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Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition • FSN Forum

Re: Towards a common understanding of Sustainable Food Systems

Bernardete Neves
Bernardete NevesLand and Water Division, FAOItaly

Dear colleagues,

I particularly support three bold statements made in the very short section on strategies to promote sustainable food systems:

  • "Inequality among stakeholders has to be compensated at least to some degree by public sector (i.e. government) intervention, in a way that leads to greater overall prosperity.
  • The “rules of the game” need to be adjusted so that the true costs and benefits of certain practices are accounted for in a fair manner.
  • Financial incentives are not the only consideration but are one of the strongest levers of change available."

Indeed, a key strategy to promote sustainable food systems is to recognize that we need a combination of measures, to compensate, adjust and incentivize change. For agricultural producers to adopt more sustainable practices, these need to be integrated in a package of actions that genuinely improves farm management and income. Agricultural producers will only be able to comply with conservation requirements and restoration goals, if they can maintain or improve productivity elsewhere on their farm and reduce pressure on remaining natural ecosystems, and the opportunity cost of land for restoration. Similarly, investment in rehabilitation and sustainable management must have an economic return.

SFS investments must take agriculture producers to a new equilibrium with restored and productive landscapes, producing higher environmental benefits, on farm and beyond, with lower opportunity costs. But this doesn’t necessarily require much additional investment as there are a variety of programmes offering incentives for this transition. These range from policy-driven investments to fulfil mandatory regulations, such as taxes and charges; to private strategies for saving production costs (water-quality protection programmes); to opening new markets (certificates/standards); to voluntary investments in social and livelihood benefits (corporate social responsibility and NGO investments in social development).

An important contribution that the SFS Framework can make, in addition to the others mentioned in 3.1., is to bring in investments from the consumer side, linked to certification and other strategies for sourcing of sustainable agriculture products and services, to better reward producers for environmental and social benefits of sustainable food production systems.

In the next stages of the 10 YFP SFS, greater attention needs to be given to strategies to increase policy coherence- across environment, agriculture, health, finance- and convergence of sustainability investments along the value chains.