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What was the Sustainable Food Systems Conference about? 

If IICA’s walls in Costa Rica could speak after the 2nd Sustainable Food Systems Conference, they would probably utter three words to describe the energy of those days: entropy, persistence and passion.

More than 150 One Planet Network’s members from all over the sustainable food world filled the institute’s vintage and historic halls to discuss how to achieve a common dream: How do we produce and consume good food for the people and the planet towards the year 2030?

In other words, how do we make sure that the world has access to plant, harvest, distribute and enjoy enough nutritious, harmonious, colorful, diverse, fair food in the future? The conference ended with a joint commitment that will hopefully help us achieve this common goal.

 

Cooking up our inspiration

Day 1: Cooking up our inspiration

Hivos kicked it off on February 1st with a Sustainable, healthy and inclusive Gastronomy workshop co-organized with the Ministry of Agriculture of Costa Rica, IFOAM and Smaackmakers at the Bougainvillea hotel in Heredia. This brought up the talk on food culture innovation, creative campaigns and co-creation to the table.

Carmen Torres, Program Development Manager for Sustainable Food, coordinated the workshop and found the inspiration during this first activity and the entire conference, to explain us about the analysis and conversations held around cooking, the role of women, the informal sector and the much needed revolution from the kitchen.

Beside our gastronomy friends, we were lucky enough to be able to invite to the entire conference 7 civil society organizations from Kenya, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Mexico. It was great to have them there, exchange experiences and ensure their voices were heard.

Day 2: Setting the table

How is the current food system situation in Latin America? How are we facing challenges? These were some of the questions raised on FAO’s regional workshop on February 4th prior to the main conference at IICA.

At the entrance of the main conference hall, gourmet coffee was served. It was impossible to walk by without stopping there and looking at photos of strong Costa Rican women along with coffee bags, cups and fresh coffee. SAFE, with the support of IDB-Lab had the great idea of bringing to the conference the coffee and stories of Bean Voyage, a sustainable coffee business powered by local women.

On the other side of the city, chefs exchanged ideas and creativity in preparation for the gastronomy dinner we were organizing alongside the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, WWF, the Foundation for Costa Rican Gastronomy (FUCOGA), the Food Forever initiative, the SDG2 Advocacy Hub, and the Nordic Food Policy Lab (Norden).

Day 3: Sharing a meal

The conference’s official kick-off was on February the 5th. Governmental entities, private sector companies, civil society organizations, research institutions and UN agency representatives from all over the world shared the microphone and common languages on good food.

Myrtille Danse, Director of Hivos for Latin America and the Caribbean, participated in the opening panel with Prof. Bernard Lehmann, State Secretary for Agriculture in Switzerland, Solly Molepo, Deputy Director of Agro processing, Department for Trade and Industry, South Africa, Joao Campari, Global Leader of Food Practice, WWWF and Charles Arden-Clarke, Head of One Planet network.

Costa Rica’s government representatives also participated at the opening sessions, setting up the discussions about the future of good food.

The second session opened up the discussion about trends and challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean. Nutrition, health, challenge as an important part of agriculture; revisions of the food systems balance; governments’ assistance for farmers; stronger collaboration among stakeholders, were some of the topics discussed during this session.

That day, we “hacked” the lobby of the Institute with our “Voices and Choices” photo exhibit and stories, designed by Oficio Colectivo. The concept and stories were gathered and curated with our Sustainable Diets For All Partner, IIED. The installation contains the voices of frontrunner women from Bolivia that are changing the landscape of production and consumption in their cities.

The installation included the presentation of the video “A turn for the better”, a co-production between Brand-Out-Loud, Hivos and IIED, nominated as a finalist for this year’s SIMA Awards. Watch Frank Mechielsen, Global Program Manager for our SD4All Program and Nicole Szucs, Food Specialist from Bolivia, explain in Spanish what the exhibition was about during a Facebook Live.


We had already touched ground in Latin America and the Caribbean and were now ready to face the world: What are the trends and challenges in the global picture? Session 3 and parallel activities were about to set-off.

The first official conference day was about to end and dinner was almost ready. Chefs from around the world were preparing dishes elaborated with tropical fruit and other exotic ingredients to celebrate the transformative power of sustainable, diverse, and healthy diets at the Museum of Design and Contemporary Art of Costa Rica.

Costa Rican chefs that prepared the dinner were Randy Siles, the first embassador of the National Healthy and Sustainable Gastronomy Plan, Emilio Valverde, Mayra Salas, and Saul Cordero. The group prepared dished from the future using local ingredients, along with Erick Oberholtzer, a chef from the United States, and co-founder of the restaurant chain Tender Greens.

Day 4: Hunger for knowledge

Believe it or not, everyone was up and about at a very early hour the next day. The reason: Learning journeys to magical places near San José. One part of the group took off to the Jesus Maria Watershed to learn about restoration of production landscapes for improved social and ecological resilience. The second group wanted to know about the role of popular culture and municipal markets in local gastronomy.

The third group visited the San Luis Organic Farm, a family farm model. The fourth group went to Catupuris, a rural organization promoting sustainable food systems. The fifth one, led by the SAFEteam, was a visit to Santa Anita: carbon neutral coffee production.

That afternoon, sessions about fostering multi-stakeholder engagement and partnerships took off. How to work together from a global and local perspective?

Later, debates around financing and investing in sustainable food systems and reduction of food losses and waste led discussions back to the people and the planet.

The need for data and the need to hear the voice of the people and of different stakeholders; the need to find ways to compete with processed and unhealthy trends; the need for effective communications; the need to understand the difference between taste and preferences were among the discussions of these sessions.

The day could not end without the launch of the first edition of “Harvesting Transformation”, SAFE Platform’s Magazine on Climate-Smart Sustainable Coffee and Cocoa.

Day 5: Bringing a promise to the table

The last day was the day to plan for the future of good food and the planet. Morning sessions were about building up commitment through best practices at local, national and regional level. Our regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean conducted this panel and our partner from Alternativas Bolivia, Maria Teresa Nogales, presented her experiences with local level food policies.

The last session was about sowing the seed for the future. Discussions ranged from “hands-on” strategies and learning processes for kids (key actors of change) to fostering public-private partnerships and allocating existing sources of financing, grants and investment.

A call to action

View the complete call to action signed by One Planet Network's partners

So, what's next?

The conference ended but our joint work is just starting. Follow us on social media and read our Sustainable Diets For All page to stay updated about our actions towards a future of good food for the people and the planet along with our platform partners.