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Towards Food Sustainability: Reshaping the Coexistence of Different Food Systems in South America and Africa

English title Towards Food Sustainability: Reshaping the Coexistence of Different Food Systems in South America and Africa
Applicant Rist Stephan
Number 177585
Funding scheme r4d (Swiss Programme for Research on Global Issues for Development)
Research institution Zentrum für Entwicklung und Umwelt Universität Bern
Institution of higher education University of Berne - BE
Main discipline Social geography and ecology
Start/End 01.01.2018 - 31.12.2020
Approved amount 1'280'202.00
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Keywords (10)

Sustainability ; South America; East Africa; Environmental performance; Food systems; Right to food; Social-ecological resilience; Food Security; Poverty and inequality; Governance

Lay Summary (German)

Das Hauptziel des Projektes ist es, evidenzbasiertes Wissen für Innovationsstrategien zur Verfügung zu stellen, um unsere Ernährungssysteme nachhaltiger zu machen.
Lay summary

In der 1. Phase haben wir auf inter- und transdisziplinäre Forschung in sechs verschiedenen Ernährungssystemen in Kenia und Bolivien und deren Beitrag zu fünf Dimensionen der Ernährungsnachhaltigkeit (Ernährungssicherheit, das Recht auf Nahrung, Armut und Ungleichheit, Umweltauswirkungen, und Resilienz) fokussiert.

In Phase 1 wurde eine Wissensbasis geschaffen, welche nötig ist um den Fokus in Phase 2 von der Forschung in die Umsetzung (Anwendung der Resultate, Beratung und Information für Entscheidungsträger) zu verschieben. Diese Verschiebung beinhaltet eine Weiterentwicklung, Anwendung und Verbreitung eines Food Sustainability Assessment Frameworks, welches für nicht-wissenschaftliche Akteure gedacht ist, und helfen soll Wege zu finden um die Nachhaltigkeit innerhalb und zwischen Ernährungssystemen zu verbessern. Des Weiteren werden vielversprechende Innovationsstrategien und Politikoptionen für die Verbesserung der Nachhaltigkeit identifiziert und kritisch evaluiert. Gemeinsam mit verschiedenen Akteuren werden solche Aktivitäten und Innovationen dann umgesetzt, jeweils drei in Bolivien und Kenia, und jeweils zwei in Peru, Brasilien, Ghana und Sambia.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 22.06.2018

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
152033 Towards food sustainability: Reshaping the coexistence of different food systems in South America and Africa 01.01.2015 r4d (Swiss Programme for Research on Global Issues for Development)


The main overall objective of the research project is to provide evidence-based scientific knowledge for the formulation and promotion of innovation strategies and policy options that improve individual and aggregate levels of food system sustainability. In phase I, we emphasized inter- and transdisciplinary research aimed at empirically assessing six food systems in Bolivia and Kenya. The assessment took into account their contributions to the five food sustainability dimensions defined at the beginning of the project, i.e. food security, right to food, poverty and inequality, environmental performance, and social-ecological resilience.Progress in phase I allowed us to establish conceptual, methodological, and empirical knowledge which, as described in the overall project proposal, is required for shifting from a research focus (in phase I) to a focus on application of research results, policy advocacy, and dissemination in phase II. This shift implies a more extensive focus on the refinement, application, and dissemination of the Food Sustainability Assessment Framework (FoodSAF), which can be used by non-scientific actors to help them to find ways of improving sustainability within and between coexisting food systems.In phase II we aim to: 1) Conclude the process of food sustainability assessments by identifying, reviewing, and supporting the implementation of policy options in four of the six food systems investigated in phase I.2) Refine and promote the FoodSAF through 10 Transformative Pilot Actions (TPAs) through applying the first version of the FoodSAF in new food systems in Bolivia, Kenya, Brazil, Peru, Zambia, and Ghana; 3) Extend the institutional partnerships in Kenya, Bolivia, and Switzerland to other countries in South America and Africa (through TPAs), and thus to establish the core of a global network for food sustainability; 4) Become a visible actor in science and policy debates on sustainable food systems through continued publication of research results produced by PhD candidates, postdocs, senior researchers, consultants, and Master’s students. Approach and implementation of phase II: With the shift from research to action, a transdisciplinary approach will become the backbone of the project in phase II. By applying the food sustainability indicators defined at the start of the project and based on the interdisciplinary integration of research results produced in phase I, we elaborated a first empirical assessment of the sustainability of six food systems under investigation in Bolivia and Kenya. This will enable us to develop the first version of the FoodSAF by September 2018 through a transdisciplinary process. Parallel to this activity, we will start developing the preliminary innovation strategies and policy options for making food systems more sustainable. This process will continue until the end of 2018, in an extended and structured process of interaction with the scientific advisory board, policymakers, and other stakeholders. The resulting innovation strategies and policy options will be implemented in four food systems in which research was carried out in phase I. This will complete the full cycle of a so-called transformative pilot action (TPA). A TPA consists of a transdisciplinary process of researchers from the project and key food system stakeholders. The process follows three steps consisting of: 1) applying a food sustainability assessment to specific food systems; 2) identifying and critically reviewing promising innovation strategies and policy options for improving the sustainability of the food systems assessed; 3) jointly carrying out activities aiming at the implementation of the identified innovation strategies and policy options. After concluding the development of innovation strategies and policy options in the four food systems under research in phase I, additional TPAs will be carried out in one new food system in Kenya and Bolivia. Parallel to this, two TPAs will be conducted in Brazil, Peru, Ghana, and Zambia. This will provide a constant flow of empirical knowledge and methodological experiences that are continuously processed into the FoodSAF, permitting it to be made to progressively adequate for its application and promotion in a greater number of contexts. These experiences are also processed and systematized by the researchers in charge of refining and applying the FoodSAF, so as to enable them to contribute to the ongoing debates on how to improve transdisciplinary processes aimed at making food systems more sustainable. The main outputs of phase II are the publication of a printed and a software-based version of the FoodSAF, additionally resulting in the consolidation of a regional and global institutional network for the promotion of sustainable food systems. Mainly as a result of empirical research done in phase I and concluded in the first year of phase II, the project plans to publish a total of 87 publications, including peer reviewed articles, working papers, books and book chapters, and monographies of MSc and BSc theses. A series of policy briefs and continued communication through radio, TV, social media, and newspapers will assure that the public in general can also engage in promoting more sustainable food systems.