Handbook of Sustainable & Regenerative Food Systems

I am excited to announce that our new Handbook of Sustainable and Regenerative Food Systems will be out soon.

The Handbook includes contributions from established and emerging scholars from around the world and draws on multiple approaches and subjects to explore the socio-economic, cultural, ecological, institutional, legal, and policy aspects of regenerative food practices.

Taken as a whole, the chapters point to a number of key practices and ideas that would appear central to advancing regenerative food systems, from a social-ecological perspective. We draw on these chapters to identify 6 principles for  regenerative food systems, noting that these are not exclusive or clear-cut principles, but rather dynamic, cross-cutting.

The 6 principles are:

  1. Acknowledging and including diverse forms of knowing and being;

2. Taking care of people, animals and the planet;

3. Moving beyond capitalist approaches;

4. Commoning the food system;

5. Promote accountable innovations; and,

6. Long term planning and rural-urban relations.

We will be posting more insights from the Handbook over the next weeks!

Carolyn Steel “Sitopia: rethinking our lives through food”

On 2 April 2020 I had the distinct pleasure of co-hosting the first Informed Cities webinar with Allison Wildman from ICLEI.

The webinar was called “Sitopia: rethinking our lives through food” an was presented by London-based architect and speaker, Carolyn Steel, author of “Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives” and the recently published “Sitopia: How Food Can Save the World”.

Carolyn is a leading thinker on food and cities. A London-based architect, academic and writer, Carolyn has lectured at Cambridge University, London Metropolitan University, Wageningen University and the London School of Economics.

Her 2008 book, “Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives”, establishing her as an influential voice across a range of fields in academia, industry and the arts. It has been translated into seven languages and has become a key text for architects, planners, green thinkers and food professionals.

We later had a follow up session with Carolyn to answer the remaining questions that we called “Cocktails with Carolyn”. It was a blast!

Food Security and Nutrition: Building a global narrative towards 2030 (NEW REPORT)

The latest report of the High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) on Food Security and Nutrition has just been released.

Key messages from the Report are:

i. There is an urgent need for strengthening and consolidating conceptual thinking around FSN to prioritize the right to food, to widen our understanding of food security and to adopt a food systems analytical and policy framework.

ii. FSN outcomes in recent years show the extent to which the global community is falling short on Agenda 2030 targets, especially SDG 2, and that food systems face a range of challenges – and some opportunities – linked to major trends in the drivers of food system change.

iii. Policy approaches and actions for FSN, in light of the diverse challenges
facing food systems, will require critical policy shifts and support for enabling conditions that uphold all dimensions of food security.

Download the full Report (available in English only).
Download the
Executive Summary (available in English only).

Building a more fair and just agricultural model in the EU: Webinar

WEBINAR: Food Sovereignty and the Farm to Fork Strategy: Building a fairer and more just agricultural model in the EU

I am very excited to be presenting on the importance of Food Sovereignty for the Farm to Fork strategy and the New Green Deal at this webinar organized by European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC).

07.07. 2020 | 15:00 ­– 17:00 (CET – Brussels time) |

Register here | Full agenda available here

This will be an opportunity to clarify and explore the potential Food Sovereignty has to reshape EU agricultural and food policies in particular under the framework of the proposed F2F strategy, through dialogue with the EU Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski and by considering the role of all EU institutions currently involved in this work.

Webinar EU Farm to Fork

Strategising from a food sovereignty perspective

As part of the World Social Forum of Transformative Economies we will discuss the collective response by 23 food sovereignty scholar activists to the European Commission’s new Farm to Fork (F2F) Strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system. Our goal is to gather feedback, and strategize together.

Speakers: Christina Plank, Chiara Tornaghi, Ana Moragues Faus,
Tomaso Ferrando, Fernando García-Dory
Facilitation: Marta Rivera Ferre and Jessica Duncan

Join us: Wednesday 1 July 2020 at 15:00 GMT+02:00 (Brussels time)
Zoom Meeting: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86422243952

For more information, contact: priscilla.claeys@coventry.ac.uk

The relevance of agroecology, territorial solidarity and the right to food for the EU Farm to Fork Strategy

On 14 May, the Nyéléni Food Sovereignty Movement in Europe and Central Asia (ECA) sent a letter to the Executive vice president of the European Commission (EC), Franz Timmermans, who is leading the European Green Deal.

