Solution Cluster 4.1.2

Strengthening Capacity in Food Systems

This Solution Cluster: Strengthening Capacity in Food Systems, addresses key capacity needs among the most marginalised and vulnerable actors in food systems. Rebalancing agency requires that marginalised populations acquire the knowledge, confidence, voice, and decision-making power to effectively participate in their food systems and benefit from them. It also requires the promotion of institutional mechanisms enabling inclusive participation and collective action. Capacity is an essential component of agency. The specific objective of this cluster is to strengthen capacities of marginalised and excluded groups in food systems, enabling them to learn and acquire new knowledge and skills; to make informed decisions and act upon them; to harness the power of collective action; and to make their voices heard to improve their food security and their livelihoods.

Central to advancing equitable livelihoods in food systems are the nearly 500 million small-scale food producers and fisherfolks who often work in fragile and vulnerable terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Their production and farm management choices, networking and bargaining power, access to accurate and user-friendly information, technologies, natural resources, finance, advisory services, and profitable markets determine not only the sustainability and resilience of their livelihoods and their capacity to overcome poverty and food insecurity, but also the diversity of food that will be available to their communities and to consumers and the prices they will pay. Without strengthening broad base capacities to equitably access resources and opportunities, achieving sustainable food systems will not be possible.

About this Solution Cluster

COVID-19 has made clear how flawed global food systems are and how vulnerable many food systems actors are. The food industry is one of the largest employers in the world, yet it is leaving many behind. Power imbalances across all sectors in food systems result in information asymmetries, discriminatory practices, and disproportionate distribution of benefits. Many existing policies, programmes, and legal structures created to protect the rights and dignity of those working in food systems have fallen short due to a lack of political will, accountability, and resources; resistance from large agribusiness; and a failure to include the very people these policies and structures were created to protect. Millions of people are still being left behind due to inadequate education, unequal access to financial institutions, harmful social and cultural norms, exploitative working conditions, and domestic and international structures that reinforce the cycle of poverty for marginalised populations.

To achieve sustainable, inclusive, and equitable food systems, a holistic approach is required to reach and engage all actors. This solution cluster is important because our food systems are only as strong as the weakest actor in that system; from small-scale producers of food to the catering staff in restaurants who serve that food, the vendors who sell it in street markets, and everyone in between. By strengthening the capacities of marginalised people and favouring their access to necessary and basic resources and services, we will help ensure their ability to prosper. They will make informed decisions to better provide for themselves and their families while advocating for their needs and safeguarding their rights and entitlements on local, regional, national, and international platforms.

If the solutions in this cluster are taken to scale and their inherent synergies are leveraged, they can be instrumental in achieving the SDGs (No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Quality Education, Gender Equality, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Reduced Inequalities, and Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions). The idea of an intercultural approach to co-create the needed knowledge for the design and management of sustainable food systems meets the requirement of SDG 17 and creates the partnership and alliances needed to achieve all other 16 SDGs.

This solution cluster builds on existing processes to strengthen capacity with an inclusive and broad-based approach. The need to strengthen capacity is not a new idea, but as inequality persists within food systems it is evident that previous and existing efforts to improve the livelihoods of small-scale farmers, workers, and labourers in food systems proved inadequate to ensure equitable systems and failed to reach the marginalised and most vulnerable. Transformational solutions are therefore required that adopt a holistic approach and embrace macro, meso and micro dimensions. This solution cluster addresses the above challenges by bringing innovative approaches to capacity development that empower disadvantaged and marginalised groups to drive fully owned processes, understand power dynamics within food systems and become agents of their own change, individually and collectively. This solution cluster can be easily woven across all aspects of food systems and the UNFSS Action Tracks because strengthening capacity for the most marginalised people in food systems will promote equitable livelihoods and increased agency for marginalised groups across the world.

The main objectives of the solutions identified under this cluster are focused on offering continued, effective, and innovative learning and education opportunities, increased resource accessibility, and improved accountability mechanisms to advance equitable livelihoods in food systems. These solutions, which build on already established programmes, offer pathways to build new and tailored processes to develop capacities, empower marginalised groups, and enhance their leadership. The intended groups for these solutions include women, youth, Indigenous Peoples, migrant workers in food systems, small-scale farmers, pastoralists, as well as all those working within food systems that suffer from marginalisation based on class, ethnicity, age, disability, sexuality, geography, or any other form of discrimination.

The solutions are built around the need for alternative age-sensitive education, social learning and adaptive methods that better reach populations that lack access to formal and traditional education or whose cultures of learning and knowledge management differ. There is a rich diversity of knowledge and learning systems throughout the world, and platforms for inclusive education should integrate with these systems. Indigenous knowledge, experiential learning through adult and peer education, and experimentation are all effective methods to promote the acquisition and diffusion of knowledge. With adequate fostering, the intended populations can embrace entrepreneurship and innovation, and drive change processes, while promoting more sustainable production and consumption patterns. At the same time, they will shape more transparent and accountable governance through participatory mechanisms and advocate for their rights and needs as communities or interest groups. Through the solutions found in this cluster, all actors in food systems will be able to assume leadership roles in creating inclusive food systems.

There are many solutions in this cluster that are building upon efforts that are already underway:

Legal Structures for Human Rights

Gender Transformative and Youth and Indigenous Approaches to Agricultural Education

School-based agricultural education exists around the world and remains ready for scale, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

Several youth declarations and strategies showing youth commitment and priorities, such as:

Participatory Accountability Mechanisms

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