Following up on Foresight for sustainable food systems in the EGP

Following up on the Foresight meeting held in Delhi earlier in the year, a core group of engaged partners with experience in research, policy formulation and implementation met in Kathmandu this week to progress our understanding of the current status of food systems in the EGP, and to think about the key drivers and trends that will impact on the performance of these systems. 

The purpose of this meeting was to generate ideas on how to work together to develop an analytical and policy-relevant understanding of the food systems in the region.

The meeting allowed plenty of robust discussion and consideration of the key trends and emerging themes. To commence, country level presentations were given to show the current situation for food systems, and to identify key drivers of change. This was followed by a session where mind maps were developed at country, state and provincial levels, considering the key elements of the food system and the links between them. Interestingly, these drivers of change played out differently when they were prioritized in the different locations. Although there were some common themes, it did highlight how different things can be in the various countries in the EGP despite their geographical proximity.

Developing a mind map of the food system in Bihar, India.

Developing a mind map of the food system in Bihar, India.

Time was devoted to thinking about the availability of key evidence needed to understand food systems. There are some areas where we have a relatively clear understanding of what the future looks like, but for others the direction and dynamics are more uncertain. Data is also scattered and exists at various scales; one of the key contributions of the project will be to collate and synthesise existing data, and make it available in a central repository.

Professor Sucharita Sen from JNU in Delhi took us through a session considering what we perceive as the factors that influence feminization, and the implications of this for food systems. Interestingly, she then presented results from a current ACIAR SDIP study on the macro level trends in women’s participation in agriculture, which challenged some of the existing assumptions. The key output of this exercise was in highlighting the need to think very carefully about how critical it is to include gender as a common thread across the Foresight work, since it intersects with all the factors influencing the food system, as well as the implications of change.

Professor Sucharita Sen presents the results of a study into women's engagement in agriculture in the EGP.

Professor Sucharita Sen presents the results of a study into women's engagement in agriculture in the EGP.

In summing up, participants reported on what they think success looks like for this Foresight process, and the importance of engaging with policy makers for local impact. There is agreement that to make this work relevant we should link with existing government plans and strategies, and try to help inform future planning incorporating food, energy and water perspectives.

With a core group of people lead by IFPRI South Asia, Bangladesh Agricultural University and the Centre for Green Economic Development (Nepal), the outputs from this workshop will be used as the basis for future work. A training workshop is planned for February 2019, where we will work through the Foresight process with experienced practitioners.  

For more information, please contact Dr Kuhu Chatterjee (kuhu.chatterjee@aciarsdip.com).

NewsTamara Jackson