In this bi-monthly post, we highlight key resources, insights, and contributions that span the field of food governance. Far from comprehensive, it reflects the resources that we have come across and found valuable. If you have something for us to highlight, please get in touch (jessica(dot)duncan (at)


FAO. 2020. Enabling sustainable food systems. Innovators’ handbook

Sustainable food systems are fundamental to ensuring that future generations are food secure and eat healthy diets. To transition towards sustainability, many food system activities must be reconstructed, and myriad actors around the world are starting to act locally. While some changes are easier than others, knowing how to navigate through them to promote sustainable consumption and production practices requires complex skill sets. This handbook is written for “sustainable food systems innovators” by a group of innovators from Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe who are leading initiatives to grow, share, sell and consume more sustainable foods in their local contexts. It includes experiences that are changing the organizational structures of local food systems to make them more sustainable. The handbook is organized as a “choose your own adventure” story where each reader – individually or in a facilitated group – can develop their own personalized learning and action journeys according to their priorities. The topics included in this handbook are arranged into four categories of innovations: engaging consumers, producing sustainably, getting products to market and getting organized.

IPBES. 2020. Workshop on Biodiversity and Pandemics

The IPBES Bureau and Multidisciplinary Expert Panel (MEP) authorized a workshop on biodiversity and pandemics that was held virtually on 27-31 July 2020 in accordance with the provisions on “Platform workshops” in support of Plenary approved activities, set out in section 6.1 of the procedures for the preparation of Platform deliverables (IPBES-3/3, annex I). This workshop report and any recommendations or conclusions contained therein have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by the IPBES Plenary. The workshop report is considered supporting material available to authors in the preparation of ongoing or future IPBES assessments. While undergoing a scientific peer-review, this material has not been subjected to formal IPBES review processes.

Robins et al. 2020. COVID-19 and food systems in the Indo-Pacific: An assessment of vulnerabilities, impacts and opportunities for action

Emergency responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have had dramatic impacts in the Indo-Pacific region as state and non-state actors tackle the threat of a public health and economic crisis. The COVID-19 shock has reverberated through food systems since its onset in early 2020, exposing and amplifying existing vulnerabilities. Smallholder farmers and fishers have had to react deftly and  creatively as the situation unfolds, responding within the constraints of their local circumstances. Women, girls and other vulnerable groups have been hardest hit. This report examines the existing food system vulnerabilities being exposed or amplified by the  OVID-19 shock, and looks at how this information can be used to inform future research and development to support food systems resilience in the Indo- Pacific. The COVID-19 crisis is examined through the lens of food and nutrition security, primarily from the perspective of smallholder farmers and fishers.


Bell and Comber. 2020. Smarter Farming: New Approaches for Improved Monitoring, Measurement and Management of Agricultural Production and Farming Systems

Scientific Articles

Fuches et al. 2020. Europe’s Green Deal offshores environmental damage to other nations

Importing millions of tonnes of crops and meat each year undercuts farming standards in the European Union and destroys tropical forests. Reshoring agricultural production will help to insulate Europe’s food crops from global market fluctuations, supply-chain disruption and some of the effects of climate change. Because habitat clearance can increase the chance of new infectious diseases jumping from animals to humans, such a policy might also help to avoid future pandemics.

Clark et al. 2020. Global food system emissions could preclude achieving the 1.5° and 2°C climate change targets

The Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting the increase in global temperature to 1.5° or 2°C above preindustrial levels requires rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Although reducing emissions from fossil fuels is essential for meeting this goal, other sources of emissions may also preclude its attainment. We show that even if fossil fuel emissions were immediately halted, current trends in global food systems would prevent the achievement of the 1.5°C target and, by the end of the century, threaten the achievement of the 2°C target. Meeting the 1.5°C target requires rapid and ambitious changes to food systems as well as to all nonfood sectors. The 2°C target could be achieved with less-ambitious changes to food systems, but only if fossil fuel and other nonfood emissions are eliminated soon.

Smaal et al. 2020. Social justice-oriented narratives in European urban food strategies: Bringing forward redistribution, recognition and representation

More and more cities develop urban food strategies (UFSs) to guide their efforts and practices towards more sustainable food systems. An emerging theme shaping these food policy endeavours, especially prominent in North and South America, concerns the enhancement of social justice within food systems. To operationalise this theme in a European urban food governance context we adopt Nancy Fraser’s three-dimensional theory of justice: economic redistribution, cultural recognition and political representation. In this paper, we discuss the findings of an exploratory document analysis of the social justice-oriented ambitions, motivations, current practices and policy trajectories articulated in sixteen European UFSs. We reflect on the food-related resource allocations, value patterns and decision rules these cities propose to alter and the target groups they propose to support, empower or include. Overall, we find that UFSs make little explicit reference to social justice and justice-oriented food concepts, such as food security, food justice, food democracy and food sovereignty. Nevertheless, the identified resources, services and target groups indicate that the three dimensions of Fraser are at the heart of many of the measures described. We argue that implicit, fragmentary and unspecified adoption of social justice in European UFSs is problematic, as it may hold back public consciousness, debate and collective action regarding food system inequalities and may be easily disregarded in policy budgeting, implementation and evaluation trajectories. As a path forward, we present our plans for the RE-ADJUSTool that would enable UFS stakeholders to reflect on how their UFS can incorporate social justice and who to involve in this pursuit.

