Achieving food security and improved nutrition can only happen when everyone with a role in the food system gets involved. In celebration of their 100th anniversary, Wageningen University & Research (WUR) organised an event from 30-31 August, 'Towards Zero Hunger - Partnerships for Impact'. Key stakeholders gathered to discuss forming partnerships for action towards the Sustainable Development Goals. Here’s some food for thought from the sessions where Hivos and IIED presented the work of the Sustainable Diets for All programme.
A food systems approach to food security
A food systems approach is a useful process to align the ideas of different stakeholders, to understand how these all interact, and help policy makers to strategically reflect on where to intervene. Hivos presented the Uganda Food Change Lab as a concrete example of food systems action at local level.
Behaviour change in food system transformation
Behaviour change amongst food system actors requires large scale cooperation and a willingness for one actor in the system to be willing to be the first to make a difference. Equally as important though, is individual motivation to change oneself. Hivos discussed behavior change in the context of the Zambia Food Change Lab, a multi-actor innovation process to change the local food system in Zambia. Learn more in our new publication, Taking Stock: Zambia Food Change Lab.
Citizen-generated evidence to drive food system change
Citizen-generated evidence brings lived experience of people that are part of a food system to the policy making table. Involving citizens meaningfully in research about food can provide insight, legitimacy and sense of purpose. This input is particularly useful when generating citizen evidence for science and policy, as noted by Inge Brouwer, nutrition scientist at WUR and Paul van de Logt, of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ultimately, to be successful, the purpose and involvement of citizens must be clearly defined.
Hivos and IIED highlighted the importance of meaningful involvement of citizens in policy making using examples from our discussion paper, Citizen-generated Evidence for a More Sustainable and Healthy Food System. We also shared findings from our food diary research documenting dietary diversity in the city of Fort Portal in Western Uganda. In addition, ICCO shared participatory research on food security in Ethiopia and BioAnalyt exemplified the use of technology to enable citizens to generate data on nutrition.
Citizen-generated evidence and scientific standards
Scientific standards aim to ensure that information is trust-worthy, unbiased and replicable; training citizens to collect data to these standards can be time-consuming and not always successful. Research done with and by citizens needs to be fit for its purpose—for example, to trigger a debate of policy-makers—even if perhaps the results are not statistically representative or the methods strictly replicable. Policy-makers like data that is useful and actionable—regardless of where it comes from. As citizen-generated evidence gains momentum in the research community, it is not only scientists that will have to engage with it; perhaps it is time to see if policy-makers are prepared to take it seriously too.