Food System Governance, Food Security and Land Use in Southern Africa

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Environmental Change Institute SoGE


The role of private companies and other institutions is of growing importance in food security and land use issues in southern Africa. These include major 'up-steam' actors in the food system, including those engaged in food processing, marketing, intraregional trading, and the food aid sectors. All are ultimately influenced by consumers, and can therefore are largely controlling demand. The role these 'actors' fulfil, and the way in which they operate, is mediated by their interactions with each other and with both state structures (e.g. SADC and national policies). In essence, the governance arrangements among these actors determine how these interactions play out, but the situation is complex and these arrangements are poorly understood.

The overall objective of the project is to draw on research skills from South Africa, UK, US and the Netherlands to build an international community of researchers closely linked to a range of stakeholders across southern Africa's public and private organisations. This community will then be able to co-design and jointly undertake research on (i) the effectiveness and adaptiveness of food system governance arrangements for food security; and (ii) food systems governance as driver of land use change and implications for associated ecosystem services.

The research focus on governance arrangements in southern Africa's food systems is highly innovative. Earlier work has highlighted this need, but there has been little coordinated effort to address this at national level, let alone internationally. The multi-level approach spanning SADC-national-provincial-local levels, again strongly advocated by earlier work, is also innovative. Combining the governance angle with the multi-level work is the distinguishing feature of this proposal. Results will help inform both public and private policy making on the consequences of 'demand-led' decision making for food security and land use change, thereby complementing other work on land use change as driven by issues of food supply.

Planned Impact

The intended beneficiaries of the ultimate research are policy makers and practitioners in public and private sectors. More specifically, the research will help those making decisions about trading, marketing and food aid to understand the land use and natural resource implications of their plans. We envisage impact arising partly from the evidence base delivered by the project and partly from the methodological advances arising from the project. In both cases the intermediate direct users of the research will be government and private bodies and NGOs at regional, national and local levels.

Pursuing early and on-going engagement with key stakeholders will help develop a viable impact plan. To this end we will aim to: (i) map political context; (ii) identify key stakeholders; (iii) identify desired behaviour changes; (iv) develop engagement strategy; (v) analyse internal capacity to effect change; (vi) establish monitoring and learning frameworks.

In addition to all project members promoting and engaging in the project website, the FCRN will play an important role in promoting the efforts within the region and internationally. It is a leading source of policy-relevant, integrated knowledge on food systems and environmental parameters, especially climate change. It provides a comprehensive, impartial source of information to its growing membership (2000+ individuals) from 70 countries. FCRN acts as an honest broker, promoting an interdisciplinary, cross-sectoral approach to food system challenges; communicating, interacting with and linking people across sectors, countries and disciplines, and catalysing collaborations for research and practice.

FCRN will be key in helping to facilitate this process because (i) its network of members includes representation from across southern Africa and from the other countries participating in this collaborative proposal - individuals who span a diverse range of disciplines and sectors; (ii) it can use its networking capability to seek wider participation/collaboration from other members with an interest in engaging more closely in the project; and (iii) it has well established mechanisms for disseminating information, in particular through its comprehensive website, through weekly mailings and through its interview series.

This proposal is seen as an integral part of a two-stage process of establishing the pathway to impact. Direct engagement with stakeholders will be focused on assuring the pathway to impact. We will identify who will benefit from this research. We will explore with them how will they benefit from this research. We will design activities for the follow-on substantive research project with a view to ensuring that they will have the opportunity to benefit from the research.


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Description Priority issues for stakeholders
Exploitation Route Helping to draft follow- up funding proposals.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment