The term “food system” encompasses every person and every process involved in growing or making food, and getting it into your stomach – from farmers to fruit pickers to supermarket cashiers, or from flour mills to refrigerated trucks to local markets and restaurants’. There are therefore many kinds of food systems, from local farmers and stallholders selling to nearby towns, to large-scale production traded globally.
Food systems need to contribute to human health, social justice, economic endeavor and the preservation of planetary resources. The state of our food systems profoundly affects the health of our bodies, as well as the health of our environment, our economies and our cultures. When they function well, food systems have the power to bring us together as families, communities and nations.
The set of skills and capacities that any individual, group or organization can use to catalyse, enable and support the process of systems-level change (Dreier, Nabarro, Nelson 2019). Systems leadership focuses on 1) mindset for collaboration; 2) ability to work with the unknown; 3) the ability to zoom in and zoom out. Systems leaders support others to develop collective vision and purpose, in order to drive collaborative action.
Food System Transformation
Transformation is a radical idea: not a tweak or optimization, but a complete rethink of the attributes of a food system, including its purpose, rules and power structures. It is about reshaping the so-called ‘normal’. The African Food Fellowship aims to provide support to Fellows to work towards regenerative and inclusive food systems that meet the needs of all Africans, now and in the future.
An approach to farming that uses soil conservation as the entry point to regenerate and contribute to multiple provisioning, regulating and supporting services, with the objective that this will enhance not only the environmental, but also the social and economic dimensions of sustainable food production ( Schreefel et al 2020 ).
The process through which Fellows bring their ideas into action. African Food Fellowship offers this systems action phase during stage 2 of the Leadership Programme and lasts five months. At this stage, Fellows are supported by coaches and technical mentors.
The African Food Fellowship aspires to grow in quantity and quality across Africa in the coming 10 years and make an impactful contribution through supporting a new generation of ‘systems oriented’ African leaders. They will be better able to define and act on their collective direction, pace and pathways for food system transformation. The African Food Fellowship aims to do this by 1) being driven by impact – let the impact of the programme drive it’s growth; 2) being driven by demand – it has to serve leaders and their needs; 3) connecting with others as we go – building an ecosystem of support and partnerships. Scaling does not only concern the numbers of countries or fellows (horizontal scaling), but also concerns the institutionalization process that will take place at different levels (vertical scaling).
An Inclusive food system involves all who are affected by it – with a particular attention towards marginalized groups, including women, small-scale producers and low-income consumers. These key actors are rarely heard in policymaking but are critical to link policy to local realities. Inclusive food systems do not leave anybody behind.
Is one of the key frameworks the African Food Fellowship is using to tackle complex problems such as food system transformation. Developed by Wasafiri Consulting, the Systemcraft approach helps answering the question ‘So what do we do next?’ and support fellows in their journey of achieving positive food system change.
A Sustainable food system delivers what society expects from it, without negatively impacting the environment, community, or society as a whole now or in the future.