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

Started in February 2015

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.

The Project

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.


Picture of Adriana Bessa

Adriana Bessa

Research Fellow

Adriana Bessa's research areas include the rights of traditional local communities, the draft declaration on the rights of peasants and the right to food.

Picture of Christophe Golay

Christophe Golay

Research Fellow and Strategic Adviser on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Christophe Golay's expertise notably relates to economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR) and the rights of peasants.


Cover of the In-Brief No2: The Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Econimic, Social and Cultural Rights

In-Brief N°2: The Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Econimic, Social and Cultural Rights

July 2013

Irene Biglino, Christophe Golay

Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

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Somalia, Anjaraale village, 15 km outside Baidoa. A man, beneficiary of the ICRC cash grants programme, plants sorghum that is a popular crop amongst farmers and the staple food in most homes in Anjaraale village. Event


March 2018, 18:30-20:00

Panelists will share good practices and challenges in supporting the use of the Voluntary Guidelines on the right to food at national and global levels.

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Syria, Aleppo. The build-up of waste is a serious health risk Training

Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Sustainable Development Goals

17- September 2018

This training course explores the relationship between economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and provides participants with practical tools to include ESCR and the SDGs in their work.

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Pakistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Lower Dir disctrict, Kamala village. Those farmers lucky enough to have Training

The Protection of Human Rights and the Environment

2- July 2018

This training course provides participants with a deep understanding of the international legal framework for the protection of human rights (HR) and the environment as well as in-depth knowledge of how to promote environmental protection through existing HR mechanisms.

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Madagascar, Miarinarivo district. Women transplanting rice. Project

The Rights of Peasants

Started in May 2008

This project aims to support efforts to strengthen the promotion and protection of the rights of peasants, and in particular to provide expert support to the negotiations taking place at the Human Rights Council.

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Somalia, Bakool region, Hudur village. Woman selling products at market. Project

Land Commercialization, Gendered Agrarian Transformation and the Right to Food (DEMETER)

Started in January 2015

This project examines the relationship between the right to food and gender equality in ensuring food security in the context of land commercialization in two case-study countries, Cambodia and Ghana.

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