• Sustainable Food

    Healthy planet, healthy people

    Sustainable food allows people to have access to sufficient, affordable and healthy food that is produced sustainably, now and in the future. With an ever growing world population, sustainable food production is critical to ensure food security in the long run while maintaining our planet’s resources, and to counter the negative effects of climate change.

    Our context

    Healthy, affordable and nutritious food that is produced sustainably is vital for a green society. The world is indeed producing more food than ever; however, a growing world population and rising income levels, combined with serious natural resource degradation and climate change, pose enormous challenges to our global food system. Over 800 million people are unable to consistently access or afford adequate food, and several billion of the world’s population suffer from malnutrition, both undernutrition and obesity.

    Currently the world wastes food on a large scale, depletes ecosystems, and erodes agro-biodiversity, all of which threatens our future food security. Both producers and consumers can be affected by climate impacts. We therefore need a radical rethinking of and change to the way we produce and consume food.

    A growing world population and rising income levels, combined with serious natural resource degradation and climate change, pose enormous challenges to our global food system

    Our aim

    Hivos strives for a world where all people have access to 100 percent sustainably produced food, now and in the future. To achieve this vision, we need to have early-stage food entrepreneurs – especially women – produce sustainable food products, services or products that specifically cater to the needs of smallholder producers and low-income consumers.

    At the same time, to really speed up a shift towards more sustainable, diverse and healthy food production and consumption practices in urban areas and their surrounding countryside, we need government, civil society, and the private sector to act together to support successful initiatives. Building up resilience to increasing climate variability – both at community and ecosystem level – is a significant challenge for all involved.

    The same holds true for getting international and national food policies to change. National and sub-national governments must be convinced to adopt policies and programs that promote sustainable food production and consumption.

    Our approach

    We facilitate producers and consumers in making major changes in their food systems. As part of our three-step approach, we finance the development of technical and business skills among early-stage food entrepreneurs and link these entrepreneurs with potential investors.

    We also convene generally excluded groups – such as small-scale producers, women, youth, and street vendors – to start initiatives to accelerate a shift towards more sustainable, diverse and healthy production and consumption practices. An innovative strategy of ours is setting up Food Change Labs that bring multiple stakeholders together to jointly develop local, national and international examples of how food systems can be transformed.

    In addition, we use evidence generated by citizens to advocate with governments and international forums so their policies will promote diverse and healthy food, sustainable production methods, and enable the scaling of successful solutions.

    Our contribution

    This thematic area especially contributes to Sustainable Development Goal 2 (End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture) and Goal 12 (Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns).

  • Areas of action

    Food Entrepreneurship

    Innovative micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) run by passionate entrepreneurs have great potential to lead the way towards more sustainable and resilient food production and consumption. While many policymakers, NGOs and investors agree on their importance and role, actual long-term financing and opportunities for these enterprises are lacking. This is why Hivos actively targets ordinary people and promising entrepreneurs with the potential to challenge and disrupt the status quo. We identify them through our local networks and provide support and mentoring through program activities and tools developed by practitioners, investors and regional experts. They are then able to either take their first steps, or roll out innovative business solutions to tackle pressing problems like resource depletion, income inequality, climate change adaptation and migration.

    Food & Cities

    Currently, more than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas, with UN projections indicating 75 percent by 2050. The problem is this. Cities contribute to an ever-increasing demand for cheap food, straining the environment. Urbanization also highly aggravates food waste and soil degradation, and reduces dietary diversity in favor of unhealthy processed foods. Urban areas across the Global South are therefore seeing a rise in food insecurity, particularly affecting low income dwellers. Hivos strives to make urban food systems more inclusive and sustainable by putting citizens in the lead of finding new solutions to these complex, multi-faceted problems. We facilitate multi-stakeholder platforms such as Food Change Labs, where we link frontrunners to other city actors, including SMEs and policy makers.

    Resilient Landscapes

    Agricultural regions are expected to ensure our food security. This means supplying more food, providing sustainable livelihoods for farming communities, and protecting and restoring biodiversity and critical ecosystem services. All this – while at the same developing resilience to climate change. But conventional approaches to enhance and sustain agricultural productivity simply cannot address all these issues. To meet our current and future food demands, we need a more productive, inclusive and sustainable type of agriculture that includes environmental conservation. Hivos facilitates this transition through a ‘landscape’ approach. We encourage consumers, government, private sector, research and civil society to together assess how current practices affect their cropland areas and devise changes to safeguard our food security in the future.

    Freedom to choose seeds

    Diverse seed systems are central to sustainable food systems. Yet, seed diversity is decreasing dramatically as a result of industrial agriculture. This greatly impacts our food systems, as there are not enough different seeds available to grow a variety of crops. The situation is aggravated by changing climatic conditions and the distorted power position in the seed market, with a few organizations dominating the global seeds market. Hivos is working to promote an open source seeds system in which farmers have access to a broad array of seeds that are climate resilient and nutritious. Such a system also makes knowledge and innovation accessible and legally supports farmers in their free choice of seeds.