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The Food Systems Approach in Practice: Our Guide for Sustainable Transformation

In this paper (PDF) by ECDPM an iterative, step-based sustainable food system approach has been developed that help navigate complexity and is flexible in its required resources, thus enbaling a fast overview or a deep dive as determined by a project’s or organisation’s objectives. The approach combines four components: 1) food system component, used to describe the different elements in the food system and the relationships between them, in order to understand dynamics at the system level; 2) sustainability component, to help define social, economic, and environmental sustainability, analyse sustainability trade-offs, and reflect on future sustainability challenges; 3) political economy analyses, used to analyse the actors and factors, including power relations and formal and informal rules of the game that shape food systems; 4) the development of transformation pathways to advance food system sustainability. The food system, sustainability, and political economy components provide the analytical base for developing context-specific pathways and identifying entry-points for promoting more sustainable food systems. These pathways consist of debating what to prioritise, identifying where action should be taken for transforming the food system, and marshalling a coalition of actors willing to drive the change. Given the complexity, uncertainty, and political character of food systems transformations, the development of these pathways can benefit greatly from involving all relevant stakeholders from the start. The goal of the approach is that together, the four components can help guide practitioners and decision-makers to describe, diagnose, and develop more coherent, effective, and context-appropriate interventions in food systems to improve their sustainability. The use of each component is organised into steps, involving practical methods and tools. While it is recommended to integrate all steps as they inform one another, each project or organisation should decide on where to place its resources best, including dropping steps or bringing in other tools.

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