Towards Food Sustainability: Reshaping the Coexistence of different Food Systems in South America and Africa

At least since Amartya Sen published Poverty and Famines in 1981, we know that food security –viewed globally – is more a question of proper distribution than of a need for ever more productivity. Nevertheless, a “productivist” understanding of food security continues to dominate in science, policy, and practice – gaining steam in the aftermath the 2008 food price crisis – even though more than enough calories for every person on earth are already being produced.


In order to better understand and address the “wicked problems” of hunger, malnutrition, and food insecurity, this project takes a food system approach in its analysis of actors, activities, and results of food system activities. In case studies in Kenya and Bolivia, we examine different food value chains (e.g. agro-industrial and agroecological, from production to consumption), the livelihoods of those who depend on them, and the consequences of various food-system related activities. Instead of applying a narrow food security concept, we have adopted an understanding of food sustainability that includes realization of the right to food, environmental sustainability, reduction of poverty and inequality, and resilience of food systems going beyond just producing enough. In a transdisciplinary process, our project seeks to develop a tool to assess the sustainability of food systems – a tool that can also be used by non-scientists who are interested in identifying ways to make food systems more sustainable.