The convergence of the effects of the 2007–2008 global financial crisis, climate change and the growing demand for food and biofuels led to a sharp increase in global food prices, which have remained high ever since. Today, about 800 million people around the world suffer from hunger, and about 2 billion people lack the essential micronutrients they need to live healthy and active lives.
The reflexive response to increased demand for food and higher prices is to increase the productivity of food systems. However, there is growing consensus among agricultural scientists, economists, policy-makers and civil society groups that, on its own, greater production is not the solution to food crises. Global food policies need to be reframed to optimize food production, while also improving environmental sustainability and ensuring equitable social outcomes.
This six-year project, launched in 2015 and funded by the Research for Development Programme (r4d) of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, aims to provide evidence-based knowledge for the formulation and promotion of innovative strategies and policy options that improve food sustainability. This is composed of five interconnected pillars: food security, the right to food, the reduction of poverty and inequality, environmental integrity and social-ecological resilience.
The research results will be disseminated through social learning programmes with actors within food systems, governments, civil society organizations and other stakeholders; the promotion of policy dialogue and provision of training and information to academic audiences, farming communities, social movements, agribusiness, trade unions, public administration bodies and civil society organizations.
Coordinating the Legal Aspects of the Research
As a co-coordinator of this project – along with the Centre for Development and Environment at the University of Bern, Centre for Training and Integrated Research in Kenya and the University of San Simón, Bolivia – the Geneva Academy supervises the legal aspects of the research in partnership with economists, political scientists, anthropologists and human geographers in Bolivia, Kenya and Switzerland. This includes the identification of treaties, laws and policies that have influenced food systems over the last 10–15 years, and their likely future impact.
In September 2015, the Geneva Academy organized a workshop on right to food indicators, which brought together researchers from this project and DEMETER, also co-coordinated by the Geneva Academy. The workshop examined ways of measuring the realization of the right to food in the four countries being studied by the projects (Bolivia, Cambodia, Ghana and Kenya). It was significant not only for its substantive findings, but also for the fact that it was the first time in the history of the food security r4d funding scheme that two projects have held a joint event. Collaboration and exchanges will continue throughout the lifetime of both projects.