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Food systems transformation: it starts with youth and their capacities for systemic change

By Bram Peters

Food systems approaches are at the centre of the #UNFSS2021 and are seen as essential to address the combined challenges of food insecurity, climate change and economic inequalities. But what do food systems entail, and how can young professionals in development unpick these? 

In August and September 2021, the Netherlands Young Expert Programme organised a ‘Masterclass on Food Systems’, facilitated by Cordaid. In the Masterclass, more than 20 Young Experts based in diverse continents attended online webinars, analysed a case on the Loess Plateau in China, and interactively explored cases relevant to their own context and conducted a basic food system mapping to unpack key entry points for change. Topics ranged from ‘urban agriculture around the city of Bamako’ and ‘food safety of fruits and vegetables in Jordan’, to ‘quality of meat from livestock in Ethiopia’. 

Exploring these questions highlighted the importance of looking across sectors and disciplines to ensure a range of social, economic, food security and environmental outcomes are kept in view. This means looking at how dynamics within systems can lead to trade-offs, such as how expanding livestock numbers can affect erosion of soils and thereby make flooding events more devastating. Or how international trade of food products can drive farmer’s income generating strategies, but still not lead to better food safety for domestic consumers in the same country. During the course, Young Experts from the YEP network learned about food system frameworks, feedback loops and leverage points that can lead to systems change.  

Food systems approaches means looking for connections and interrelations, while zooming in and out of contexts, mapping drivers and trends while harnessing the values and interests of the key stakeholders involved. In order to implement these approaches, Young experts in development need the skills to analyse and observe these dynamics. 

The YEP programme works to organise Masterclass sessions on a variety of topics on the Food-Water-Energy nexus.

 





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