Bracing for the future: Foresight for Food Systems in the EGP

Bracing for the future: A Participatory Exercise on Foresight for Food Systems in South Asia was held on the 11th – 14th February 2019 in Kathmandu, Nepal. This workshop was convened by IFPRI and supported by ACIAR SDIP, to explore key impacts and future trends for food systems, at both local and regional levels. More than 50 participants from Bangladesh, India and Nepal joined the workshop, representing a range of sectors and expertise, and with a good mix of gender and career stage. This diversity lead to highly energized and engaged discussions as the group worked through the different elements of foresight for food systems.

The workshop was designed as a series of training presentations and participatory exercises in methods for foresight and scenario analysis, using real world examples based on the four focus geographic regions of ACIAR SDIP: Bihar, West Bengal, Nepal (Terai) and Bangladesh.

Key note speaker Professor Prabhu Pingali from Cornell University gave an excellent overview of the different factors influencing food systems in South Asia. More detailed synthesis presentations on the trends of climate change, gender, labour and migration, trade and markets and the energy-irrigation nexus in the EGP allowed participants to explore these issues deeply. A range of modelling options was presented that can potentially support foresight approaches at different levels.  

Throughout the workshop, participants worked in regional groups to define a set of foresight activities that could be undertaken at the local level to inform and improve the future of food systems. These plans were summarized and presented to the ACIAR SDIP Steering Committee on the final afternoon. A range of specific activities are proposed. Nepal will use foresight approaches as a policy dialogue tool to understand the implementation of agricultural development at a range of local levels (community, municipal, provincial). In West Bengal, foresight will contribute to expanding our understanding of the impacts of CASI for sustainable and equitable rural livelihoods. In Bangladesh, the potential for high value crops for a diversified food system will be explored. Potential pathways to achieve a “healthy plate” based production system will be considered in Bihar. As well as the set of local level activities, key information will be synthesized to support a regional level analysis of the food system.

We thank key facilitators Dr Jim Woodhill and Dr Avinash Kishore for their inputs, all presenters for their contribution of details that helped build a rich picture of food systems in the region, and all participants for their enthusiasm and engagement. Presentations and outputs from the workshop groups will be made available on the ACIAR SDIP website.  

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

NewsTamara Jackson