Develop evidence based concepts on how to include midstream and informal sector in Food System Transitions

The food system currently faces challenges that cannot be addressed without the participation of the vast majority of informal small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in developing economies. At present, these enterprises tend to be overlooked. This project will explore ways of supporting their inclusion.

This project will focus on the middle section of food chains, occupied by ‘midstream’ actors. Midstream actors include all those operating between agricultural production and food consumption: transporters, food processors, traders and financial input suppliers. In emerging economies, these midstream SME actors tend to be part of the informal economy. Simply put, they operate outside of the rule of law. More than 85% of all midstream actors in emerging economies are not formally registered. This makes it more difficult for local governments to provide support to the sector, and has also resulted in this substantial group of actors remaining invisible and misunderstood. Yet they play an essential role in ensuring the availability of sufficient healthy food, especially for consumers in lower income segments. To better understand these actors, and ultimately to better support them, this project poses the following research question:

How can informal midstream actors be encouraged to contribute more to sustainable (economic, ecological and social) and structural improvements to food systems?  

The sub-question are: 

  1. Who are the informal midstream actors and what positions do they occupy in (local) food systems?
  2. How do they currently contribute to (local) food systems, or how could they do so in future?
  3. How might their current and potential future contributions to (local) food systems be supported so that they can contribute positively to those systems?