A Holistic Approach to Food Systems

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Understanding food systems: Need, types and drivers

A food system is a holistic set of practices that contribute towards food production and consumption to meet dietary requirements of the population. Food production, distribution, processing and consumption form the backbone of food systems which require access to resources like labour, finance, inputs and knowledge with an interconnectedness of social and natural elements. These elements have cause-and-effect relationships based on certain drivers in food production and consumption levels.

Shifts in aspects such as climate change, global migration, increasing population and consumer preferences influence production and consumption patterns, exposing actors in each component of a food system to vulnerabilities, ranging from loss of livelihood for producers to food and nutritional insecurity for consumers. There is a need, therefore, to develop sustainable food systems, eventually achieving sustainable development goals (SDG) through economic, environmental and social impacts.

Global trends in food systems

As the global population is expected to reach 8.6 billion by 2030, food production needs to be ramped up to fulfil its demands. Factors affecting food systems, like climate change, increasing urbanisation, increased migration, and change in food patterns are adding stress on the global landscape. Measurable actions are required to address these factors which affect food systems adversely.

Indian trends in food systems

Food systems have been traditionally complex. The complexity increases with the growth in the Indian population, expected to reach 1.66 billion by end of 2050. Even though there is an increase in food production, the traditional approach has led to food systems being more staple crop-focused than nutrition-focused. This has led to a higher saturation of a few crops in the market. These crops do not contribute adequately towards nutrition sufficiency. Therefore, existing approaches need an overhaul.

Key themes and recommendations

Building sustainable and resilient food systems necessitate the identification of themes that inform actionable recommendations. This primer  identifies five major themes, which are as follows:

  1. Reinvigorating sustainable food production
  2. Inclusion of technology for higher farm and processing efficiencies
  3. Strengthening market infrastructure across supply chains
  4. Strengthening food production and innovations
  5. Enabling customer centricity in food systems across supply chains.

To implement recommendations across these themes, the ecosystem needs strong support from the government, philanthropy and private sector. Policy-level interventions by the government, as well as the introduction of regulations and monitoring can facilitate production and distribution. Philanthropy could invest in the training and development of producers, enabling technology adoption and practical application of knowledge. Philanthropic capital could also be directed towards technological inclusion of collective farming programmes. The private sector could contribute by enabling customer-centricity in food systems, supporting the necessary research and innovation for scaling up interventions.

Authors: Pranjali Siwal, Ashutosh Choudhary
Technical Review: Debaranjan Pujahari

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