Food and nutrition sovereignty

Worldwide hunger and malnutrition are largely caused by structural inequalities, characterised by lack of access to land and other resources, lack of access to adequate food, clean drinking water and health care. The majority of those affected are smallholder farmers, pastoralists, Indigenous Peoples, landless people, non-farm rural households and poor urban populations, with women and girls among them being disproportionally affected.

Our current food systems not only fail to end hunger, but at the same time encourage diets that are a source of overweight and obesity, another dimension of malnutrition. The failure of the global food system ultimately undermines the ability of individuals and communities to be resilient in the face of environmental and social change. In addition, there is a structural exacerbation of socio-ecological inequalities in the global food system due to the climate crisis, war and violent conflicts, and the impact of fossil fuel dependence. These developments highlight the importance of food sovereignty even more.

Food and nutrition sovereignty foregrounds healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable production methods, and the right of peoples to define their own food and agriculture systems. Food and nutrition sovereignty addresses the structural causes of hunger and thus emphasizes democratic control over the production, distribution, and consumption of food. Actors in all their diversity have the right to access land and make decisions on how to govern natural resources and how to improve their use and management, for example, through collective rights to land, seeds, or community-based breeding programs and sustainability of livestock systems. Women, in particular, continue to be severely disadvantaged in many social systems around the world in terms of access to land, livestock, markets, credit, education and decision-making processes. We apply an intersectional lens to explore how discriminatory gender norms are interwoven with other social categories such as age, education, (in)ability to work, class, race, ethnicity, sexual identity, or origin. Applying a political-ecological approach, we investigate the interrelation of ecological and political-economic processes as well as socio-cultural dynamics and societal power and dominance at the local to global level.

Selected publications

Stadlmayr, B., Trübswasser, U., McMullin, S., Karanja, A., Wurzinger, M., Hundscheid, L., Riefler, P., Lemke, S., Brouwer, I. D., Sommer, I. (2023). Factors affecting fruit and vegetable consumption and purchase behavior of adults in sub-Saharan Africa: A rapid review. Frontiers in Nutrition10, [1113013].

Lemke, S., Claeys, P. (2020). Absent Voices: Women and Youth in Communal Land Governance. Reflections on Methods and Process from Exploratory Research in West and East Africa. Land 9(8): 266.

Alamirew, S.K., Lemke, S., Stadlmayr, B., Freyer, B. (2023). Dietary Behaviour and Sociocultural Determinants of Dietary Diversity among Rural Women of Reproductive Age: A Case of Amhara Region, Ethiopia. Nutrients15(15): 3369.

Plank, C., Haas, W., Schreuer, A., Irshaid, J., Barben, D., Gorg, C. (2021). Climate policy integration viewed through the stakeholders' eyes: A co-production of knowledge in social-ecological transformation research. Environ Policy Gov 31(4): 387-399.