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Keynote speakers

We are happy to have given the stage to some excellent keynote speakers!

Ruerd Ruben Research coordinator at Wageningen University & Research
Irene Guijt Head of Research and Publishing at Oxfam Great Britain
Inge Brouwer Associate Professor at the Division of Human Nutrition, Wageningen University
Paulina Bizzotto Molina Policy officer, ECDPM

Ruerd Ruben

Research coordinator at Wageningen University & Research

Keynote title: Assessing moving targets: How to evaluate food systems performance and dynamics

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Abstract: This keynote presentation will outline the importance of food systems to better understand the current alarming trends in hunger and malnutrition. Particular attention is given to the key drivers of food systems performance and how it interfaces between food consumption, value chains and food production can be empirically analysed.

This paves the way for a further discussion on the trade-offs between healthier diets, sustainable food supply and inclusive food systems, and enables to identify possible incentives, investments and innovations for articulating the behavioural responses of food system stakeholders towards improving (multiple) food system outcomes.

We use this framework to decompose some common fallacies in theories of change on rural development and poverty alleviation, and share some insights from practical field experiments that reveal how real-time evaluation of food systems adaptations may yield surprisingly new insights on the chain of effectiveness.

Ruerd Ruben holds the special chair of Impact Analysis for Food Systems at Wageningen University and is research coordinator for the knowledge base program on "Global Food and Nutrition Security’’ at Wageningen Research. He also serves at the planning and management committee of the IFPRI-led CGIAR research program ‘’Agriculture for Nutrition and Health’’ (A4NH). He is member of the steering committee for the IFPRI-IIED program ‘’CERES 2030’’ , board member of the Dutch FoodFirst coalition and of Agriprofocus. He is actively involved in policy research and advice on issues related to the dynamics of food systems, smallholder involvement in tropical agro-food value chains, the effectiveness of incentives for improving healthier diets, and the impact of standards and certification for enhancing food chain upgrading. He published more than 100 articles in peer-reviewed journal and co-edited 10 books with academic publishers.

Ruerd lived and worked for 14 years in Central America where he was engaged in programs of land reform, cooperative development and smallholder agriculture. Thereafter he coordinated multidisciplinary research and training programs of Wageningen University on food security and sustainable land use in several sub-Saharan countries and was a visiting research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington, D.C. He was the director of the independent Policy and Operations Evaluation (IOB) department at the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and professor in Development Effectiveness and Director of the Centre for International Development Issues (CIDIN) at Radboud University Nijmegen.

Irene Guijt
Head of Research and Publishing at Oxfam Great Britain

Keynote title: Imagining Alternative Futures for Food Systems

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Abstract: The twin challenges of feeding humanity and mitigating climate change are daunting separately and together, particularly where most greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture. If mitigation focuses mainly on that sector, it might affect access to food. How do societies even begin to discuss such difficult matters, trade-offs or co-benefits? And can ordinary citizens become more involved, especially young people? Oxfam's Zero-Zero project in Bangladesh - zero hunger, zero emissions - explored whether 'participatory scenario development' can help people imagine plausible alternative futures in which the dual goals are more - or unfortunately less - achieved, and how. The M&E at societal level of dual policies requires a wide approach that goes beyond only food security, including needs to be monitored to check worst-case scenarios are avoided.

Further reading: 

Dr Irene Guijt leads Oxfam GB's Research and Publishing Team, which uses evidence to influence economic, environmental and social justice. Prior to this, she worked for 25 years in rural development, natural resource management, collective action and social justice. Much of her work has focused on elevating ignored voice – for example, through pioneering the SenseMaker® stories‐at‐scale approach on issues that include girls' empowerment, inclusive business, accountable democracy, water service delivery, and youth leadership. She previously worked at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and was a Research Associate for ODI and a Research Fellow at the Australian National University. A recent co-edited book (2015) was 'The Politics of Evidence and Results in International Development: Playing the Game to Change the Rules?'. She is currently involved in an ESRC‐funded research project on zero hunger–zero emissions for Bangladesh. Her PhD from Wageningen University focused on learning processes between smallholder organisations, government and research for transforming food systems.

Inge Brouwer
Associate Professor at the Division of Human Nutrition, Wageningen University

Keynote title: Healthier diets from sustainable food systems: is this always a win-win?

