Food systems transformations are urgently needed

Food systems around the globe cause structural undesired outcomes and trade-offs – ranging from hunger and malnutrition to a detrimental impact on climate and the environment, poverty and inequality. Over 80% of farmers -2 to 3 billion people- can’t make a living off farming alone. More than 820 million people are hungry and 1.2 billion people suffer from chronic undernutrition while 2 billion people are overweight. Structural investment in changing our food systems is urgently needed.

During 2019 and 2020, Wageningen University & Research coordinated and implemented background research that informed IFAD’s 2021 Rural Development Report. The Rural Development Report is an influential report that involves policy makers worldwide on important investments in rural development. In the lead up to the UN Food Systems Summit of September 2021, the 2021 report focuses on food systems transformation agenda’s. WUR’s background research consists of 23 papers, a modelling paper and a regional consultation report.

Disclosing four supporting papers

On this webpage, WUR discloses four supporting papers that were prepared for the RDR and have been published as standalone papers: ‘Transforming Food Systems supporting paper 1, 2, 3 and 4.’ The papers were written from the perspective of an overall report and refer to concepts, examples and recommendations in the final RDR report:

  • Supporting paper 1 provides more extensive explanation of the need for food systems transformation, particularly due to structurally undesirable trade-offs between nutrition, livelihoods and environment. It places possible responses within the context of the need to focus on rural transformation broadly, beyond a focus on primary agricultural production.
  • Supporting paper 2 provides greater detail on the governance necessary to drive urgent and accountable implementation of food system agendas.
  • Supporting paper 3 provides more detail on possible pathways to food systems transformation in different contexts, which consider integrated, desired outcomes of health, inclusion and sustainability.
  • Supporting paper 4 provides an overview of how four categories of food systems perform against key system indicators.

Key messages

Investing in food systems transformations will enable societies to avoid rapidly rising health and environmental costs, and persistent poverty among farmers and their families. Several simultaneous change processes -that are deliberately prioritised- are needed to make food systems transformation happen.

WUR’s key messages are disclosed in an overall executive summary. Do you want to know more? Contact our experts.