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Publication | 2024

Scientific Brief: Sustainable Food Systems in Low- and Middle-Income Countries


The food systems of Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs) are facing challenges in meeting the needs of both people and the environment. These challenges include providing sufficient food and adequate diets to over 3 billion people, while addressing environmental issues such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, and land degradation.  

The UN Food Systems Summit confirmed in 2021 the global consensus that food systems need to change to be more sustainable, inclusive, and resilient to accelerate progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. But still, each country needs to analyse the proper food system to find the right pathways for transformation. 

This Scientific Brief gives a comprehensive overview on on scientific knowledge, i.e. agreed definitions, frameworks, figures and identifies drivers and first entry for food system transformation. The conclusion summarizes 5 central messages:

  • Sustainable intensification of food production (including the production of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, improved forages and aquatic food), can contribute to better food security. 
  • Food System Transformation is knowledge-intensive. Small holders need better advice and information systems. 
  • The infrastructure of the market chain needs to be more efficient, sustainable and beneficial to all actors, i.e. to small-holder.
  • Diverse food choices should be readily available at affordable prices for urban and rural consumers. Consumer knowledge on diverse and nutritional diets, conducive food environments, and support for the vulnerable population are among the most important measures.
  • Food policy and governance have a central role in shaping the food system and in supporting smallholder farmers, SMEs, and vulnerable consumers.