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Abstract: Despite the achievements in the present food systems related to employment and income, worries about the present food system outcomes differ per discipline and are related to the increase of malnutrition, the ability to produce sufficient food for the growing population, to the inequity of distribution of food around the world, and the unacceptable environmental footprint. Most agree that diets have a central role being the connection between the food system and the outcomes. Many recent papers indicate that consuming healthy and sustainable diets will transform food systems. To arrive at such a diet, global consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes will have to double, and consumption of foods such as red meat and sugar will have to reduce by more than half. As stated in the EAT Lancet report, a diet rich in plant-based foods and with fewer animal source foods confers both improved health and environmental benefits. But is this also the right message for low and middle income countries?  In this presentation the concept of a healthy diet will be discussed and why dietary diversity cannot be the only indicator for such a diet. The trade-off and synergies with environmental sustainability will be discussed, with a special focus on low and middle income countries.

Inge D. Brouwer (Ph.D.) is Associate Professor at the Division of Human Nutrition, Wageningen University. Her research focuses on improvement of dietary quality of (young) women and children, in low and middle income countries through agricultural or food systems approaches, with special emphasis on reducing the burden of undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and overnutrition. Dr. Brouwer has acquired many research funds, from national funding programmes, from EU FP6 and FP7 Framework Programmes as well as from food industries. At the moment she is leader of the Flagship Food Systems for Healthier Diets under the CGAIR funded Agriculture for Nutrition and Health research programme led by the International Food Policy Research Institute. This programme is carried in collaboration with Bioversity International, CIAT, IFPRI, IITA in Bangladesh, Vietnam, Ethiopia and Vietnam with the aim to guide transformations of food systems toward healthier diets for poor populations in a sustainable and equitable way.

Paulina Bizzotto Molina
Policy officer, ECDPM

Keynote title: 'Let's get real. How insights in interests and incentives can make the SDG machinery more effective.'

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Abstract: The concept of food systems is gaining traction in academic and policy making circles. Different disciplines, such as agronomists, nutritionists and development economists, are finding the food systems approach useful to do justice to the complexities and dynamics of the interrelated challenges in the food and agricultural domain. Sustainable food systems capture better the non linearity, feedback loops and unintended consequences between elements of the food system, including how information and policies shape activities and outcomes. 

One of the principles of the SDG agenda is the indivisibility of the 2030 Agenda; the sustainable development goals and targets can only be achieved if they are addressed in a integrated manner. The holistic character of the 2030 Agenda as a whole and the transformational character of many of the targets hidden within SDG 2 (eg tracking progress in the income of smallholder farmers, areas under sustainable agriculture) could inspire governments and other stakeholders like technical partners and private sector players to adopt a food system approach. 

Drawing from ECDPM’s Food team’s work with FAO on SDG governance arrangements, this keynote will discuss the challenges countries encounter in implementing the food related SDGs. Some examples of innovative governance arrangements will be highlighted, with a specific focus on the opportunities territorial approaches seem to offer for more integrated policy making and meaningful and effective stakeholder engagement. 

The reality of trade-offs between different food system outcomes should take a central role in sustainable food systems research and interventions. In many of the high level food system literature the often competing and conflicting interests in food systems are downplayed, emphasising potential synergies like those between sustainable and healthy diets in the most recent EAT Lancet report. Acknowledging, understanding and addressing the political dimension of trade offs will be key to bring the ambitions for more inclusive and sustainable food systems to the often messy reality. How can the awareness of the political dimensions be better integrated in practice, is it possible to measure it and how to learn from context-specific experiences? Lessons will be drawn from the SDG governance study but also from ECDPM’s work on the Sustainable Agrifood Systems Strategies project. In this project, ECDPM together with a consortium of Italian universities is studying sustainable local food systems in Tanzania and Kenya.  

Paulina Bizzotto Molina is a Policy Officer at the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM) in Maastricht. Her research focuses on African and global policy processes related to food and nutrition security and rural development in Sub Saharan Africa, regional integration and sustainability. For this key note she will draw from her experience with FAO on a study focusing on understanding what institutional mechanisms countries are putting in place to achieve Sustainable Development Goals. What interests and incentives play a role in hindering or helping the necessary change processes?

Currently, she is coordinating a multidisciplinary research team of Italian universities working on the sustainability of local food systems in Tanzania within the framework of the Sustainable AgriFood System Strategies (SASS) project. She started at ECDPM working on the evaluation of the European Commission’s support to Research and Innovation in partner countries. She has been involved in the development of the Regional Investment Programme for Agriculture of the Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).

Paulina holds a Masters in International Development from the Radboud University Nijmegen. Before joining ECDPM she was a Policy Officer at the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture and the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs.