The Time to Accelerate Transformational Change is Now

Lauren Baker, Director of Programs, Global Alliance for the Future of Food


The evidence is clear and irrefutable. Climate change, ecosystem collapse, biodiversity loss, and food insecurity represent serious and interconnected threats to the well-being of people and the planet. There is an urgent need to accelerate creative and effective solutions.

According to the IPCC special report on Climate Change and Land, released just last week, agriculture and food systems are key drivers of land degradation and desertification, and carbon emissions and extractive activities affect 75% of the Earth’s land surface. It’s clear that forests, food, and farming are the next frontier in the climate emergency. Indeed, as the effects of climate change and human activity intensify, land use pressures will increase. At the moment, land is a net carbon sink, but continued and increasing pressure on land could damage it to the extent that this is reversed and land becomes a net source of carbon emission.

The IPCC report clearly calls for a new approach to managing land sustainably in order to cut emissions, reduce the impacts of climate change, and enhance co-benefits related to human and planetary health and livelihoods.

Today, the Global Alliance for the Future of Food and Biovision Foundation for Ecological Development have released a report that addresses the significant systemic transformation needed for a future of food that is resilient, renewable, healthy, equitable, diverse, and interconnected. Beacons of Hope: Accelerating Transformations to Sustainable Food Systems, examines the transformation process of 21 global initiatives to better understand how we can accelerate their positive impacts.

The Beacons of Hope case studies link sustainability transitions theory to the practice of inspiring examples of change – from government, private sector, civil society, and on farms around the world. Across the 21 Beacons of Hope interviewed, our analysis identified the following patterns that were established early and remained at the heart of each transformation process:

  • Promoting agroecological approaches and principles
  • Co-creation of knowledge, and knowledge exchange and dissemination
  • Developing cooperative ownership models
  • Emphasizing ideas of circular and solidarity economy
  • Reinforcing the importance of culturally relevant and place-specific sustainable diets
  • Establishing participatory approaches and inclusive governance
  • Identifying new market mechanisms
  • Adopting new metrics
  • Engaging in policy development

New Options for Managing Land and Food Systems
The IPCC report clearly outlines how managing land and food systems well will be a critical solution to climate change and identifies a number of opportunities. For example: scaling up integrated supply- and demand-side options across the food system; agroecological food production; the diversification of diets to preference plant proteins; drawing on local and Indigenous wisdom and knowledge to guide locally specific food systems options; and waste reduction.

Beacons of Hope around the world are already moving forward with these integrated and systemic strategies and need to be strengthened and supported in significant ways to accelerate their positive impacts.

Take for example, Climate Resilient Zero Budget Natural Farming, a government-backed, chemical-free program in Andhra Pradesh, India, that promotes food resilience through traditional farming and agroecological practices. Knowledge and skills are shared through farmer-to-farmer mentoring, with plans to scale from 180,000 farmers today to six million by 2024. Another example is Community Markets for Conservation (COMACO), which promotes income generation, biodiversity conservation, and food security in Zambia by training poachers to become farmers and stewards of the land. Training farmers in agroecological approaches helps generate an alternative income and livelihood to the (illegal) hunting of wildlife.

There are many more examples on the Beacons of Hope website: www.foodsystemstransformations.org, including longer case studies and beautiful images of all 21 initiatives profiled in Beacons of Hope. The Beacons of Hope Report and Tooklit provide in-depth insights into how transformations to truly sustainable food systems – now and for future generations – can be accelerated.

Ultimately, we as a global community ignore the on-the-ground experience of these initiatives at our peril. Supporting the proliferation of these activities, and the acceleration of their positive impacts, present major opportunities for reducing carbon emissions from food systems, improving health outcomes, and providing a host of co-benefits across a range of land and food system challenges. The IPCC articulates that most options outlined in its report can be applied without competing for available land and will contribute positively to sustainable development and other societal goals. Transformational change is needed and the time is now.

Find out more about Beacons of Hope at www.foodsystemstransformations.org