Keynote Speaker

Laura PereiraUtrecht University, The Netherlands


Laura Pereira is currently a research fellow at the Centre for Food Policy, working on the Sustainable and Healthy Food Systems (SHEFS) project in South Africa where she leads the governance for food system transformation in South Africa component. She is also a senior researcher working at the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development at Utrecht University where she is also the co-PI of the CCAFS scenarios project. Having completed her DPhil in Geography at Oxford University in 2012, she undertook post-docs in sustainability science at Harvard’s Kennedy School and at the University of Cape Town before moving to Stellenbosch University to research development in the Anthropocene. She is interested in the interface between traditional knowledge and innovation, the role of futures techniques in transformative change and developing innovative methods for knowledge co-production in developing country contexts. Her work uses the food system to unpack broader challenges and solutions to the complexity of governance for sustainability transformations. Twitter: @laurap18

Talk title: Transforming food systems towards sustainability: learning from inclusive governance approaches


One of the core challenges of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is how to create a more sustainable and equitable global food system. The food system is not just implicated in SDG 2 to eradicate hunger, but is a central feature across all of the 17 goals, making it one of the most critical intervention points in addressing the SDGs as fully integrated and indivisible. However, shifting the food system away from the status quo towards a more desirable trajectory for people and the planet is not a simple task, but requires creating an environment where systemic transformation is possible. Enabling transformative change is not an easy task- the world is complex, uncertain and messy and interventions therefore do not always have linear causal responses. For example, shifting towards biofuel as a means to reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuels in the energy system has repercussions for agriculture and therefore impacts the food system in sometimes unexpected ways. Governance systems need to learn to recognise these complex relationships and adapt accordingly, becoming more humble in how they attempt to navigate towards a more sustainable future, and also more inclusive in terms of who is empowered to act towards change. Recent approaches that build on a more inclusive, bottom-up approach for enabling such transformative change include Transformation-labs (T-labs). T-labs are ‘transformative spaces’ where a diverse set of actors, including community representatives and change-makers, can come together and explore how their combined efforts could open up alternative ways of doing things that align more with the transformative pathways towards the SDGs than the current dominant trajectory. In this talk, I will delve into the learnings from previous T-labs that have been designed to grapple with how to build coalitions to scale the impact of local sustainability innovations in the food system and how these processes can complement more top-down governance and planning processes. Whilst T-labs by no means offer a silver bullet for how to enable transformative change in the food system, they do offer an alternative way of engaging with the sustainability challenge from a more inclusive ‘bottom-up’ governance approach that allows for a diversity of voices to be heard.

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