Knowledge for better food systems

Innovative markets for sustainable agriculture: How innovations in market institutions encourage sustainable agriculture in developing countries

Between 2013 and 2015, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) undertook a survey of innovative approaches that enable markets to act as incentives in the transition towards sustainable agriculture in developing countries.

Abstract

Through a competitive selection process, 15 cases from around the world provide insights into how small-scale initiatives that use sustainable production practices are supported by market demand, and create innovations in the institutions that govern sustainable practices and market exchanges. These cases respond to both local and distant consumers’ concerns about the quality of the food that they eat. The book evidences that the initiatives rely upon social values (e.g. trustworthiness, health [nutrition and food safety], food sovereignty, promotion of youth and rural development, farmer and community livelihoods) to adapt sustainable practices to local contexts, while creating new market outlets for food products. Specifically, private sector and civil society actors are leading partnerships with the public sector to build market infrastructure, integrate sustainable agriculture into private and public education and extension programmes, and ensure the exchange of transparent information about market opportunities. The results are: (i) system innovations that allow new rules for marketing and assuring the sustainable qualities of products; (ii) new forms of organization that permit actors to play multiple roles in the food system (e.g. farmer and auditor, farmer and researcher, consumer and auditor, consumer and intermediary); (iii) new forms of market exchange, such as box schemes, university kiosks, public procurement or systems of seed exchanges; and (iv) new technologies for sustainable agriculture (e.g. effective micro-organisms, biopesticides and soil analysis techniques). The public sector plays a key role in providing legitimate political and physical spaces for multiple actors to jointly create and share sustainable agricultural knowledge, practices and products.

This book by the FAO and INRA can be accessed for free online here.

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Global

While some of the food system challenges facing humanity are local, in an interconnected world, adopting a global perspective is essential. Many environmental issues, such as climate change, need supranational commitments and action to be addressed effectively. Due to ever increasing global trade flows, prices of commodities are connected through space; a drought in Romania may thus increase the price of wheat in Zimbabwe.

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