Food for the cities programme

Characterising the CRFS

Characterisation of the CRFS means understanding the general functioning and performance of the food system, as well as its longer-term sustainability and resilience. 

It allows project teams to start identifying the strengths, weaknesses, problems and bottlenecks within the CRFS, which can inform some initial priority areas for action. It also allows project teams to identify data gaps that need to be filled through collection of primary data during the in-depth assessment. 

Data to characterise the CRFS is drawn from existing and secondary documentary sources, collected through document analysis and expert interviews. Information on policy and institutional frameworks may be gathered through an additional, focused round of stakeholder mapping. 

The findings can be used to inform qualitative rapid food flow mapping, to visualise flows and sources of food to identify food system activities within CRFS and get first sense of strengths, weaknesses, and potential problems or bottlenecks.


The following tools will help with the characterisation of the CRFS: 

Template: Table for collating stakeholder data

This table allows the project team to draw up a preliminary list of stakeholders and to start collating basic information drawn from reliable sources.  

Template: Stakeholder interview guide and profile sheet

This document sets out some suggested questions for stakeholder interviews, and provides a template stakeholder profile sheet for collating responses. The profile sheet includes space for interviewee analysis of responses.  

Guidance: Step-by-step GIS guide for the CRFS assessment and planning process 

[Available soon]  

Template: Rapid scan report 

This template will help the project team to develop a brief report with facts resulting from the rapid scan assessment for external dissemination (e.g. advocacy, donors, partners, etc.)  

Guidance: Food flow mapping

The following example has been adapted from the pilot experience on food flow mapping developed in Colombo to identify weaknesses and strengths of the CRFS by understanding the functioning of food flows. 

Examples: Flow charts showing findings of food flow mapping 

Understanding food flows is necessary to determine the relationship between food offer and food demand and its footprint in the territory. This example in Colombo helped the project team to assess the CRFS rice flows and provides recommendations on how to improve inefficiencies.  


Training unit 5: CRFS context and characterisation (Rapid scan)

This unit gives guidance on the questions to ask, and the secondary data to source, to establish important element of the local context and to characterise the CRFS.