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Codesigning a resilient food system

Sari J. Himanen, Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), Natural Resources and Bioproduction
Pasi Rikkonen, Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), Economics and Society
Helena Kahiluoto, Lappeenranta University of Technology, Sustainability Science


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Global changes, especially the progression of climate change, create a plethora of adaptation needs for social-ecological systems. With increasing uncertainty, more resilient food systems that are able to adapt and shape their operations in response to emerging challenges are required. Most of the research on this subject has been focused on developing countries; however, developed countries also face increasing environmental, economic, and social pressures. Because food systems are complex and involve multiple actors, using codesign might be the most productive way to develop desirable system characteristics. For this study, we engaged food system actors in a scenario-planning exercise to identify means of building more resilient food systems. In particular, the actors focused on determinants of adaptive capacity in developed countries, with Finland as a case study. The brainstorming session followed by a two-round Delphi study raised three main characteristics for effective food system resilience, namely, energy and nutrient sovereignty, transparency and dialogue in the food chain, and continuous innovativeness and evidence-based learning. In addition, policy interventions were found instrumental for supporting such food system resilience. The main actor-specific determinants of adaptive capacity identified included the farmers’ utilization of agri-technology and expertise; energy and logistic efficiency of the input and processing industry; and for retail, communication to build consumer trust and environmental awareness, and effective use of information and communication technology. Of the food system actors, farmers and the processing industry were perceived to be the closest to reaching the limits of their adaptive capacities. The use of adaptive capacity as a proxy seemed to concretize food system resilience effectively. Our study suggests that the resilience approach generates new perspectives that can guide actors in developing food systems that are adaptive in uncertainty.

Key words

adaptive capacity; Delphi method; food system; participatory approach; resilience; uncertainty

Copyright © 2016 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087