| |

Transforming local food systems for global impact: Insights from ICLEI’s CityFood Program at the ICLEI World Congress 2024

In São Paulo, Brasil, participants in ICLEI’s CityFood Program session shared stories and good practices (as well as challenges and learnings) highlighting food systems transformation from local to global. At the heart of the session’s discussion were three key ingredients for transforming food systems towards sustainability and resilience: 1) healthy food environments, 2) inclusive governance, and 3) cross-sectoral alignment and collaboration. Participants from Brasil, Spain, Morocco, Italy, Uganda, and beyond participated in a guided discussion with Peter Defranceschi, ICLEI CityFood’s Global Coordinator, and were accompanied by graphic note takers who illustrated the outcomes. Here are three key takeaways:

Food environments  
Food environments are social, spatial, and political areas where food is produced, consumed and disposed of. They are where daily decisions are made about what to eat, where to buy food, when to eat it and who to eat with. They range  from hospitality (e.g. restaurants, take-away shops), retail (e.g. super markets and fresh food markets), community (e.g. co-ops, gardens), institutional environments (e.g. public canteens, schools), and the wild (e.g. edible landscaping, land left for nature). 

Gabriele Phillip Annis, Director of the International Relations Office, City of Rome,  and  Victor Tenez Ybern, Head of Strategic Planning, Metropolitan Area of Barcelona and representing the Barcelona Living Lab in FoodCLIC, emphasized how food environments can build rural-urban linkages. Mr. Tenez Ybern stated that by shortening supply chains, cities support local and regional economic development, enhance social relationships, and have the potential for positive environmental impact. Urban agriculture, for example, does not replace farmers but can make unused public lands available to young farmers.  

Activities such as these can bring cities one step closer to the right to food for all, which has been anchored in the Brazilian constitution since 2010, as described by Soninha Francine – Secretary of Human Rights São Paulo, Brazil.

Inclusive Governance
Inclusive governance is a collaborative approach involving various food systems actors in addressing and solving complex issues or pursuing common goals. Voices are represented equally and power-relations are taken into account and diverse groups are brought together to jointly participate in co-creation processes, decision-making, problem-solving, and implementation processes. 

Belo Horizonte’s Urban Food Program, one of the first integrated food security policies in the world, has had great successes in this regard. Strong municipal government and civil society leadership paired with national policy, programmatic and financial support, have made it possible for citizens of Belo Horizonte to make the changes they want to see in their community, as voiced by Ana Caetano, the city’s Planning and Management Advisor at Secretary for  Food Security.

Cross sectoral alignment and collaboration 
Cross sectoral alignment and collaboration involves breaking down traditional silos and fostering interactions between diverse sectors to leverage their unique strengths and perspectives to address common goals (e.g. spatial planning, mobility, climate, housing, circular economy, health) and to achieve co-benefits through the mainstreaming of cross-sectoral topics and food-related priorities.

Session participants shared examples from food policy councils and multi-stakeholder groups to private business activities to health sector coalitions, and biodiversity targets where food priorities are critical to ensuring healthy people, healthy landscapes, and a healthy planet. 

‘Things on paper look pretty but the challenge is to make that on the paper concrete. At the same time, we can’t make it concrete if we don’t write it down. Sao Paulo engaged organizations in all shapes and sizes when we prepared our food strategies. This is because if we don’t have the people on board, especially those most vulnerable, our work won’t be concrete enough since it cannot serve the communities that we are actually targeting, ‘ Soninha Francine, Secretary of Human Rights, São Paulo, Brazil.

This session illustrated the importance of food environments, inclusive governance, and cross-sectoral collaboration. These priorities are shared by consortium members of the FoodPaths, FoodCLIC, GIZ Transformative Initiative on Fresh Food Markets, and AfriFOODlinks Project. Food systems are highly complex, with strong interdependencies across society, the economy, cultures and landscapes, and thus necessitate concerted efforts and inclusive governance on local, national, regional, and global levels.

As Mohamed Sefiani the Mayor Chefchaouen, Morocco said, we are working on food issues to ultimately contribute to our goals of sustainable development. We will take this sentiment forward as we transfer the learnings from this session to our projects and communities. 

Get ICLEI’s latest urban sustainability news

Similar Posts