13 Multi-stakeholder action to promote food diversity from farm to plate

How can we align global policy and research to diversify production and consumption with local contexts and perspectives – a Zambian view


  • International Institute for Environment & Development (IIED)
  • Hivos Southern Africa and Global Office
  • UN Environment (UNEP)
  • Zambian Embassy in Rome


Despite their phenomenal productivity, current food systems are not oriented towards delivering healthy, diverse and high quality diets for people. Humans have utilized some 7000 food plants over the millennia, however today over 60 per cent of dietary calories worldwide are derived from just four crops – wheat, maize, rice and potatoes.  The result is a loss of diversity on the farm and on the plate, with damaging impacts on human health and the resilience of agroecosystems.

The event will launch and present a report that outlines challenges and solutions to diversifying production and consumption internationally.  In addition to the international and academic view provided, through a short film the event will highlight the absence of agricultural and dietary diversity from a local community perspective in Zambia. The panel will discuss the research and video presented and explore how multi-stakeholder platforms that promote a variety of voices can deliver collective solutions for national change. Diets all over the world are becoming more homogenous and this event discusses how international, national and local actors can reflect on dietary diversity together to ensure appropriate voice is given to a variety of stakeholders all committed to transforming food systems.

Key speakers/presenters

  • Gerda Verburg / Scaling UP Nutrition Movement Coordinator
  • Dr Kayoya Masuhwa / Alternate Special Representative to FAO for Zambia
  • Seth Cook / Senior Researcher at IIED
  • Corinna Hawkes / Director of Food Policy Centre at City University
  • Hans Hoogeveen / Permanent representative to FAO for the Netherlands
  • William Chilufya / Regional Advocacy Officer Hivos Southern Africa
  • James Lomax / Sustainable Food Systems Programme Coordinator, UN Environment


The main issues discussed were:

  • The health and agricultural challenges the Zambian government and people currently face as a result of monotonous diets that are heavily reliant on Maize.
  • The global challenge of agricultural production and consumption diversity and the role of multi stakeholder platforms in addressing this issue.
  • For progress to be made in the effort of diversifying agricultural production and consumption, national governments must align their focus on agriculture as a driver of GDP with agricultural production as a vehicle for food and nutrition security.

Summary of key points

  • Agricultural biodiversity is currently threatened due to a variety of factors, which brings risks for agricultural production, livelihoods, nutrition and the ability to adapt to climate change.
  • Dietary diversity and human health are being undermined by increasing consumption of ultra-processed foods, which are displacing healthier items from people’s diets.
  • Diverse agricultural production and diverse diets can be mutually reinforcing.
  • Governments and donor agencies should reorient food and agricultural policies and programmes to encourage diversity, sustainability, and affordability of food.
  • Local crop varieties and animal breeds should be conserved and under-utilised crops promoted, particularly through the development of markets for local varieties, the promotion of regional cuisines and combinations of scientific and traditional knowledge systems.
  • Innovative multi-stakeholder initiatives can raise awareness and catalyse change in food systems, and should be actively supported by governments, NGOs and other actors.
  • Participation of low-income producers and consumers should be facilitated to allow community members and policymakers to collaborate in the design of more sustainable, inclusive and nutritious food systems.

Key outcomes/take away messages

  • Be critical towards the essence of diverse food systems and the fundamentals of our food markets. Acknowledge the importance of farm diversity and dietary diversity which are mutually reinforcing.  Among others by providing support for biodiversity and informal markets to foster food diversity and consumption.
  • In principle the Zambian Government is committed to diversification of their agricultural production in order to improve health and nutrition outcomes for the population, witnessing e.g. the inclusion of diversity as a policy priority in the Zambian Seventh National Development Plan. However, more needs to be done to support farmers in finding new markets for a diverse range of products, and to improve farming communities’ access to quality seeds.
  • Changing our current food system should be driven by multi-stakeholder approaches. Collaboration of the private sector, public sector and civil society is needed to build a joint agenda, raise awareness and shape an inclusive sustainable food system.
  • There will not be a one size fits all approach as each food system is different and embedded in a local context. Consider all possibilities and opportunities for each case and make decisions based on multi-stakeholder actions.
Side Event - 13 - Multi-stakeholder action to promote food diversity from farm to plate