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Challenging the status quo of food system

  • :
  • : Devi Puspita Sari, S.Komp
  • : 289

FIKES UPNVJ - Dian (DS, 31), a nutrition department researcher, was ear to ear when announced to receive Orange Knowledge Program Scholarship organized by Nuffic. Funded by The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the program enables her attending the blended course arranged by Wageningen University and Research, to shed light on regarding urban food system. Lasted for 8 weeks with the face-to-face part scheduled in Kenya, makes this East African country practically the 10th state she visited this year after undergoing unpaid leave.

Started with a million-dollar question of ‘how to feed 10 billion people in 2050 as we are getting urbanized?’, the program focuses on the way to cater nutritious, safe, and affordable food sustainably in the world that is projected for becoming more urban in the next two decades. No single right answer to respond to that complex question, yet we know, that a food system transformation is urgently needed. Paradoxically, we have been through such transformation unconsciously. As part of human race, we are blessed with capacity to think and act for the betterment, as well as keep challenging the status quo. Until about 20 years ago, food system was meant to produce enough food (calories) to feed the world. When this did not solve the problem of hunger and health, we started expecting food system to provide food and nutrition security. Nowadays, as we become aware of the environmental and social cost of focusing only on food security, we expect much more. We keep raising the bar, expecting that food system can and must generate not only healthy diet, but also living income for everyone involved and beneficial to our environment.

But what is food system basically?

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Food system is the interconnected system of drivers, processes, actors and impacts, that influences, and is influenced by, the activities involved in bringing food from farm to fork and beyond. With this fuel, the 8 week course set sail, joining with DS, 22 other participants from 10 different countries with diverse backgrounds of expertise. Twice a week online live session focused on different dimensions of food system, such as city region food system (CRFS), socio-economic outcomes, environmentally sustainable outcomes and spatial landscape, consumer purchasing behavior, as well as the introduction to the 2041 Dhaka Food Agenda.

During the session in Nairobi, several food system key points were learned and visited. There, DS was given a chance to present Jakarta CRFS which involved its neighboring cities' boundaries. Getting to know the Black Soldiers Fly project and Nairobi City County involvement in Milan Urban Food Policy Pact.

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Some arts (if it can be called as one) for Jakarta CRFS coined in Nairobi by DS

Several things nudged DS attention. First, the fact that global food system moved toward sustainability that deemed future-proof by embracing multistakeholderism, and reduce silos caused by fragmented professional expertise. Secondly, climate shocks have been a profound consideration of food system. As such, a great transformation offered by EAT-Lancet Commission is by adopting planetary health diet with reduction or replacement of meat consumption (flexitarian, might be impractical for Indonesia context), dramatically reducing food waste (highly suggested for regions with Rijsttafel culture), and great improvement on food production to reduce food loss. Both food loss and waste generate methane, a potent greenhouse gas emission that causes climate change.

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DS led the trade-offs session. Multistakeholderism, means understanding and expecting that actors have different competing interests and that trade-offs are inevitable. Yet, for the greatest good, find the common grounds, be patience to each other, be comfortable with the uncomfortable. One never intensify argument by raising their voice. 😊

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During the visit to Wukulima market, an open market in Nairobi that sold fresh produce from surrounding countries like Tanzania, Somalia and Uganda. Intriguingly, the term of local produce was not so much use, as it devalue goods coming from outside Kenya.

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DS raised her concern about water shortage during her presentation and discussion in Nairobi. Packed with considerable amount of angst, she conveyed unprecedented low rainfall during the wet season in Jakarta that led to drought. “We faced difficulties in managing our urban hydroponic farm as it relies solely on water, and crops are getting withered.” she said.

Low frequency of rainfall led to drought in DS neighborhood urban agriculture

In the end, support from broad number of stakeholders for making concrete action is needed, breaking down silos between different sectors, so, What nudges will you be giving? How can you use your sphere of influence, at home, at work, and in your neighborhood, to inspire others to follow your lead?

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