037 Towards sustainable food systems: diversifying markets for small-scale farmers

Economic, social and environmental gains through indigenous vegetables and sustainability labels.

Organizers

  • Representation of Italy to the RBAs
  • Representation of Kenya to the RBAs
  • European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM)
  • International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM
  • Organics International)
  • FAO

Abstract

Making local and global food systems more resilient, whilst improving their capacity to feed and employ people, is one of the main global challenges in the coming years. Investing in sustainable food systems (SFS) is key not only to end hunger but it will also contribute to other interlinked SDGs such as ensuring healthy lives and promoting decent work for all. Technological, institutional and commercial innovations, revised policies as well as public and private investments are all part of the mix needed to foster this change.
 
The Sustainable Agrifood Systems Strategies (SASS) project, undertaking multi-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder research and policy dialogue in Kenya and Tanzania, works on how markets for traditional indigenous vegetables can provide the incentives for more sustainable, resilient and healthy food systems. A central role lies with small-scale farmers who provide the majority of the food in the world.

Key speakers/presenters

Panelists:

  • Pierfrancesco Sacco, Permanent Representative of Italy to the UN Agencies in Rome
  • Hanne Knaepen, ECDPM
  • Gianni Vaggi, University of Pavia
  • Federica Varini, IFOAM
  • Grammenos Mastrojeni, Mountain Partnership
  • Mr. Magara, Director Crop Resources, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation Kenya

Facilitation: Valentina Savastano, Representation of Italy to the RBAs

 

Main themes/issues discussed

Making food systems more sustainable, whilst improving their capacity to feed and employ people, is a major global challenge. Investing in sustainable food systems is key not only to end hunger but it will also contribute to other interlinked SDGs such as ensuring healthy lives and promoting decent work for all. Technological, institutional and commercial innovations, revised policies as well as public and private investments are all needed to foster this change.

This side-event brought together experts from various sectors, including academia, think-tanks, civil society and government. It created the opportunity to explore the incentives stakeholders face in contributing (or not) to sustainable food systems, through connecting smallholder farmers to markets. More concretely it questioned how to effectively link sustainable farming practices to consumers? And, what are the incentives within the food system to create an enabling environment for sustainability? Different stakeholders have different roles and responsibilities, and it is often hard to address coordination failures and power asymmetries effectively. This side-event aimed to unpack these issues, with a focus on diversifying production, distribution and consumption and linking smallholders to markets, with concrete examples from Kenya. 

Summary of key points

Global awareness on the need for more sustainable food systems is growing, but stakeholders have a diversity of views on how to achieve this. A common understanding of the key obstacles and the approaches to meet such challenges, is a crucial ingredient to bring about the multi-stakeholder collaboration required for the transformation of our food systems in line with the SDGs. Ensuring clarity and increasing awareness is one of the goals of UN Rome-based Agencies.

The Sustainable Agrifood Systems Strategies (SASS) consortium project, funded by the Italian Ministry of Research, is undertaking multi-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder research and policy dialogue in Kenya and Tanzania. SASS presenters from ECDPM and University of Pavia inquired how indigenous vegetables can enter a market, dominated by export crops and large-scale agricultural intensification. One way is by increasing consumer awareness on the sustainability benefits of indigenous vegetables through sustainability labelling.

There exists a multitude of labelling and certification schemes: Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) are locally focused quality assurance systems for certification, based on active participation of stakeholders and trust. IFOAM has been successfully implementing PGS in Asia and Africa. The FAO Mountain Partnership launched a voluntary labelling scheme for mountain products to promote access to markets for small producers, through value chain improvement and the granting of the Mountain Partnership label.

Key take away messages

A sustainable food system delivers food security and nutrition for all in such a way that the economic, social and environmental bases to generate food security and nutrition for future generations are not compromised.

One way to achieve a sustainable food system is by promoting traditional indigenous vegetables to diversify single-crop based food systems. These vegetables have a myriad of advantages: they are climate resilient, nutritious, etc. However, their cultivation, marketability and consumption has been difficult to expand. Increasing consumer awareness on their benefits is one way to develop a market for indigenous vegetables

Sustainability labels and voluntary certification of organic or more sustainable practices can raise consumer awareness and in some cases, they can to better link smallholder farmers to markets, especially if labelling is accompanied by other improvements of the governance of the value chain, from production to distribution to consumption.

CFS - Side Event 037 - Towards sustainable food systems: diversifying markets for small-scale farmers