potential game-changer solutions, the resulting analysis provides a fact-based foundation for prioritizing next steps and assisting in the development of cross-sectoral policies and interventions. Ultimately, the objective of the analysis is to help inform policy and investment bundles that consider trade-offs and cost-effectiveness and that can help transform a country’s food system towards delivering sustainable, healthy diets for all.
Learning by doing
Given the rapid roll-out of the FS-TIP process and development of the Food Systems Analysis Toolkit, it was deemed critical to reflect on the process. In early 2022, an evaluation was conducted of FS-TIP among key participants of this initial phase. It found that overall, the process was both accepted and considered relevant due to its key contributions to improved understanding of key stakeholders and food-system challenges in the respective countries. The wide stakeholder engagement was commended, with stakeholder buy-in, use of local experts and routinely collected data identified as key enablers of the process.
The FS-TIP methodology has the potential to improve food-system diagnostics and policies. However, for such a process to be successful, moving forward it is clear that this must be government-led and embedded within existing government structures. To help enable this, capacity strengthening of key stakeholders to identify and act on food-system challenges will be essential.
FS-TIP was funded through the Catalyzing Change for Healthy and Sustainable Food Systems initiative, a partnership between IDRC and The Rockefeller Foundation.
The Food Systems Analysis Toolkit was developed with contributions from the African Population and Health Research Center, AKADEMIYA2063, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, Boston Consulting Group, the International Food Policy Research Institute, The Rockefeller Foundation, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, Wageningen University, the World Food Program and IDRC.
- FS-TIP is one of the first attempts to explore a food system-wide approach to integrated policy development and implementation with governments.
- The initiative resulted in the development of an innovative methodology to conduct a rapid but rigorous landscaping and diagnostic analysis of national food systems.
- The Food Systems Analysis Toolkit is an open-source resource that can be used by various food-systems stakeholders.