A week before the release of the new Farm to Fork Strategy and EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, the letter called on the EC to address the need to transform the food system. Sent with the letter was an Academic Brief written by Jessica Duncan, Marta Rivera-Ferre and Priscilla Claeys. The Brief reflects on insights from the recently published Scientific Advice Mechanism (SAM) and Science Advice for Policy by European Academies (SAPEA) reports on sustainable food system with a view towards key objectives of the Nyeleni ECA movement.

Academic Brief                                                 May 13, 2020

The importance of Food Sovereignty for the Farm to Fork strategy and the New Green Deal. Insights and limits of the SAM and SAPEA reports

Jessica Duncan,* Marta Rivera-Ferre,** Priscilla Claeys ***

* Assistant Professor, Rural Sociology Group, Wageningen University (The Netherlands)
** Director, Agroecology and Food Systems Chair, University of Vic-Central University of Catalonia (Spain)
*** Associate Professor, Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR), Coventry (UK)


This brief reflects on the key scientific contributions of the recent publication of the report ‘Towards a Sustainable Food System’ by the Chief Scientific Advisors (Scientific Advice Mechanism- SAM) 1 and the SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies) Evidence Review Report on ‘Sustainable Food Systems for the EU’ 2 that informed it. This is done with a view towards advancing food sovereignty and agroecology in the Farm to Fork Strategy.

Context: Vulnerable food systems

Covid-19 has exposed even more limits and dysfunctions in our globalized food systems: from our reliance on under-paid farm and food sector workers operating in poor working conditions (most often women and migrants), the risks associated with intensive animal farming, including zoonoses, to barriers facing small-scale producers when trying to access local markets, to gender inequalities and the additional risks faced by people with pre-existing diet-related health conditions.

Covid-19 is also set to aggravate other shocks (e.g. crop failures or abrupt changes in food prices due to climate change and other extreme events), and threats (e.g. biocultural erosion, degrading soil fertility, ageing farm population, land concentration, lack of farm renewal). These shocks and threats reveal the fragility of the European food systems, which the SAPEA report makes clear is even more vulnerable due to its interdependent nature and the fact that the EU imports large quantities of food and feed from third countries, while also being a major exporter of food products.3

Food sovereignty as a solution

Small-scale food producers from across Europe have been advancing a positive and constructive strategy rooted in the principles of food sovereignty to address these problems. Food sovereignty presents a viable alternative to the economic policies which have led to current food crises and offers concrete tools and direction for democratic systemic change across our food systems.

Food sovereignty is grounded in 6 pillars: the right to food and nutrition, public policies that value and support small-scale food providers, localised food systems, local control over natural food producing resources, traditional knowledge, and agroecology. As the concept is being increasingly co-opted, it must be re-stated that food sovereignty is a democratic process focused on the rights of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and on their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.4

From this starting point, and with a view towards the new Farm to Fork Strategy, this short brief highlights the importance of: 1) Respecting complexity and changing the narrative from food as a commodity to ensuring the right to food and nutrition for all; 2) Supporting agroecology; and, 3) Ensuring territorial solidarity

Rural-urban relations in times of COVID-19

We are discussing rural-urban relations in the era of COVID-19 on the Rural Sociology blog! Share your reflections

Rural Sociology Wageningen University

** Special online discussion on rural-urban relations**

Bettina Bock and Jessica Duncan

How are the interactions and dependencies between rural, peri-urban and urban areas changing at this moment?

Let us know! Comment below or #ROBUST #RuralUrban


The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the foundation of our societies, painfully demonstrating the enormous difference residency makes for your risk of infection, as well as your chance of medical treatment. Shockingly clear are also the social differences in threats resulting from the societal lockdown – in terms of income security, access to education, as well as housing, shelter, and food. Though known before with earlier pandemics, COVID-19 has swiftly exposed and exacerbated social inequalities and injustice within and across countries.

