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Food systems sustainability: An examination of different viewpoints on food system change

Journal article
Authors Gareth Haysom
Gunilla Almered Olsson
Mirek Dymitrow
Paul Opiyo
Nick Taylor Buck
Michael Oloko
Charlotte Spring
Kristina Fermskog
Karin Ingelhag
Shelley Kotze
Stephen Gaya Agong
Published in Sustainability
Volume 11
Issue 12
ISSN 2071-1050
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Economy and Society, Unit for Human Geography
School of Global Studies, Human Ecology
Mistra Urban Futures
Language en
Keywords urban food system, food systems change, wicked problems, sustainability, urban food security
Subject categories Social and Economic Geography, Peace and development research, Practical philosophy, Agricultural Science, Human ecology, Human Geography, Food Science


Global food insecurity levels remain stubbornly high. One of the surest ways to grasp the scale and consequence of global inequality is through a food systems lens. In a predominantly urban world, urban food systems present a useful lens to engage a wide variety of urban (and global) challenges—so called ‘wicked problems.’ This paper describes a collaborative research project between four urban food system research units, two European and two African. The project purpose was to seek out solutions to what lay between, across and within the different approaches applied in the understanding of each city’s food system challenges. Contextual differences and immediate (perceived) needs resulted in very different views on the nature of the challenge and the solutions required. Value positions of individuals and their disciplinary “enclaves” presented further boundaries. The paper argues that finding consensus provides false solutions. Rather the identification of novel approaches to such wicked problems is contingent of these differences being brought to the fore, being part of the conversation, as devices through which common positions can be discovered, where spaces are created for the realisation of new perspectives, but also, where difference is celebrated as opposed to censored.

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