Food systems sustainability: An examination of different viewpoints on food system change

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Global food insecurity levels remain stubbornly high. One of the surest ways to grasp the scale and consequence of global inequality is through a food systems lens. In a predominantly urban world, urban food systems present a useful lens to engage a wide variety of urban (and global) challenges-so called 'wicked problems.' This paper describes a collaborative research project between four urban food system research units, two European and two African. The project purpose was to seek out solutions to what lay between, across and within the different approaches applied in the understanding of each city's food system challenges. Contextual differences and immediate (perceived) needs resulted in very different views on the nature of the challenge and the solutions required. Value positions of individuals and their disciplinary "enclaves" presented further boundaries. The paper argues that finding consensus provides false solutions. Rather the identification of novel approaches to such wicked problems is contingent of these differences being brought to the fore, being part of the conversation, as devices through which common positions can be discovered, where spaces are created for the realisation of new perspectives, but also, where difference is celebrated as opposed to censored.


  • Gareth Haysom
  • E. Gunilla Almered Olsson
  • Mirek Dymitrow
  • Paul Opiyo
  • Nick Taylor Buck
  • Michael Oloko
  • Charlotte Spring
  • Kristina Fermskog
  • Karin Ingelhag
  • Shelley Kotze
  • Stephen Gaya Agong
External organisations
  • University of Cape Town
  • University of Gothenburg
  • Chalmers University of Technology
  • Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology (JOOUST)
  • University of Sheffield
  • Business Region Gothenburg
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Human Geography
  • Food Science
  • Ecology


  • urban food system, food systems change, wicked problems, sustainability, urban food security
Original languageEnglish
Article number3337
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Jun 17
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes