In the pursuit of achieving the international community’s 2030 Agenda goal to end global hunger, the transformation of agri-food systems has become an urgent imperative. The challenges posed by climate change, population growth, urbanization, social inequality, and conflicts underscore the need for innovative and sustainable approaches. Two groundbreaking global projects, “Sustainable Agricultural Systems and Policies” (GP AgSys) and “Transformation of Food Systems” (GP TES), have recently been launched to address these pressing issues. What sets these initiatives apart is their commitment to a partner-led and demand-driven mode of project planning.
In the area of agri-food system transformation, several buzzwords have emerged, emphasizing the importance of evidence-based strategies, contributions to global structural policy, process-oriented methodologies, systemic approaches, and most notably, ownership. GIZ takes a supportive role, prioritizing the coordination and input provision, and shifting the focus from what they want to see to what partner countries truly need.
A pivotal concept in these endeavors is ‘collective ownership,’ characterized by meaningful participation from key stakeholders at all stages of the development cooperation process, including women and youth representatives as change agents. This approach ensures that the transformation is not only effective but also sustainable, considering diverse perspectives and needs.
Transforming food systems towards healthier diets and greater sustainability
The global project Transformation of Food Systems, operating in Zambia, Malawi, and India, stands out for its commitment to creating opportunities for dialogues among stakeholders. The project’s goal is to collaboratively develop visions, identify approaches, and engage with global networks to foster sustainable and healthy food systems. Advisory and facilitation services are offered to enhance competencies and optimize processes, with a keen focus on communicating these approaches to the public to mobilize both society and politicians.
Bernice Mueller, sharing insights from the transformative initiative in Malawi, emphasizes that while the “Food Systems” approach is not new, translating it into concrete activities while maintaining a systems approach is a unique challenge. The approach demands flexibility, introduces uncertainties due to the absence of established best practices, and clashes with existing rigid structures. However, it also presents an opportunity to program what is needed in the present, ensuring relevance at all stages and fostering ownership within the country.
The overarching goal of these initiatives remains constant: ensuring everyone can fulfill their right to nutritious food. However, the approach requires a shift from merely conceptualizing to becoming incubators and enablers of change. Policy partners are urged to transition from recipients of support to change agents with a vision, and consumers are encouraged to become self-actualizing advocates for their own needs. This transformative journey necessitates frequent dialogue with engaged actors, staying flexible in the face of change, and remaining steadfast in the commitment to a predefined goal.
In this collaborative pursuit of agri-food system transformation, the emphasis is not just on what is wanted, but on what is truly needed, fostering a sense of ownership that will endure beyond the life of the projects.