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Striding towards sustainable food systems

James Lomax, Programme Management Officer for sustainable food systems at UNEP

 The distinctive feature of Hivos’ holistic programme on sustainable food is how it looks at the big perspective head-on. And this is exactly why Paris-based James Lomax, Programme Management Officer for sustainable food systems (SFS) and agriculture at UN Environment, also known as UNEP, is spirited about the collaboration with his Dutch counterparts.

“Working closely with Hivos is one of the reasons that makes the SFS programme so exciting. It brings people together that normally do not work together, aiming for a transformation of our food systems from farm to flush”, says Lomax. “Not merely fork, but all the way to flush, since we also consider the actual impacts and benefits of eating and digesting food.”

UN Environment is member of the Multi-stakeholder Advisory Committee, whereas Hivos co-leads the programme together with government agencies of South Africa and Switzerland, and the WWF. Hivos has the capacity and the networks to connect specific expertise with all kinds of like-minded people.

Some five years ago, both organizations realized that a systems approach is the way forward towards sustainable food systems. “It soon became apparent that Hivos and UN Environment share this vision. Our plans came together quite simply and that in itself was already a rewarding experience”, Lomax reveals. Considering food and agriculture as connected is refreshing and innovative: “We aim at reaching alignment and consensus at the decision-making level, an effort that requires coordination of our interventions.

“Armed with a strong, shared vision, practical knowledge and a conceptual framework, the next step is to define specific activities to reach our goals. Bottom up multi-actor initiatives to improve sustainable diets could be one of the outcomes. Moreover, we envision impact in terms of improved food security, health and economically active people, of farmers getting a better deal, of a proper plan around eating and production. I am optimistic, because the added value of Hivos is that they can mobilise people to act and change the status quo.”