Independent Dialogue | Food Systems Resilience in Protracted Crises

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On 1 July 2021, Netherlands Food Partnership (NFP), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation (WCDI), jointly organised an Independent Dialogue for the Food Systems Summit on food systems resilience in protracted crises. The Dialogue brought together a community of practice from the FAO and WCDI-led Food and Nutrition Security Resilience Programme (FNS REPRO) in the Horn of Africa, and a community of practice facilitated by NFP, to exchange and engage with the emerging Coalition on Conflict & Hunger of the Food Systems Summit. Based on a learning trajectory paper and Game-Changing Solution, the meeting examined if and how the aid architecture needs to change to address hunger in protracted crises.

As one participant remarked, the theory and insight on food systems resilience for protracted crises is all there, the challenge now lies in making it work – making it operational. Food systems resilience is a relatively new approach, insofar that it builds on the rich experience of humanitarian and development work in crisis areas, in particular for good practices that have been developed in resilience and disaster risk reduction approaches. The newly added (localised) food systems lens guiding this approach inherently brings the cross-sectoral perspective that is needed for humanitarian-development-peace (HDP) nexus alignment.

Insofar as the aid architecture can be adapted to better facilitate external support for building resilient food systems – the core question for this Dialogue - the meeting had a rich harvest of concrete suggestions for the Coalition on Conflict & Hunger to take up. Moreover, many actions have been defined that organisations can start working on immediately.

Some of the key insights from this session are outlined below. For a detailed description with concrete recommendations please see the meeting report.

Insights from the Dialogue session


Three aspects that define a food systems resilience approach

  • Firstly, it bridges the timeline cycle of relief, recovery, resilience and development. Addressing the awareness that humanitarian assistance is not a solution to ending food crises.
  • Secondly, it takes a food systems perspective – based on an understanding that issues cannot be dealt with in isolation and solutions for programming lie in cross-cutting humanitarian-development-peace (HDP) approaches that respond to dynamics of food system behaviour.
  • Thirdly, it builds on the perceptions and existing resilience capacities of local communities and actors. By analysing a food system and its resilience capacities together with local communities the approach breaks through aid siloes. While working with local actors in an evidence-based, adaptive approach ensures a good understanding of the interaction between food systems dynamics and resilience capacities as the programme is implemented.

A longer term perspective to can be reached through predictive analysis

Due to the different rationales and reasons for humanitarian and development aid it is still very hard to make the two meet. One opportunity to bridge the two lies in better prediction of where and when crises will hit. If that understanding goes together with insight into food systems dynamics, for instance where food comes from and where it will need to come from in the future, longer term planning and more systemic approaches may be possible. However, mobilising support for such anticipatory action is still more difficult than mobilising it when a crisis has already hit.

The current aid architecture is not yet conducive to a localised food systems approach

Policymakers and practitioners can work together better to: 1) have the overview of how a system works and what is needed; and, 2) connect that to an understanding of how food systems work from the perspective of local people. However, the current aid architecture is not yet conducive to understanding the performance of food systems from a local level and identifying where resilience of systems needs to be built from there. For instance, much current analysis focuses on the current situation, current needs. While understanding of how food systems have developed and changed - and how this results in food insecurity - is limited. While the aid architecture can make it difficult to get the right local actors on board, to benefit from their insights into the context and their networks with local actors.

Connection to countries and existing structures crucial for Conflict & Hunger coalition

The emerging Conflict & Hunger coalition should link up better to what is ongoing in countries in terms of planning and coordination. Ownership of countries is still lacking, engagement with people and existing structures (e.g. programmes, FSL clusters, universities) is limited. Moreover, a key challenge is not just to do better external intervention, but to also move some of the aid infrastructure to national public investment. Such investment should be shaped in a way that it addresses fragility. For this a strategic alliance between key donors, analysts and different actors working in humanitarian, development, and peace fields is needed to deliver concerted support to governments. The EU-funded and FAO/WFP jointly led Global Network Against Food Crises is trying to achieve this.


Photo Rojan Bolling

Rojan Bolling

Knowledge broker

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