Friday,27 May

14:30 - 17:00

Kleine Zaal

2015 was a landmark year with important international processes on climate change and sustainable development taking place that will influence public policies over the next decade. To reach these goals, policy and practice should follow a holistic approach integrating economic, social and environmental elements. This highly interactive session provided the space to explore in small groups how the philanthropic community can work together with civil society, policy and business actors to transform our food system into a healthier and more sustainable one. Specific areas include food and climate change, evidence-based advocacy, and the urban-rural connection.

Key points raised by speakers and during discussion (use subheadings and bullets)

Prof. Olivier de Schutter set the context for the discussion. Key inputs include:

  • A sustainable food system requires a holistic approach – needs to encompass may aspects such as:
    • Environmental sustainability: better management of natural resources and environment-climate friendly approaches to the entire food chain
    • Social equity: Decent livelihoods for farmers and decent wages for workers in the food system
    • Culturally adapted: Respect for cultural identities and traditions
    • Health: diverse diets
    • Rural development and thriving local economy
    • Limiting disruptive impacts on other food systems by avoiding externalities
  • Our lifestyles, our socio-economic choices, our centralised power systems and the dominant economic position of major agrifood players are some of the obstacles to transitioning our food system.
  • Cities have a key role to play in helping a shift in our food system. The system can be unlocked at city level and facilitate the organisation for a transition at larger scale.
  • A change in our (citizens) behaviour is of paramount importance. Such shift is difficult and will require good information and motivation for people to change their behaviour.
  • Food democracy as a complement to community involvement

Key messages from the roundtable discussions include:

  • Promotion of consumer awareness & sustainable lifestyles: there is still a lot do to as currently only minority of consumers make “ethical” buying decisions. Climate change is not a big motivator while health is a stronger leverage point. Cultural factors are also essential. In order to promote consumer awareness and sustainable lifestyles better education and information of people is key.
  • There is a need of waste reduction initiatives
  • Local engagement: local actors should engage in promoting consumer awareness and sustainable lifestyles
  • Public procurement and public subsidies need to be rethought.
  • There is a need for systemic approach that consider the spectrum of the food production chain (from the producers to the consumers): internalise external costs; science-based targets (a “2 degree target” for food); multi-stakeholders processes; start with localised (cities, communities) approaches and scale-up models (bottom-up approach to transition).
  • Tap better on scientific evidence and credible data for policy advocacy and development.
  • Land use/ownership: How can farmers with no land rights be supported? Often, ownership of the land is not as important as the security to use it or the tenure.
  • Motivating young people to stay in rural areas and see farming as a good career development.
  • Global policy agendas such as the Milan Pact can assist in introducing policy where there was none before.
  • Smart farming: We need to think of smarter ways to farm including the use of new technologies. Other methods that could be used are using produce as collateral for borrowing instead of land.
  • Integrated development approach: bringing as many sectors into the fold as possible is vital. It is also a challenging approach to manage and there may also be a forgotten sector not included.
  • Cooperatives: The aggregation of people instead of actual farms/land can also be effective. Often farmers want to collaborate to find solutions and not be tied by a set structure. This is also a way to bring farmers together as an economic engine.

Key points of learning  

Working towards the transition of our food systems has many entry points and requires making connections between different sectors and stakeholders. Similarly, philanthropy’s work on health, environment, research, education and other social issues, citizen’s mobilisation and others is geared towards a general transition of our systems (the food one included). Better connections and coordination will help complementarity and movement building that are required for transition to happen.

Any actions or agreements reached 

EFC will facilitate more discussions on this matter. Examples include the November meetings of the European Environmental Funders Group and European Foundations for Sustainable Agriculture and Food working group. More information will follow on the EFC’s website.

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