Solution Cluster 4.3.1

Promoting Integrated Food Systems Policies, Planning, and Governance

Solution Cluster 4.3.1 Promoting Integrated Food Systems Policies, Planning, and Governance recognises the interdependence of the various components of food systems and the crucial role of actors at different levels of governance working in a coherent and coordinated way. In this context, urban, local, and sub-national governments have a major role to play in food systems transformation. Promoting Integrated Food Systems Policies, Planning and Governance within a territory that includes cities, towns and their rural catchment areas is a key component of a coherent, multi-level governance system to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Such a system does not obviate the need for urban or planning in other administrative units and the integration of food systems in it. However, such planning must be consistent with broader territorial objectives and management.

Territorial approaches provide an effective framework to address the different aspects of food systems transformation at a scale where its social, environmental, economic, and health-related dimensions can be tackled with the active participation of all stakeholders. The promotion of integrated food systems policies, planning and governance requires a long-term commitment from all involved and a continuous engagement and dialogue among territorial actors (urban and rural) but also between territorial and national stakeholders. Territorial governance has the advantage of being place-based, people-centred, multi-actor and multi-sectoral. Social dialogue and community-based decision-making mechanisms are exploited to find common solutions to strengthen complementarities and address trade-offs among elements of a sustainable food systems transformation (social, economic, and environmental).

About this Solution Cluster

Food policies are usually national, characterised by sectoral approaches, that fail to include sub-national governments and the potential of rural-urban linkages for food systems transformation. Despite their potential in transforming food systems, local and sub-national authorities are not empowered with meaningful autonomy and resources and are not embedded in effective accountability mechanisms. For instance, urban governments have a key role in the governance of food systems at territorial level. With 54 percent of the world’s population now living in cities, with 85 percent of the world’s population living in or within 3 hours of an urban centre, and with 70 percent of food consumption and waste taking place in areas classified as urban, cities become the epicentres of food systems transformation. But urban areas are also the epicentres of rapidly increasing overweight, obesity, and diet related non-communicable diseases. Too many cities and towns struggle to create food environments where the components of healthy and sustainable diets are available, accessible, and affordable. Lack of effective connections between urban food systems planning and governance with the ones in the “territory” that includes their agricultural catchment areas is a major obstacle in achieving win-win solutions to make progress in improving diets and urban and rural livelihoods. And yet, such linkages and a proper governance system that does not exploit them are largely missing. Such linkages can address the problem of food deserts in many cities and the underconsumption of nutritious foods (fruits, vegetables, pulses/legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds), while creating market outlets for local agriculture and small farmer participation. In the same vein, exploiting the potential of territorial planning can facilitate access to healthy diets which are unaffordable for many low-income families. Territorial planning may strengthen access to international markets for both imports of what cannot produced locally and exports through ensuring minimum quantity needed, coordination in logistics, food safety standards, etc. It could also substantially reduce rural urban inequality and leverage food systems development to create decent employment, poverty reduction and stem “push” urbanisation. Participatory territorial governance can better utilise the vast array of indigenous knowledge which has shown to make substantial contributions to food security, nutrition, and environmental sustainability.

Inclusive urban and territorial food governance mechanisms (e.g., food policy councils or similar mechanisms) will bring the stakeholders together for better coordination of actions to deliver the benefits of the territorial approach described above. Territorial food governance will work on coordinated action across a twin-track approach: shifting urban (and local) diets towards healthier and more sustainable patterns while ensuring that food systems in the territory (production, processing, and distribution) deliver such diets in a way that are accessible to and affordable by all and in a way that improves rural livelihoods and supports more sustainable processes throughout the food supply chain. But such “territorial” governance and planning instruments are often lacking or are dysfunctional. Therefore, commitments by cities, local, and sub-national governments to prioritise food systems in their “jurisdictions” remain uncoordinated and food systems planning is constrained by administrative barriers. Essential links between components of food systems (spatial or sectoral) are therefore nor considered or exploited through a participatory and coordinated planning process. Critical economies of agglomeration and learning and experience exchanging opportunities are lost.

Some of the concrete solutions and activities envisaged within this cluster include:

    Conducting food systems participatory assessment, which is crucial for starting the integrated planning process.
  • Engaging multi-stakeholders in priority setting, food action planning, policies, and monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. Urban, local, and sub-national food governance mechanisms could become a result of initial planning and a key entry point for initiating the process of coordination between various administrative entities and sectoral policies.
  • Integrating food systems in urban and territorial planning, developing holistic strategies for strengthening the role of urban, local, and subnational stakeholders in food systems transformation, and fostering inter-connection with other systems (such as transport, health, and infrastructure).
  • Promoting decentralisation processes, to ensure further legitimation of local authorities and the devolution of some responsibilities for planning, financing, managing, and supporting economic and social development.
  • Integrating urban and territorial priorities and perspectives into the overall management of food systems transformation (e.g., incorporating territorial approaches (including rights-based) into revised national food security and nutrition strategies).
  • Establishing local food environments where healthy, culturally appropriate, and sustainably produced food become the default by strengthening incentives and capacities of consumers and producers alike (through zoning regulations, local taxes, public procurement, etc.). Local food councils can play a crucial role in this effort.
  • Using public food procurement as an important tool and a driver to demand systemic changes by incorporating the SDGs into the contracts in a measurable way, so that it is possible to report on progress. Getting the full effect of public procurement depends on the existence of a coherent and coordinated multi-level governance architecture to integrate existing efforts and to build institutional capacity for territorial approaches at all levels (e.g., a food procurement officer network coordinated by regional procurement ambassadors as in Denmark).
  • Identifying ongoing territorial processes in different contexts to broaden and build upon existing experiences and resources. This will also require strengthening knowledge and raising awareness to harmonise existing activities, discuss local challenges and set up ad hoc networks/working group(s)/communities of practice on sustainable food systems to enhance synergies and share lessons learned.
  • Strengthening and articulating relevant horizontal networks in similar agroecological and socioeconomic contexts to identify guiding principles for adaptation at local level in similar territories. Transversal exchanges of knowledge, experience and data through inclusive processes and innovative tools across contexts are key for good governance from territorial to global level and can inform sectoral policies and programmes within a common framework.
  • Offering low/subsidised rents to young farmers or market holders and providing/leasing public or market locations in and around the city to support local food production and consumption.

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