World Cafes

Worldcafé W1: Food Safety and food security

Moderators: Spencer Hanson and Lise Korsten

Food safety is a core driver of food security, but how does it link to other pressures acting across the food system? This world café discusses food safety within the broader ‘one food’ concept, where One Health principles are applied to food systems to understand the human health, animal/plant health and environment health issues associated with food. Conference participants will be encouraged to share experiences and viewpoints on the key global food safety concerns, how they are linked to environmental status and social equity and how we balance safety against environment and social equity.

Worldcafé W2: The future of urban food systems

Moderators: Ramya Ambikapathi and Lisa Marie Hemerijckx

The future is becoming urban in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). This major spatial-demographic transition has far-reaching implications for the food system and beyond. Basic needs, such as housing conditions, employment, and access to healthcare, can shape consumers’ food access in cities. We are in the midst of a global housing crisis where an estimated 1.8 billion people do not have adequate housing. Meanwhile, over 80% of employment in LMICs is informal, lacking reliable income, social protection and healthcare access. Concurrently, climate change events are getting more frequent, intense, and higher in magnitude, affecting vulnerable urban dwellers with poor housing. Here, we discuss major urban challenges affecting social, economic and physical food accessibility, including the role of urban governance in the food system and beyond. This World Café invites participants to share insights, lived experiences, and innovations for an equitable and healthy urban future in LMICs.

Worldcafé W3: Science as an alibi

Moderators: Koen Deconinck and John Ingram

Science is about constantly questioning the accepted wisdom, but the authority of science can also be used to shut down debate. Deliberative and participatory approaches, on the other hand, encourage a healthy debate – but how can we guarantee that outcomes are consistent with scientific evidence? As the world is mobilising to transform food systems, we need to reconcile the need for evidence-based decisions with a robust democratic process. This café invites conference participants to share experiences on how science can be used, or abused, in food systems policy.

Worldcafé W4: When is small farm size a binding constraint to increasing agricultural productivity?

Moderator: Romina Cavatassi (International Fund for Agricultural Development, Rome) and Ken Giller (Wageningen University & Research)

Recent analyses provide a rather shocking picture of declining farm size in many of the most densely-populated regions of Africa, resulting in median farm sizes less than 1 ha. Why is small farm size a problem? Small farms and poor yields due to declining soil fertility converge to form a double poverty trap. Boosting agricultural productivity on small farms is insufficient to ensure household food self-sufficiency, let alone provide a living income. Productivity increases generate insufficient capital to scale-up operations, and therefore do not provide an incentive for rural households to invest in their farming. Consequently, on-farm productivity growth remains limited and undermines attempts to achieve food self-sufficiency at national level. What are the potential alternative pathways for livelihoods and what does this imply for inequality under the challenges of climate change and increased fragility?

Worldcafé W5: Managing food demand with social innovations

Moderator: Matthew Kessler

With a billion hungry people today, two billion overweight or obese and a population approaching 10 billion, managing food demand within planetary limits is crucial. The challenge lies in simultaneously improving food access for the undernourished worldwide while addressing the environmental and public health issues stemming from overproduction and overconsumption. This café invites participants to share insights and success stories about social and policy innovations (as distinct from technical solutions) that effectively balance production, consumption and distribution.

Worldcafé W6: Global – local food systems

Moderators: Goedele Van den Broeck and Charlotte Janssens

After decades of globalisation and increasing international agri-food trade, local food systems are nowadays often promoted as more resilient and sustainable. Food sovereignty and strategic autonomy are in the policy spotlight, after major disruptions in global food supply chains in recent years. What can we learn from this debate? Is one system outperforming the other, or is the answer, as usual, much more nuanced? If so, under which conditions can local and global food systems deliver their intended benefits and mitigate their challenges?

Worldcafé W7: Alternative “meats” barriers and opportunities

Matthew Kessler and Julian Baggini

Cultivated meat is increasingly being presented as the inevitable future of animal proteins. It promises cruelty-free meat, with a lower environmental hoof-print and a nutritional profile that improves on nature. It will herald a historic shift in food production that will enable us to feed the world healthily and plentifully.

But is this narrative accurate? Is it a nutritional gamble, since the cells that will be produced will be significantly different from the meat we have eaten for millennia? Will it really be greener or will it require enormous natural resources? If the problems of scalability are insurmountable, would that mean that billions are currently being diverted on research that will not provide a future food source? Will it provide food for the masses or will it increase inequality? And while we may welcome the end of cruel farming practices, would it be good for humanity if we lost the link to nature and its cycles of death and birth that animal husbandry provides and the traditions of farming that have bound cultures for centuries?

In this discussion we want to hear from as diverse a range of perspectives and experiences as possible to critically assess the utopian visions of cultivated meat proponents, as well as offer some counter-balance to the cynics and skeptics.

Worldcafé W8: Divided we fall: Has the food systems debate become too polarized?

Moderators: Gerard Govers and Julian Baggini

The future of food is one of the most important issues facing humanity today. Disagreement is to be expected, but we face a situation in which many key actors do not even talk to each other. There is no greater symbol than this than the UK in January every year where the Oxford Farming Conference (representing the mainstream) and the Oxford Real Farming Conference (representing alternatives) meet in parallel, in the same city, but without any dialogue.

Many advocates of food sovereignty, agroecology, organic farming and other non-mainstream for movements see the conventional food and farming sectors as fundamentally flawed. When larger businesses show any interest in alternative methods, fear of “corporate capture” leads to opposition rather than engagement.

Is this polarisation inevitable, or even desirable? Does mainstream food and farming need vocal dissenters criticising from the outside or would it be better served by having them inside? Even if tension is inevitable, how can parties on either side learn from each other? Are there any ways to build trust and cooperation? Or does this polarisation not matter?

Worldcafé W9: Governance and institutional structures

Moderator: Saher Hasnain

This world cafe will focus on developing a deeper understanding of the institutional structures that underpin the governance of food systems and the mechanisms required for resilient, sustainable, healthy, equitable, and future-proof transformation pathways. The world cafe will delve into the nexus of food security, health, environment, and socio-economic livelihoods, with dynamic discussions exploring the intricate interplay of policies, regulations, and collaborative efforts required to navigate the complexities of contemporary food systems governance. Participants will gain valuable insights into the dynamics of decision-making processes, cross-sectoral collaborations, and the pivotal role of stakeholders at various levels.

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