SHiFT’s research partner meeting: Highlights from WP3 on Governance and Inclusive Food Systems

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In November 2023, the CGIAR Research Initiative on Sustainable Healthy Diets through Food Systems Transformation (SHiFT) held its first research partner meeting to share research findings, evaluate progress, and set goals for the future. Researchers from SHiFT’s Work Package 3 on Governance and Inclusive Food Systems (WP3) discussed their approach to understanding and navigating the complex challenges surrounding food systems transformation.

Understanding the landscape

Food systems do not operate in isolation. Political, social, and economic forces are interwoven throughout food value chains, hindering progress toward sustainable healthy diets. Untangling these webs of actors, forms of powers, and structures is key for achieving transformative change. Through literature reviews and diagnostic analyses, WP3 researchers are exploring the hidden factors that shape food choices and policy decisions.

In 2022 and 2023, baseline assessments were conducted in Viet Nam, Ethiopia, and Honduras to characterize the current food systems landscape and identify roadblocks to transformation. By engaging with key stakeholders from governments, institutions, NGOs, civil society, and the private sector, WP3 is generating awareness about the political economy of food systems. These analyses position WP3 to support stakeholders in developing evidence-based solutions that will address barriers and advance food systems transformation.

Sharing knowledge, sparking action

Presentations during the SHiFT research partner meeting highlighted WP3’s theoretical and practical contributions to the food systems governance dialogue. Abdul-Rahim Abdulai, SHiFT Postdoctoral Fellow, shared a holistic framework developed by the WP3 team that conceptualizes the intersection between political domains and food systems transformation. By addressing multidimensional actions, such as investments, policies, and behavioral change, the framework can serve as a guide for configuring and scaling transformative solutions.

Ellen Mangnus, Postdoctoral Researcher at Wageningen University and Research (WUR), prompted an insightful discussion on food consumption patterns in relation to existing power structures. This perspective reframes the way we think about food systems, capturing the dynamic interplay between power, politics, and governance. Examining the means and modes of food consumption draws attention to the barriers to sustainable healthy diets, leading to the development of more inclusive and equitable solutions.

On the horizon

The SHiFT research partner meeting provided an initial  snapshot of WP3’s ongoing work. This research is filling critical gaps in understanding the pathways needed to transform governance in support of food systems change. Chris Béné, WP3 lead, announced that the team is on track to produce six peer-reviewed publications in 2024, enriching the global evidence base on the political economy of food systems.

Outputs generated by WP3 complement the trade-off analyses conducted by SHiFT’s Work Package 4, and feed into Work Package 5’s efforts to catalyze food systems transformation. By contextualizing and reshaping the governance of food systems, WP3 is laying the groundwork for robust interventions that will support sustainable healthy diets for all.

The International Food Policy Research Institute and the Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT lead SHiFT in close collaboration with Wageningen University and Research and with contributions from the International Potato Center. SHiFT combines high-quality nutritional and social science research capacity with development partnerships to generate innovative, robust solutions that contribute to healthier, more sustainable dietary choices and consumption of sustainable healthy diets. It builds on CGIAR’s unparalleled track record of agricultural research for development, including ten years of work on food systems and nutrition under the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH).

This news item was written by Sydney Honeycutt, Communications Consultant. 

Header image: Woman calculates figures at Long Bien Market, Hanoi. Photo by UN Women Asia and the Pacific from Flickr

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