It also triggers changes in rural-urban relations, while underlining their importance.  For example, rural areas have been widely perceived as offering a safe haven from the virus, given their lower population density. This…

View original post 735 more words

Inclusion and diversity amidst convergence

In this short video lecture, Jessica Duncan reflects on how the global food sovereignty movement manages the contradictory goals of inclusion and diversity and why categories – like women and youth –  matter, until they do not.

This links to recent publications (available open access):

Duncan, J. Claeys, P. et al. (2019) Scholar-activists in an expanding European food sovereignty movement. Journal of Peasant Studies. https://doi.org/10.1080/03066150.2019.1675646

Claeys, P.  & Duncan, J. (2019) Food sovereignty and convergence spaces. Political Geography. 75:102045. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.polgeo.2019.102045

Duncan, J. & Claeys, P. (2018) Politicizing food security governance through participation: opportunities and opposition. Food Security. 10:6 1411-1424 https://doi.org/10.1007/s12571-018-0852-x

Claeys, P.  & Duncan, J. (2018) Do we need to categorize it? Reflections on constituencies and quotas as tools for negotiating difference in the global food sovereignty convergence space. Journal of Peasant Studies https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03066150.2018.1512489

Constituencies in 500 words


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Constituencies are broadly defined as groups of people with shared interests (Oxford English Dictionary 2017). In the global food sovereignty movement (GFSM), the concept has been used to identify and distinguish between groups of people with distinct identities and lived realities, but also distinct roles and responsibilities.

Constituencies typically designate distinct groups of food producers, such as pastoralists, fishers, indigenous peoples, agricultural workers or small-scale farmers. The term constituencies is also used to designate other actors in the movement such as women’s and youth organizations or NGOs.

Over the last 20 years, constituencies have become a key organizing feature of the GFSM. Our research shows that the creation of constituency categories has facilitated two main goals of the GFSM: alliance-building and effective direct civil society representation in global policy-making spaces.

Identities are at the heart of constituencies, which are essentially identity-based groups (or sectors). For example, the transnational agrarian movement La Via Campesina has been able to shape a strong political identity of small-scale food producers as peasants (Desmarais 2008). A lot of spaces and processes in the GFSM require representatives of different organizations to identify which constituency they belong to, and to participate in specific discussions for that constituency only. This is the case, for example, of the Civil Society Mechanism to the CFS or the Nyéléni Europe Forum. Constituencies are often associated with closed or separate spaces, that enable specific identities to come together, organize and gain visibility. Concerns are often raised about the fact that creating separate spaces around identities may weaken or fragment movement but our research shows that it is precisely because it has been able to cultivate and protect diverse identities that the GFSM has been able to flourish, grow through alliances, and speak as one.

At the same time, it is important to recognize that most actors in the GFSM have multiple and hybrid identities that cut across constituencies. Constituencies, like identities, overlap. This is particularly true for the Women and Youth constituencies, but to some extent for the Indigenous Peoples and Pastoralist constituencies as well. This explains why a lot of actors in the GFSM may not necessarily know which constituency to join, or to which they ‘belong’. When this is the case, it is useful to think of one’s first political identity. i.e. to prioritize some aspects of one’s identity for the sake of effective participation.

Constituencies, together with regions and organizations, are one important source of diversity in the GFSM. Constituencies are made of organizations with different goals, priorities, identities and ideologies, that operate in different cultural, religious, political and economic contexts. Some constituencies have more power or influence than others. It is therefore important to facilitate the interaction between different constituencies to avoid the consolidation of power of one group over the other. Quotas that establish the relative weight of the various constituencies, and protect difference, are an effective way to address this.

Scholar-activists in an expanding European food sovereignty movement

A short video summary of our article that analyzes the roles, relations, and positions of scholar-activists in the European food sovereignty movement. In doing so, we document, make visible and question the political dimensions of researchers’ participation in the movement. We argue that scholar-activists are part of the movement, but are distinct from the affected constituencies, put in place to ensure adequate representation of key movement actors. This is because scholar-activists lack a collective identity, have no processes to formulate collective demands, and no mechanisms for inter-researcher and researchers-movement communication. We reflect on whether and how scholar-activists could organize, and discuss possible pathways for a more cohesive and stronger researcher engagement in the movement.

Read it here: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03066150.2019.1675646