Centre for Development and Environment (CDE)

Towards Food Sustainability

Project activities

Local views on "good food" in the Mt Kenya region

Local views on "good food" in the Mt Kenya region

The Master's thesis by Marie-Luise Hertkorn from ETH Zurich, elaborated in cooperation with CETRAD, analyzes local views in the NW-Mt Kenya region on what "good food" is. She finds that people distinguish between "food that fills you" -like rice- and "food that makes you strong" - for example the traditional Mokimoo and Githeri of the Kikuyu people. Interviewees said that in the dry season they cannot afford to buy sufficient fruits and vegetables for a healthy diet. Those who work on their farms in turn, always have fruits and vegetables. Young people still know how to prepare traditional and healthy food, but health experts confirmed a strong orientation of diets towards french fries and saucages, associated with a range of health problems that are strongly on the rise. In almost all interviews, people expressed worries about adverse health impacts of pesticide use, and that artifically fertilized plants made people grow fat and not tall."

Link to PDF (in German) (PDF, 1.5 MB)

A food system analysis in two communities in the soy production area of Bolivia

A food system analysis in two communities in the soy production area of Bolivia

The Master's thesis with the title 'We have the land, but not the food': A food system analysis in two communities in the soy area of Bolivia" by Sarah Märki and Sophie Hirsig (Institute of Geography, University of Bern) analyses local families' livelihood strategies and food security in the soy bean production area of the Santa Cruz Department in Bolivia. The analysis shows how local families, especially small-scale landholders, are subject to a phenomenon that has been called "productive exclusion" which means that they have not many options but to rent out their land to largescale soy bean producers. This "exclusion" also applies to agrobiodiversity, as food production is almost entirely given up to produce soy beans and other feed-, agrofuel or flex crops.

Link to PDF (in English) (PDF, 5.6 MB)

Latest project activities: Progress workshop 13–16 June 2016 in Sagana, Kenya

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Latest project activities: Progress workshop 13–16 June 2016 in Sagana, Kenya

Most recently, in a progress workshop in Kenya with six doctoral candidates (three from Kenya, three from Switzerland), their supervisors, four postdoctoral researchers (two from Kenya, two from Switzerland), and six master’s candidates (five from Kenya, one from Switzerland), we reviewed and revised each research study and its specific contribution to the overall project. The master’s thesis of Jackline Wakuyu from the Geographical Institute of the University of Nairobi, for example, assesses agrobiodiversity in the three different food systems and generates information on the indicators of crop diversity, breeds diversity, and seed handling. In addition to revising everyone’s contribution to the overall assessment of food system sustainability, the workshop sought to bring together the “loose ends” and to sharpen our common understanding of the project. Further, space was provided for revising the indicators and assessments according to what we have learned in fieldwork to date. In the process, we derived three working hypotheses from our ongoing research activities: 1) The rapid expansion of agro-industrial food value chains strongly impacts socio-economic and environmental livelihood assets; access to land and natural resources; formal and customary law; as well as human, labour, and other rights. This makes other food systems more dependent on possible positive social-ecological benefits as well as more vulnerable to risks, shocks, and other socio-economic externalities. 2) Local to global actors are recognizing the threats of expanding agro-industrial value chains. As a result, a fast-growing number of initiatives and policies are emerging aiming at the mitigation of negative effects of single (or interacting) food systems, or seeking to make them more sustainable through sustainability innovations. 3) These initiatives and policies point in the right direction, but they often clash and must compete with other existing policies that provide strong incentives for agro-industrial production and leave little room for other food systems to remain or evolve. For the moment, we consider these hypotheses solely applicable to our research areas and not generalizable to entire countries. Based on two general impact hypotheses, we developed co-hypotheses that are addressed by each work package. These were validated in our workshop in Kenya and will be discussed in the next progress workshop in Bolivia (21–22 July 2016). The hypotheses are being continuously adapted based on further empirical insights emerging from the work packages, in an effort to ensure that we capture the relevant trade-offs and factors influencing food sustainability.

The actor-interest matrix

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Actor-interest matrix of the differentiated quality food system “Plataforma Agroecológica” in Bolivia

Application of an actor-interest matrix has enabled us to identify who the most important actors are, and which stakeholders have more or less interest and bargaining power to change the respective food system. In the example of a “differentiated quality food system” we study according to the definition of Colonna et al. (2013), the “Agroecological Platform” (Figure 3), for instance, we see that actors within the Agroecological Platform (in light green) – such as the educational centre Colonia Piraí or the agroecological input provider Probiotec – have a high interest in sustainability changes, but low to medium decision-making power. By contrast, powerful political actors (in blue) who take decisions at the local to the national level – such as municipal governments and the agricultural innovation centre INIAF – have shown little interest in sustainability changes and the Agroecological Platform so far.

Food value chains taken as a basis

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Food system map of the food system of the Guaraní people in the Cabezas municipality, Santa Cruz Department, Bolivia (April 2016)

To establish a common starting point, researchers focussed on food value chains as the backbone of the operational subsystem. They started with a joint food system mapping procedure, identifying the most important value chains and actors by asking different stakeholders where they buy food, where they sell it, and what their main challenges are. Based on stakeholders’ responses and other factors, researchers elaborated food system maps and actor-interest maps. In the course of food system mapping, researchers identified many linkages between different food systems. In Bolivia, for example, Guaraní people in certain villages rent their community land to agro-industrial soybean producers. In an assembly of village authorities, one women stated, “We don’t produce for ourselves anymore, everything is just for sale now. We even buy the maize”. Maize is the most important food in the Guaraní culture, and we learned that not long ago every family cultivated different maize varieties for different uses – as many as 15 varieties were normal, but have largely disappeared.