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Food systems sustainability: For whom and by whom? – An examination of different 'food system change' viewpoints

Conference contribution
Authors Gunilla Almered Olsson
Gareth Haysom
Mirek Dymitrow
Kristina Fermskog
Maria Nyström
Paul Opiyo
Charlotte Spring
Nick Taylor Buck
Stephen Gaya Agong
Published in Development Research Conference 2018: “Rethinking development”, 22–23 August 2018, Gothenburg, Sweden
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Economy and Society, Unit for Human Geography
School of Design and Crafts
School of Global Studies, Human Ecology
Mistra Urban Futures
Language en
Links https://globalstudies.gu.se/digital...
Keywords food, food systems, food security, change, sustainability
Subject categories Philosophy, Sociology of Law, Sociology, Social Psychology, Fish and Aquacultural Science, Peace and development research, Agricultural Occupational Health and Safety, Plant Biotechnology, Human ecology, Design, Human Geography, Food Science

Abstract

The United Nations identifies the food crisis as one of the primary overarching challenges facing the international community. Different stakeholders in the food system have widely different perspectives and interests, and challenging structural issues, such as the power differentials among them, remain largely unexamined. These challenges make rational discourse among food system actors from different disciplines, sectors and levels difficult. These challenges can often prevent them from working together effectively to find innovative ways to respond to food security challenges. This means that finding solutions to intractable and stuck issues, such as the food crisis often stall, not at implementation, but at the point of problem identification. Food system sustainability means very different things to different food system actors. These differences in no way undermine or discount the work carried out by these players. However, making these differences explicit is an essential activity that would serve to deepen theoretical and normative project outcomes. Would the impact and reach of different food projects differ if these differences were made explicit? The purpose of this initial part of a wider food system research project is not to search for difference or divergence, with the aim of critique, but rather to argue that by making these differences explicit, the overall food system project engagement will be made more robust, more inclusive and more encompassing. This paper starts with some discussion on the different food system perspectives, across scales, regions and sectors but focuses primarily on the design of processes used to understand these divergent and at times contradictory views of what a sustainable food system may be. This paper draws on ongoing work within the Mistra Urban Futures project, using the food system projects in cities as diverse as Cape Town, Manchester, Gothenburg and Kisumu as sites for this enquiry.

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