New Toolbox enables policy makers and practitioners to make better food systems choices
The toolbox, launched by Wageningen University & Research and KIT Royal Tropical Institute and financed by the Netherlands Food Partnership provides policy makers and practitioners with practical guidance. It offers an effective and inclusive analysis method for food systems in low and middle income countries. It helps to make informed strategic decisions that can bring about systemic change.
“Many organisations wonder how they can get their heads around such a complex thing as food systems,” says Herman Brouwer, senior advisor at Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation. “Organisations wonder: where to start? How do we make it practical? What added value does it have to our daily business? The Food Systems Decision Support Toolbox helps to define what type of food systems analysis one can design and implement, given a specific context or budget. What’s so interesting about the food systems approach is that it entails tackling multiple problems: it doesn’t just look at food security, but also at sustainability issues, fair pricing, healthy diets. A food systems approach takes all these dimensions into account when designing solutions. It helps to identify synergies in a food system, and design policy options for dealing with unwanted trade-offs.
“The WUR-KIT partnership was a natural one given our shared experience working at the nexus of food systems research, policy and practice,” says Helena Posthumus, senior advisor at KIT. “We wanted to make this toolbox appealing to policymakers and food systems practitioners, but also useful to those outside the scientific community. It encourages people to look at food systems from different angles, using a practical approach that makes it easier to translate knowledge into action and inform decision making.”
The toolbox was financed by Netherlands Food Partnership. We supported the development of the toolbox as part of our activities to explore how the concept of ‘food systems’ provides added value to practitioners in development organisations and the business sector. Currently, the food systems approach is mainly applied as a conceptual framework for research and policy. We see great potential in a more practical approach. Agro-food professionals from the Community of Practice on food systems – which NFP hosts – contributed their insights to the tool development, particularly on how the tool supports moving from analysis to action after identifying leverage points for systems change. They said that the toolbox has great potential for finding practical ways of working towards food systems transformation.
This year, WUR, KIT and NFP will be involved in many events dedicated to food systems transformation, including the United Nations Food Systems Summit in September. Netherlands Food Partnership organises the annual World Food Day event on 16 October. We will enable many more practitioners to familiarise themselves with the toolbox.
Governments and NGOs can use the open access toolbox to develop more precise food systems interventions from both policy and programming perspectives. The toolbox can also help researchers to develop more action-oriented food systems analysis, enabling them to transcend mere academic reflection and move to actionable insights.