Agriculture and food systems for a sustainable future: an integrated approach by IIED

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) urges international policy-makers to consider integrated approach in agriculture and food systems transformation. Read more on IIED 2013 Briefing on ‘Agriculture and food systems for a sustainable future: an integrated approach’ by Barbara AdolphMaryanne Grieg-Gran.

Agriculture and food systems are at the centre of the debates around post-2015 development goals and targets. Hunger and food insecurity remain major development priorities, made worse by climate change, price volatility in globalised food markets and over-consumption in wealthy countries. Existing agriculture and food systems are central to sustaining poor people’s livelihoods and are technically capable of producing adequate food for all, but they place major stress on environmental assets including soils, water, fisheries and biodiversity. Post-2015 goals and agendas need to support a transformation of food systems to make them more productive, environmentally sustainable and resilient while preserving and enhancing these livelihood benefits. The agroecological and agroindustrial technical solutions to that challenge are well advanced, but the systemic political, economic and social barriers to change are substantial and under-appreciated.

According to the authors, an integrated approach linking food security and nutrition to ecosystem productivity and sustainable livelihoods might have been a more effective MDG’s approach in the long term, providing it could have dealt with political economy challenges of food production and consumption.

In this briefing, IIED highlights following policy pointers concerning food security and sustainable food systems :

  • Strategies to eliminate hunger and under-nutrition can achieve important environmental and socio-economic cobenefits by integrating agriculture and food systems, the environment and livelihoods.
  • Policymakers should give greater attention to the role of small agricultural producers in combating hunger and food insecurity and develop strategies to support them.
  • Growing competition from foreign investors for land represents a potential threat to the food security of local populations. Deals that reallocate land used by local people for food production should be subject to careful legal scrutiny and cost-benefit analysis.
  • Food insecurity in urban areas has less to do with the availability of food than with factors such as low income that limit access, and with those such as lack of health care and public services that compound it.

The governance of food systems is profoundly undemocratic, mostly involving unilateral decisions of large corporations, and government and international agency policies and investments that are in large part shaped by the interests and priorities of these powerful actors. Sustainable, equitable and fair food systems require more participatory forms of governance. Examples of participatory food system governance are springing up at the local level worldwide, led by networks of farmer associations, NGOs and local governments. The challenge is to scale up participatory governance institutions so that they equitably represent the full range of stakeholders, including those who are not directly engaged in agriculture and food production.

Download the IIED Briefing Agriculture and Food Systems for a sustainable future.

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) is an independent, nonprofit research institute working in the field of sustainable development. IIED provides expertise and leadership in researching and achieving sustainable development at local, national, regional and global levels. For more information, visit IIED website.