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Conceptual framework and method for national and territorial assessments: Catalysing the sustainable and inclusive transformation of food systems

  • Published on April 14, 2023

Food systems are intimately linked to our lives – through the food we eat, our nutrition and health, our livelihoods, jobs, and the environment and natural resources of the planet. The main challenge for food systems is to produce nutritious food for all while preserving our biodiversity and environment and ensuring equitable distribution of wealth. This brief provides a summarized version of the methodology used to conduct a global assessment of food systems in over 50 countries, following a joint initiative by the European Union (EU), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Cooperation Centre of Agricultural Research for Development (CIRAD) aiming to catalyze the sustainable and inclusive transformation of food systems. 





The fundamental role of food systems in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals is now widely recognized. These systems not only cover food and nutritional needs, but also impact employment and wealth creation, the sustainability of ecosystems and climate change, and territorial development. However, our food systems are under pressure: along with rapid population growth and diets that are changing as a result of urbanization and the expansion of the middle classes, natural resources are deteriorating and climate shocks are proliferating, while financialization accentuates market instability, among other pressing issues. The report Food Systems at Risk, written jointly by the European Union, FAO and CIRAD, and shared in April 2019 at the high-level event “Global Network against Food Crises” further highlighted this accumulation of risks facing food systems. The report also emphasized the heightened exposure of low-income countries, particularly in Africa, increasing their vulnerability to shocks, as shown by the resurgence of food insecurity in recent years. While some of these risks are of a global nature, their repercussions on food systems (as well as the levers designed to steer them towards a more sustainable trajectory) are specific to countries and territories.

This manual provides a methodological framework and a set of tools for carrying out an initial assessment of food systems at national and sub-national levels. The assessment starts by considering four key dimensions of sustainable and inclusive food systems: food security, nutrition and health; territorial balance and equity between actors; inclusive economic growth in jobs and livelihoods; and the calibrated use of natural resources to preserve the environment. The proposed methodology also aims to foster open dialogue between different sectors and stakeholders, in order to determine relevant entry points for transformative actions, support the development of favourable policies, and identify investments with high transformative potential.

Since late 2020, this manual has been used to conduct assessments in more than fifty partner countries. In many cases, this work has contributed to National Dialogues, in preparation for the UN Food Systems Summit in 2021. May this initiative foster further collaboration between policymakers, food system actors and research and development institutions, and support decision-making and efforts towards creating sustainable food systems!

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