Transforming Food Systems for Rural Prosperity
Rural development report 2021 analyzes the links between the prosperity of rural populations and the transformation of food systems. Small farmers, rural workers and entrepreneurs produce, process and distribute much of the world’s food, but many are unable to earn a decent living. The report examines how opportunities in the food system can generate more diverse and equitable outcomes.
The report distinguishes between the drivers, components and outcomes of food systems that interact within the context of a larger food environment. It takes as its starting point the desired outcomes of food systems. The central challenge of transforming food systems is to optimize nutrition, livelihoods and the environment while ensuring resilience. There are critical trade-offs to be made, including between maintaining affordable nutritious diets, paying the true environmental costs of production and distribution, and allowing those who produce food to earn a decent living.
The analytical lens is rural livelihoods. While recognizing that nutrition, environmental and resilience outcomes are equally important, the report pays particular attention to the livelihoods outcomes of food systems. The vision is for change driven by a new generation of rural agribusiness entrepreneurs – young women and men who use their innovative energy, digital skills and voice to capitalize on opportunities, thereby contributing to rural prosperity for all. .
Transforming food systems is a long-term generational endeavor.
With a generation’s hindsight, food systems have since changed in unrecognizable ways. Global agricultural production has increased enormously and hunger has fallen sharply. Yet paradoxically, as the efficiency of food production increased, well-intentioned food and agriculture policies generated incentives, externalities and spillovers that resulted in poor nutrition, environmental decline and rural inequalities. The challenge for this generation is to recognize the interrelationships within food systems, to make explicit trade-offs between desired outcomes, and to avoid unintended and uncompensated costs and consequences. Today’s choices will determine how food systems transform for decades to come. We must therefore start now to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty, hunger and malnutrition.
Pathways to food system transformation vary across different food environments.
They vary according to the physical, economic, political and socio-cultural contexts in which consumers engage in the food system and acquire, prepare and consume food. The way food systems work vary considerably across geographic areas, market segments and the political economy of different countries. Food systems range from local and traditional markets with informal markets to the consolidated model focused on supermarkets in high-income countries. Rural prosperity is inextricably linked to the functioning of the entire food system, from the local to the global level.
Food systems are constantly changing due to external factors that determine the pace and potential for success.
The 2017 High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition identified five main categories of drivers of food system change. Biophysical and environmental factors include natural resources and ecosystem services, as well as climate change. Political and economic drivers include leadership, globalization, foreign investment and trade, food policies, land tenure, food prices and their volatility, as well as conflicts and humanitarian crises. Sociocultural drivers include culture, religion, rituals, social traditions, and women’s empowerment. And demographic factors include population growth, changing age distribution, urbanization, migration and forced displacement. The relative impact of each driver depends on the type of food system in question, the type of actors involved and the type of actions and policies decided.
Components of the food system include the production and consumption of food as well as the environment of the food system – the vast web of activities of agrifood companies between the farmer’s door and the consumer’s plate.
Agriculture and food production shape food consumption and diets, especially for those who consume food that they themselves produce. But changes in rural and urban diets and in food consumption patterns are leading to changes in agriculture and food production. The intermediate food system connects producers and consumers and includes all economic activities associated with transport, processing, storage, packaging and recycling, as well as supporting services such as finance, machinery and equipment. advice.
The study is available here
(The study was conducted by the International Fund for Agricultural Development)