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Interconnections in Sustainable Food Systems, Food Security, and Policies

By Obayelu Abiodun Elijah and Obayelu Oluwakemi Adeola

Global food systems face numerous pressures including population growth, urbanization, climate change, resource depletion, health challenges, and the vested interests of food and agricultural businesses that benefit from lack of financial and regulatory responsibilities for protecting public health and the environment, to name just a few. Managing these pressures to satisfy both existing and future demand for food requires a multi-faceted approach; the Decade of Action on Sustainable Food Systems calls for just such an approach in order to meet the Sustainable Development Goals on nutrition and food security.

Proper policies play a key role in this monumental task because a nation in which the food system and related government policies are in disarray will not be food secure. Rather, food must be seen as an interconnected system that requires coordinated agricultural and food policies to ensure sustainability and to provide a wide range of benefits, from public health to the state of the environment, economy, and society.

No single policy strategy or series of tactics can address all of the problems associated with food system. Similarly, the determinants of food insecurity and poor dietary choices do not offer up simple solutions. Our new book published by IGI International, Developing Sustainable Food Systems, Policies, and Securities , aims to fill this gap by providing information on proven options for enhancing sustainable food security and identifying opportunities and actions for exploiting cross-sectoral synergies. The book consists of a collection of research studies that guide the development of sustainable food systems in practice through an integrated food policy. It also investigates the impacts of natural and environmental resources, capacity building, gender, migration, and remittances on sustainable food systems.

Key Messages

  • Current food system activities, coupled with increasing demand for food, are unsustainable. Thus, highlighting the need for new concepts, tools, and approaches.
  • Without the right policies in place, it may be difficult to establish sustainable food systems and ensure food security.
  • Any policy intervention to address one part of the food system will impact other parts and determine whether a country is food secure or not.
  • Transformation of the current food system to a more sustainable one is needed for environmental, health, and social sustainability.
  • Agricultural and food policies influence the behavior of food system actors by impacting on both the demand and supply sides. Thus, policy strategies are required at all points in the food system

Results and Conclusion

The introductory chapter of the book found that interlinkages occur between the multiple components of the food system and policy, and these interlinkages must not be dealt with in isolation but rather to be addressed as an interconnected system. However, food-related policies are rarely designed with food systems as their primary objective or their primary concern. Policy decisions affect many parts of the food system, including agriculture, consumer knowledge and food choices. Agricultural and food policy is therefore essential for a sustainable food system.

In addition, policies that impact multiple components of the food system due to the interdependencies of that system also in turn directly or indirectly influence food security. Food systems directly interact with food security issues at the local, national, regional and global levels.

Our findings suggest the need to move beyond silos by fostering cross-sectoral collaboration and integration among food and agricultural policymakers, those involved in agro-food sustainability, and food security researchers. Addressing the problems of our food system through policy change demands the full recognition of the interrelationships among diet, food production, ecosystems, public health, and human rights.

Recommendations

We conclude with several policy recommendations to drive a more sustainable food future:

i) Enabling a strong, well-functioning policy environment is essential in ensuring a sustainable food system and the attainment of food security.

ii) Policy solutions that will protect food systems and ensure food security will require greater political and social will from multiple sectors of our society.

iii) More attention needs to be paid to understanding and promoting policy actions that support food and nutrition security enhancing food system as a whole.

iv) There is also the need for policy synergies among the critical components of the food system. This will require collaboration among various food system actors and government agencies.

iv) To achieve sustainable food security, it is essential to shift toward policies that integrate the health, economic, and environmental dimensions of our food systems.

 

Obayelu A. E and Obayelu O. A. are both Senior Lecturers in the Departments of Agricultural Economics, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State and University of Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria, respectively.