Food related non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, as well as malnutrition are important developmental challenges tightly linked to environmental concerns. Increased focus on the production of a few staple crops and an overreliance on sugar and oil crops have had negative impacts on both environmental and human health.

The complex nature of today’s global challenges requires a fresh look at how people interact with their environments in order to reach food and nutrition security while maintaining, restoring, and securing the ecosystems upon which we are ultimately dependent.

At the Global Landscapes Forum that took place in Paris in early December 2015, during COP21, the Stockholm Resilience Centre, EAT Initiative, Bioversity International and CGIAR organized a panel discussion to focus on the linkages between healthy landscapes and healthy people.

The panel featured Johan Rockström, centre director, Sara Scherr, President and CEO at EcoAgriculture Partners and Patrick Holden, Founder and CEO at Sustainable Food Trust, and was moderated by Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Former Director General of IUCN.

SwedBio contributed through Bioversity International to participation of policy and development partners from the global south in the Forum, as well as for developing outreach materials to inform policy makers and support knowledge collaboration about this thematic area.


A broader picture

In September 2015 the UN adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to succeed the Millennium Development Goals. The 17 goals cut across all sectors of society and are at the same time closely linked to each other. While one goal specifically is to end hunger, several of the other goals are directly linked to this, and will need to be addressed simultaneously.

To achieve healthier diets from more sustainable food production systems, we need to manage them for multiple benefits and more diverse production that aligns with achieving health goals. This includes production of for example fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.

This calls for approaches that are broader in their scope. Managing for landscapes and seascapes that are multifunctional is one way of working to ensure production systems that supply us with adequate nutrition without degrading ecological functions.

A multifunctional approach to agricultural and marine production systems that generate multiple ecosystem services of benefit to society, beyond food production in itself, can help achieve the sustainability goals.

“The strongest support for an integrated landscapes approach to management still comes from the environmental side, where benefits are many,” said Sara Scherr, president and CEO of EcoAgriculture Partners. ”However, in the last few years we’ve seen growing recognition of the importance of the landscape approach for achieving sustainable food systems.”


A necessary future trajectory

In a changing climate it is important to recognize that healthy ecosystems are at the core of food production.

Taking a landscapes perspective when thinking about food production also makes it possible to take into account the “wild” food sources that are particularly important for low-income groups in societies, and helps us recognize niches of the landscape that can be used for emergency food supply.

In light of this, policies on both the demand and supply side need to realign themselves toward both food-based dietary and sustainability goals. Business also needs to develop new models, standards, and approaches that increase the access to healthier foods that are produced in ways that support vibrant communities, and resilient production landscapes.

“We can have good healthy food produced within planetary boundaries, but it requires innovation and transformational change as well as behavioral change in the way we do and think about agriculture. It is encouraging to see some developments in this direction politically, with for example the adoption of the SDGs,” concludes Johan Rockström. “We now need recognition and support from funders and policymakers to bring sustainable approaches to scale.”