Pursuing food systems transformation despite financial constraints

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The term ‘food systems transformation’ refers to the combined actions that are needed to ensure that food systems operate differently (better), in the future. The transition process is termed a food system ‘pathway’. Some pathways must be defined and pursued at national and sub-national levels, others at the global level.

The need for action

Leaders in all low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are facing an immediate dilemma. The need to transform their food systems is growing ever more urgent to deliver on hunger and nutrition, climate change adaptation and sustainability. Moreover, universal access to diets that are affordable, healthy and sustainable is a pre-requisite to deliver on green growth, poverty reduction and equity. Yet at the same time, LMICs are experiencing ever tightening financial resources, as the growing debt crisis and inflation bite ever deeper. Transforming food systems in Africa – and in LMICs across the world – will be costly. Yet not all decisions require heavy investment. 

The Global Panel’s Policy Brief

This latest policy brief from the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition sets out a surprisingly diverse range of actions that are relatively low-cost, or even cost-neutral. Indeed, some have the potential to leverage very substantial resources beyond those available to individual governments. Taken together, these actions may not be sufficient to fully deliver on the food-system transformation, but they will provide a solid and substantial foundation on which to build a broader coherent strategy.  

Leadership from the highest levels of government will be essential to drive forward many of the actions suggested in this brief, not least to ensure that government departments and agencies at national and local levels that need to work in concert are incentivised and empowered to do so. With that support and direction, policy makers in LMICs (and HICs) can drive substantial progress in transforming their food systems despite financial constraints. Together, these will form an important component of a broad and coherent strategy for change.