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Sustainable Diets for All: harnessing citizens’ voices for a diverse, healthy, fair and green food system


Project material, 4 pages

The agricultural sector is producing more food than ever. Yet a world where all people have access to healthy and diverse food produced in a fair and sustainable manner still seems a long way off. The alarming pace of ecosystem degradation, eroding biodiversity, inequitable distribution of resources, and diet-related diseases make a compelling case for re-examining and reforming food systems. However, progress towards sustainable production and consumption is patchy and painfully slow.

Agricultural and food security policies continue to favour industrial agricultural production and large multinationals at the expense of small-scale farmers, and are made in isolation from the profound changes taking place in consumption associated with liberalised trade, urbanisation, lifestyle and income. Processed foods and beverages manufactured from a few globally traded commodities have led to less diverse and low-quality diets. The upshot is a public health crisis encompassing all forms of malnutrition, as well as diet-related diseases such as obesity.

One in three people suffer from diet-related malnutrition. Across Africa and Asia, the estimated annual impact of undernutrition on gross domestic product is 11% – more than the annual economic downturn caused by the financial crisis of 2008–10 on these two continents. In addition, the current global food system accounts for one third of total greenhouse gas emissions.

We need a radical, system-wide rethink of food production and consumption, recognising the health of both people and ecosystems as the basic foundations for human wellbeing. Food systems need to shift from just producing food to providing sustainable and healthy diets for all. All parts of the food system need to be addressed, from production and processing, to trade, retailing and consumption.

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Through citizen action, IIED and Hivos are promoting diets that are diverse, greener, healthier, fairer and more sustainable.

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Sustainable diets for all

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