Solution Cluster 4.3.3

Strengthening Sustainable Territorial Development

Solution Cluster 4.3.3 Supporting Local Food Actors is related to the recommendations emanating from the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) High-Level Forum on Connecting Smallholders to Markets. However, a territorial perspective gives more substance and strengthens the value of the CFS recommendations (such as recommendations #18: “promote short food supply chains that enable smallholders to obtain a better income from their production” and #24: “facilitate smallholders’ capacity to increase their bargaining power and control over their economic environment, and participation in food value chains by acting collectively”). The direct objective of the cluster is to facilitate alignment, high-impact, and cost-efficient collaborations, and accelerate learning loops among different actors and initiatives working with smallholder farmers, SMEs, and other actors in the local food value chains. Given the embeddedness of markets in a territory, supporting these local food actors has the potential to reduce distances (both geographical and socio-cultural) among supply chain actors, allowing for shorter distribution channels which enable smallholders to acquire information more easily (thus reducing the information asymmetries), and to negotiate better terms of participation into these markets. Similarly, the embeddedness of these markets in territories makes them crucial to ensuring food security and access to healthy diets for local consumers, especially for the most vulnerable ones for whom these markets are the main retail outlet for purchasing fresh and unprocessed foods. Finally, local food actors can play a crucial role in preserving specific quality of their food linked to the place of production, to contribute to preserving local biodiversity, cultural identity, and food heritage, while improving market access and local redistribution of added values. This is enhanced with the development of specific labelling and place-based specifications such as geographical indications. Local food actors should be recognised and supported as they can be the key channels for contributing to healthier local food environments.

Improved connections between rural, peri-urban, and urban areas can more effectively link producers to markets and consumers, and create opportunities for transformative investments in food production, processing, storage, transport, and markets that can support local economic development and enhance the quality of life of the local population. Priority should be given to strengthening local markets and short food supply chains, particularly in small cities. Localising food based dietary guidelines for sustainable and healthy diets can inform consumers and reorient demand towards culturally acceptable, locally produced foods in season.

This is particularly the case for small cities and towns and their rural hinterland. The rural-small city continuum/interface is expected to account for around 4.9 billion people, or 57 percent of the world’s total population with a large part of them being poor and food insecure. Development of sustainable food systems in those territories holds the potential for sustainably reducing poverty and food insecurity.

About this Solution Cluster

Local food actors are the most important to ending hunger and poverty but are the most overlooked in global food systems. There is a growing recognition of the need for action and investment by governments, international agencies, the research community and civil society and indigenous peoples’ organisations for greater and better support to developing the agency of farmers in seed system management. SMEs are the economic backbone of virtually all food systems. They generate most of the new jobs created, help diversify a country’s economic base, promote innovation, deliver goods and services to the bottom of the pyramid, and can be a powerful force for integrating women and young people into the economic mainstream. Some SMEs are embedded in the supply chains of larger agribusinesses and critical to a stable and transparent supply. Territorial markets are currently absent from the policy radars of many governments and their potential is not yet well and widely understood.

Territories can act as hubs of innovation and, thus, incentivise small and medium-sized agricultural and non-agricultural enterprise creation and promote employment. Public-private partnerships will result in the creation of technological and entrepreneurial ecosystems which will meet, inter alia, increasing demands for including organic and agro-ecological products and services.

The solutions in this cluster will work because they are based on the evidence that livelihoods are more equitable and secure where informal transfer, shorter supply chain and local market trade and small-scale commercial business enterprise can thrive. For instance, if farmer networks are strengthened with support for information and knowledge transfer then their individual and collective agency is strengthened. In the last few years, several initiatives by public and private sectors – including smallholder organisations – have accumulated lessons learned from a variety of interventions across the smallholder ecosystems. This has also further highlighted the various weak points that need to be addressed to deliver on a holistic smallholder ecosystem approach. All the solutions grouped in this cluster are based on published learning and evidence and on the need for more solutions that address the agency of individuals and collectives in territorial food systems, regardless of macro-economics. This strength can then lead to increased bargaining power, market engagement and connection with higher level governance structures. Consumers’ interest in authentic, origin-linked quality and local food is also an important driver for the actions to work, while the promotion of the food products also benefits from the reputation of the territory and vice-versa, paving the way for rural tourism and local gastronomy.

This cluster brings together an ample range of solutions that can touch all actors, from fresh food markets and supermarket chains committing to buying more local food, to smallholder farmers gaining improved access to education, resources, and ownership abilities.

  • Aligning efforts in the smallholder farmers support ecosystem. A digital knowledge system would be established with a curated, geo-referenced data interface tracking key ongoing or planned initiatives; a digital directory of service providers for different countries; non-confidential data on impact tracking and lessons learned from different programmatic models; and a marketplace function for participating actors with interest in seeking collaborations. The system could be complemented by periodic forums gathering smallholder organisations and service providers designed to refine existing models, ensure that services are strongly anchored into smallholders’ demand and responsive to it, and accelerate the pace of innovation and mutual learning through peer discussion.
  • Promoting inclusive seed systems for equitable livelihoods, via the establishment of inclusive networks, so that farmers can engage with each other in the interests of local food security and sovereignty and of equitable livelihoods. The production of seed by farmer-owned SMEs will also promote entrepreneurship and create productive employment and decent work.
  • Considering school feeding, as it can address all the SDGs, create a systemic intervention, and help boost the local food economy. Implementing school feeding is a low hanging fruit educating children in what is healthy food by giving a daily essential meal to all children, that ensures that no child is left behind, and, with that educational meal, building a stronger sustainable food culture for generations to come. School feeding and other food procurement programmes can be leveraged to strengthen local economies and promote sustainable local food systems.
  • Promoting local sourcing by large retailer, via a global voluntary commitment by large supermarket chains globally, especially those operating in the Global South (Africa, Latin America, and Asia), to exercise preferential sourcing of at least one third of the net value of its fresh products supplies (fruits, vegetables, etc.) from local small producers by 2030, and to commit to pay fair prices for the value added. The supermarkets themselves would put forward the means to reach the target, including helping organising cooperatives and/or other forms of effective associations to be able to meet the scale and volume needed to supply the supermarket, establishing credit schemes for the farmers to obtain the technology to meet standards, facilitating knowledge dissemination, etc.
  • Establishing agri-SME Business Development Platforms (BDPs) to connect diverse cross-sector actors engaged in strengthening agri-SMEs and provide multiple services that better leverage and align their collective resources – to maximise collective impact. Building on existing initiatives and a wealth of experience and insights generated by well-placed but disparate stakeholder groups, some of the key functions of this BDP will be: a toolbox of resources for agri-SMEs to enhance their investment-readiness and bankability; a suite of assessment and training resources and material for entrepreneur and business development services; and a network of local businesses that can help implement and a learning community for agri-SME finance, with an active learning and outreach program.
  • Establishing Farm to Market Alliances (FtMAs) engaging farmers with service centres and serving as a one-stop shop through which farmers interact with service providers, based on the model already developed in eastern African countries. This includes promoting a broader partnership between private and public sector to better engage private sector companies procuring locally.
  • Improving infrastructure and other policies and programmes to connect cities and towns and their agricultural “catchment areas” within a territory and to connect producers, agro-industrial processors and ancillary services, and other segments of the food value chain. An example of the approach includes agro-corridors, which connect production areas to small urban hubs.
  • Creating Public-private partnerships will result in the creation of technological and entrepreneurial innovation ecosystems which will meet, inter alia, increasing demands for including organic and agro-ecological products and services.
  • Developing geographical indication systems (GIs) to preserve their specific-quality product linked to the origin and differentiate it on the market. A GI is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin, including natural and human factors (World Intellectual Property Organisation definition). It represents an opportunity for a group of smallholders to collectively protect the intellectual property attached to their product name and the reputation of their related production system. The added value can then be better redistributed locally to local primary producers and processors, because of their specific practices valued in the specifications.
  • Supporting territorial markets through investment, policy, and capacity development to make these markets more inclusive, revitalise the local economy, enable access to healthy and diversified diets to consumers, and catalyse the transition toward sustainable food systems.
  • Strengthening food safety and quality standards and control mechanisms.
  • Promoting the establishment of local trading platforms (e-commerce) or infrastructure (improved local markets).
  • Strengthening local processing (including local fortification) capacity and promoting the adoption of long-term and fair contracts across value chain actors to reduce asymmetries in bargaining power and build trust.

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