Klerkx and Jansen. 2020. Building knowledge systems for sustainable agriculture: supporting private advisors to adequately address sustainable farm management in regular service contacts

Advisory service provisioning on sustainability issues such as environmental care and food safety is considered suboptimal in privatized extension systems, which comprise a diverse set of private advisors. Apart from funding dedicated ‘public good’ projects, government also relies on these advisors to address sustainability issues in their regular service contacts with farmers. Policy measures have hence been proposed to stimulate farmer demand for such sustainable farm management (SFM) advice (pull measures) and to build capacity among advisors (push measures). This paper assesses two interventions, in nutrient management and mastitis prevention, that integrate pull measures (awareness building and economic incentives) and push measures (promoting facilitative advisory styles and optimizing knowledge system linkages) to stimulate advisory service provisioning on SFM. Results indicate that effectiveness appears to depend on an adequate mix of, and balance between, push and pull measures. Awareness building is a prerequisite to creating demand for such services and appears more important than economic incentives. However, awareness is not built by the interventions alone; indeed, a lack of awareness may not be the main problem: the broader institutional context may not be conducive to a proactive approach to addressing SFM if regulatory frameworks are unclear and inconsistent. The main conclusion is that, despite interventions having an impact, it is uncertain whether the demand for, and supply of, SFM advice will be sustained after interventions are withdrawn.

Wuepper and Finger. 2020. Does it matter who advises farmers? Pest management choices with public and private extension

Does it matter whether farmers receive advice on pest management strategies from public or from private (pesticide company affiliated) extension services? We use survey data from 733 Swiss fruit growers who are currently contending with an infestation by an invasive pest, the fruit fly Drosophila Suzukii. We find that farmers who are advised by public extension services are more likely (+9–10%) to use preventive measures (e.g. nets) while farmers who are advised by private extension services are more likely (+8–9%) to use synthetic insecticides. These results are robust to the inclusion of various covariates, ways to cluster standard errors, and inverse probability weighting. We also show that our results are unlikely to be driven by omitted variable bias. Our findings have implications for the current debates on both the ongoing privatization of agricultural extension and concerns regarding negative environmental and health externalities of pesticide use.

Bakker et al. 2020. Kicking the Habit: What Makes and Breaks Farmers’ Intentions to Reduce Pesticide Use?

There is a growing concern in society about the continuing intensive usage of pesticides in farming and its effects on environmental and human health. Insight in the intentions of farmers to reduce pesticide use may help identify pathways towards farming systems with reduced environmental impacts. We used the Reasoned Action Approach to identify which social-psychological constructs determine farmers’ intentions to decrease pesticide use. We analysed 681 responses to an online survey to assess which constructs drive intention, and identified which beliefs pose barriers and drive the motivation of farmers to decrease pesticide use. Our results show that the intention to reduce pesticide use is strongly determined by whether other farmers also act. Furthermore, farmers perceive limited capacity and autonomy to reduce pesticide use, and motivations to reduce pesticide use were based on environmental considerations. Finally, decreasing pesticide use was considered risky, but the relative importance of risk attitude was offset by the environmental considerations of farmers. This indicates that farmers need successful examples of how to decrease pesticide use, either via exchange with peer farmers or knowledge provisioning on alternative pest control methods. These insights may be useful to direct policy making to influence farmers’ intentions to decrease pesticide use.


Glasgow Food and Climate Declaration

Global food systems account for a third of total GHG emissions and drive environmental degradation and socio-economic and health inequalities. In turn, food systems are being affected dramatically by the climate and nature crisis. The Glasgow Food and Climate Declaration builds on previous work by subnational actors to address these challenges with a call to action to accelerate the development of integrated food policies. The UN Food Systems Summit and the UNFCCC COP26 in Glasgow 2021 are key opportunities to highlight the role of subnational actors in tackling the climate and nature emergency.


Training Course on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants  

Dates: 7 to 11 December 2020

The United Nations (UN) Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas (UNDROP) was adopted in 2018. This training course helps participants to respond to these questions. It analyses the origins, drafting and content of the UNDROP, and provides participants with practical tools to include the UNDROP in their work. Two examples of national implementation – in Colombia and Switzerland – are discussed. Themes covered include the rights of rural women, as well as the rights to food and food sovereignty, land and other natural resources, and seeds and biological diversity. Participants will have the opportunity to engage with international human rights experts and with representatives of states, international organizations, NGOs and peasant movements who contributed to the adoption of the UNDROP.

Advocating on transformational change for agri-food systems
Dates: Monday 16 November, 15.30-17.00 CET.  
French and Spanish interpretation will be provided. The webinar is jointly organized by ACT-Alliance EU, Agroecology Europe, iPES-Food, FiBL and IFOAM Organics International.  It follows a series of three virtual workshops that looked at agroecology, organics, regenerational agriculture and other approaches.
Register here.

35th Breakfast@Sustainability webinar Cultural & Natural Heritage for regional Smart Specialisation Strategies (RIS3)

Date: Tuesday November 17, 2020 09.30 to 12.00 CEST
This online event brings together EU officers, cultural experts, regional representatives and rural stakeholders, to discuss the unexplored potential of Cultural & Natural Heritage within regional Smart Specialisation Strategies #RIS3. Participants will acquire a better understanding of the current developments on Smart Specialisation Strategies and will gain key insights on how local cultural assets can become drivers of place-based socioeconomic transformation agendas.
Register here.

Shaking up the food system – How citizen-driven innovation is shifting the way we produce and consume food

Date: Tuesday November 17, 2020 15:15 to 16:15 CET, Online
When a global pandemic puts pressure on our food supply chain, citizen-driven innovations offer the radical solutions we need, challenging how we eat and produce food today. Join FoodSHIFT’s upcoming webinar to hear from a range of citizen-driven innovations across Europe driving change locally, which shift diet and consumption patterns as well as challenge models of food governance in a broken food system. We’ll hear from the Berlin Food Policy Council, a local composting initiative in Bari, as well as from EAT and its Shifting Urban Diets project with the FoodSHIFT Copenhagen Lab. Come for the discussion, leave with inspiration!
Register here.

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