Food4Sustainability analyses the governance of initiatives involved in the transition to a sustainable agro-food system as well as the motivations of the actors. The project is a collaboration between 3 universities – UCL, KU Leuven and ULB – and financed by BELSPO.
The agro-food system increasingly puts pressure on natural resources, and already accounts for 19-29% of greenhouse gas emissions by humans. In this context, a reform of the agro-food system towards greater sustainability and resource efficiency is essential and increasingly demanded by civil society. While focus on increasing production remains, more and more emphasis is put on other qualities of the food system, like nutritional quality, environmental impacts and equity issues. This led to the emergence of product innovations and alternative practices in the agro-food system, often starting at the local level.
Initiatives for transition to sustainable food systems encounter some obstacles and barriers. One is the need for collective action strategies and social rules when dealing with collective goods. Another issue is the fragmentation and limited scope of many initiatives, with the risk of succumbing under economic or political pressure. Therefore, institutions are needed to organise transition pathways on a larger scale. An additional problem is the disconnection between the emerging transition initiatives and the broader lifestyle choices the majority of the population make.
In our view, an integrated approach is needed that links pioneering consumer and producer initiatives to all actors of the food system, scaling up the initiatives and generating impact and transition of the system.
In order to achieve this, we will conduct a comparative analysis of collective processes and actor’s motivations in transition pathways in Belgian food systems. This will lead to a better understanding of role played by intrinsic and extrinsic motivations as well as the major barriers and success factors in the initiatives. Additionally, we will identify the institutional mechanisms that can help to overcome the stated obstacles.
Food4Sustainability will result in the formulation of facilitative roadmaps with possible actions, measures and initiatives that various actors in the food system can take for the sustainability transition to succeed.