Solution Cluster 5.1.2

Integrated Approaches to Enhancing Food System Resilience

‘Integrated approaches’ are proposed as a powerful means to enhance food system resilience. In this note, they are defined as food systems approaches that integrate relevant stakeholders in relevant sectors across relevant administrative levels. ‘Integration’ can be thought of as a hierarchy, that is, integrating relatively lower-level actions to deliver a higher-level outcome. It is up to the users of such approaches to define the aim and hence identify the relevant stakeholders, sectors and administrative levels to be included according to relevant context and circumstances. Integrated approaches have a crucial role in achieving sustainable food system transformation in general but, in this note, the emphasis is on their role in enhancing the resilience of food systems.

Some key principles need to be adhered to in developing and applying integrated approaches. These include (i) delivering healthy diets from environmentally-, socially- and economically-sustainable food systems; (ii) being people-centred, and ensuring equity and leaving no-one behind; (iii) aiming towards a net zero carbon pathway; (iv) maintaining healthy soil and other natural resources; (v) being context-specific; and (v) taking a ‘systems approach’.

Whilst the benefits of integrated approaches for enhancing food system resilience are generally recognised, actions needed to deliver them are not sufficiently clear, which hampers their implementation on a large scale. Therefore, while there is already significant support for integrated approaches in principle, developing a guidance document on how to achieve them, and the benefits they can bring, will give a further boost to their scaling up.

About this Solution Cluster

The way in which food systems currently operate are giving rise to a range of unsatisfactory outcomes: more than 820 million people are hungry and at least 2 billion more lack sufficient nutrients; yet, paradoxically, there are also more than 2 billion people who are overweight or obese. Equally worrying is the environmental impact on the natural resource base that underpins food security. This environmental change, together with a wide range of socioeconomic shocks and stresses will disproportionately affect the more vulnerable people, and notably smallholders in the developing world who are least well equipped to cope with the additional stresses they will bring.

Enhancing the resilience of the food systems and sustainable management of natural resources requires holistic, context-based and people-centred approaches that both address short-term needs and embrace a long-term vision. It also requires adopting an integrated approach(es) that allows for proper consideration of the linkages between human and environmental systems to simultaneously enhance human and environmental health, livelihoods and natural resource governance.

Integrated approaches can significantly contribute towards achieving the SDGs and the Paris Agreement targets, in particular SDG2 (Zero Hunger), SDG3 (Good Health and Well-Being), SDG 5 (gender equality), SDG6 (Clean Water & Sanitation), SDG7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), SDG12 (Sustainable consumption and production), SDG13 (Climate Action), SDG14 (Life below Water) and SDG15 (Life on Land). They can also support the goals and action plans of international conventions such as UNCBD, UNFCCC and UNCDD. Integrated approaches also help scaling of socio-technical innovation bundles through multi-stakeholder and actor partnerships and aligned initiatives and investments.

In the note (and including the Theory of Change presented in Annex1), the concept of integrated approaches is illustrated by three examples, i.e. Agroecology along the 13 principles set out in the HLPE (2019) report, Water-Energy–Food Nexus and Territorial Governance.  These are individually good examples of the benefits integrated approaches could bring to enhancing the resilience of food systems, but even more so if they themselves are integrated. This is because their integration will enable us to enhance simultaneously human and environmental health, livelihoods and natural resource governance through successful scaling of socio-technical innovation bundles through multi-stakeholder and actor partnerships and aligned initiatives and investments.

There are also several ongoing multi-stakeholder partnerships at different levels on integrated approaches, and these would be used to speed up their upscaling. Examples include the Friends of Agroecology, The Water and Energy for Food (W4F) joint international initiative, and the OECD Programme on a Territorial Approach to the SDGs.

Developing and implementing integrated approaches to resilient food systems require three steps:

Step 1 involves answering four key questions to ‘frame’ any given Action aimed at enhancing food system resilience: (1) resilience of what, (2) resilience to what, (3) resilience from whose perspective, and (4) resilience over what period? This initial stage gives the ‘frame’ for who needs to do what to deliver a given ‘solution’ (Action).

Step 2 then aims to develop an integrated approach that enhances food system resilience. This is achieved by recognizing how food system actors’ interests and values drive their varied activities; which then lead to food system outcome(s) of interest (food security, and other socioeconomic and environmental goals). These in turn feed back to drive needed investments and behavioral change of the actors involved.

Step 3 is the actual action or ways we can create incentives and regulations and engage multiple actors in the process.

It is however very important to be clear about what aspect(s) of the food system one is aiming to enhance (Step 1), and hence what needs to be integrated to achieve it (Steps 2 and 3).

The Theory of Change diagram below uses Agroecology, WEF Nexus and Territorial Governance as examples of approaches that, when integrated, can significantly enhance food systems resilience. Other AT subclusters provide many other examples of integrated approaches, including those on localising food systems (AT5), Transformation through Agroecology/Regenerative Agriculture Solution Cluster (AT3), and Community Cool Hubs and Clean Energy (AT1).

There is increasing agreement on the key enabling role integrated approaches play in making food system transformation sustainable, hence to all Action Tracks. As such, these approaches, whose benefits are well proven and agreed, constitute a very cost-effective game-changing way to achieve the goals of the UNFSS and, more broadly, the SDGs, as well as the targets of the Paris Agreement.

Summary Table on categorization of propositions submitted under solution cluster 1.2. Integrated approaches to food system resilience – against agro-ecology and WEF Nexus approaches.


Note: While no solutions were specifically proposed regarding territorial governance, this approach is crucial for the success of all of the proposed ones 




WEF Nexus

Integrated approaches to sustainable soil management



Support and utilization of gene banks for long-term food diversity conservation



Circular sustainable use of food system residues and waste water



Resilient and sustainable pastoral systems  



Use of clean energy in food systems (FAO)



Adaptive human-centric approach to resilient and sustainable water management 



Race to scale positive farming for resilience



Resilient food systems in Nepal 



Circular economy of bamboo production in Italy



Farmers adapting to climate change through a WEF approach in Belize



Strengthening technical & entrepreneurial capacities in African countries & universities to deploy renewable energy 



Scaling up conservation agriculture to improve smallholder farmers’ resilience in Zimbabwe



Farmers’ resilience to cope with climate and COVID 19 shocks in Canada 



Watershed management in Jamaica



Universal access to clean (modern) cooking solutions 



Agricultural water stewardship and accompanying regulations and policies to incentivise low carbon & water pathways of agri-food systems



Advance wide-scale adoption of agroecology within farms and rangelands



Join Working Group

[wpforms id=”6140″ title=”false”]