Systèmes Agroalimentaires

Agrifood systems transformation: Experiences from Costa Rica, Ireland and Rwanda


A new report from FAO analyses good practices for inspiration and insights on agrifood systems transformation.

An analysis of policies, programmes and institutional mechanisms that shape agrifood systems transformation is documented in a recent publication by FAO.

The report aims to inspire governments and stakeholders actively working to drive agrifood systems in innovative directions that result in nutritious, affordable and sustainably produced food for all. The study, funded by the Government of Ireland, draws on the experiences of Costa Rica, Ireland and Rwanda, and their path towards sustainable agrifood systems transformation.

The report National processes shaping food systems transformations provides timely contributions to ongoing national dialogues in the context of the upcoming Food Systems Summit 2021.

The Food Systems Pre-Summit established that, across all contexts, agrifood systems are shaped by an immense number of activities and complex drivers, with an even greater diversity of actors and voices. The cases in this report also demonstrate that when stakeholder engagement is encouraged, and decisions are backed by credible data and science, the processes and transformation are more resilient. FAO is extremely grateful to be able to share these lessons with member countries, and extends its gratitude to the stakeholders that participated in this study so that other nations might be inspired by their actions on the complex journey towards agrifood systems transformation
Jamie Morrison, Director, Food Systems and Food Safety Division, FAO.

Report’s key findings and recommendations

Based on conversations with policy and industry leaders and civil society actors spanning the agrifood system, the report provides a comparative overview of the contexts that have separately shaped the agrifood systems of Costa Rica, Ireland and Rwanda. The analysis has also culminated in a number of common insights highlighted from the three country cases:

  • National crises and disruptions can create a sense of urgency and the basis for a shared willingness among stakeholders to work together on transformational change.
  • Explicit agendas designed for agrifood systems transformation, that include tailored investment, implementation plans, target setting, mandated roles and strong accountability mechanisms can turn ‘paper promises’ into ‘promised progress’.
  • Inclusive governance processes that are informed by data and science and which encourage broad engagement, with all parties having a real influence on key decisions, ensure a systems lens for transformational agendas.
  • Government must lead transformational agendas without taking over. Public sector leaders must safeguard the ability of all stakeholders to influence decisions, and ensure that public resources contribute to enforce legal and policy parameters to protect sustainable transformation.
  • Transformation requires investments in transformative capabilities and innovations based on a systems perspective as well as the capability to allocate resources, act and deliver; relate and partner; adapt and self-renew; and finally, address diversity and achieve coherence.

National governments can benefit from the above insights in three ways:

  1. Approach agrifood systems transformation as an opportunity and learning journey.
  2. Facilitate the contribution of all stakeholders.
  3. Learn from how frontrunners are adapting different approaches to their own situation.

FAO-WUR collaboration

The study was led by researchers from the Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation (WCDI), part of Wageningen University & Research (WUR), in collaboration with FAO. The researchers followed a qualitative approach drawing on a methodology of key informant interviews in the three countries, a review of literature and statistics, and interpretation of results through a series of sense-making frameworks.

Links to the study report and country case studies can be found below:

National processes shaping food systems transformations. Lessons from Costa Rica, Ireland and Rwanda. See here:

  • Costa Rica’s journey towards sustainable food systems. The processes and practices that made a difference. See here: (This publication is also available in Spanish, please see here:
  • Ireland’s journey towards sustainable food systems. The processes and practices that made a difference. See here:
  • Rwanda's journey towards sustainable food systems. The processes and practices that made a difference. See here: