Regional Symposium on Sustainable Food Systems for Healthy Diets in Europe and Central Asia


A joint FAO/WHO Regional Symposium on Sustainable Food Systems for Healthy Diets in Europe and Central Asia  has been held in collaboration with UNICEF and WFP on the 4-5 December 2017 in Budapest, Hungary. The symposium  focused on discussing ways to address the multiple challenges of all forms of malnutrition and identifying opportunities to address them in a multisectoral integrated  manner through four thematic areas that would contribute to achieving healthy, diversified and balanced diets:


· Food supply (Nutrition-sensitive agriculture and food systems):

· Food demand and food environment:

· Improving nutrition of vulnerable groups:

· Governance, leadership and accountability for nutrition


The Symposium counted with representatives from governments/line ministries, experts in nutrition, health, agriculture, social protection, parliamentarians, academics, private sector, non-governmental organizations, cooperatives and civil society. ECVC, as the Secretariat of the Facilitation Committee of the CSOs in the Europe and Central Asia region, coordinated the participation of Civil Society Organisations members which included: Small-scale farmers Mariam Jorjadze  (ELKANA, Georgia), Virginie Raynal (Confederation Paysanne, France), Mansur Asrorov (Asrorov Farm, Tajikistan); Indigenous People representative Rodion Sulyandziga (Centre for Support of Indigenous Peoples of the North / Russian Indigenous Training Centre -CSIPN); Consumers organization representatives Judith Hitchman (Urgenci); Fisherpeople reprentative Valentina Sovkina (Arborigen forum/WFFP); for NGOs, Angela Zarro was there representing the Society for International Development (SID).


On the second day, two CSOs participants gave speeches at the Session on ‘Non-state actors’ contributions for healthy diets and improved nutrition in ECA region’:



Speech by Virginie Raynal – ECVC / Confederation Paysanne


I am a farmer in France! I am a representative for the farmers’ union La Confédération Paysanne, which is member of the European Coordination Via Campesina. I want to take this opportunity here to underline the role, the importance, and the contribution of the CSO representing different constituencies (small holders, consumers, peasant, indigenous peoples, fisherpeople, pastoralists).


Here is my contribution to the three questions we were asked to answered today:


1. Sharing of good practices that contribute to good diets

I would like to mention some positive evolution of the law in France and Italy that ensures promoting regional anchoring of food production, so that good diets become accessible and affordable to all inhabitants in their area. In France, a new law (“n°2014-1170”) came in force in 2015 making possible the recognition of so called “regional food projects”, where all food chain actors, including civil society organizations, work together to build their proper regional food system. This is a way to progress in food sovereignty. Another crucial evolution of the French law enabled to fight against antibiotic-resistance by drastically reducing the use of antibiotic in farms animals: this is also a way to accompany farmers to change their production way towards more sustainable practices, in addition of ensuring better protection of human health.


2.‎ the main challenges for sustainable food systems in Europe and Central Asia

Preservation of the resources (soil, water, seeds); access to land and to those resources (by ensuring there is no discrimination; particularly regarding indigenous peoples, as an example Siberia). Another major challenge we are facing is the need of renewal of the farming population, while ensuring transmission of farms (as an illustration in France big farms can’t be transmitted due to the fact that new farmers can’t invest at this level) as well as transmission of traditions and culture around peasant farming and traditional cooking. As an example, some Russian colleagues told me that today in some regions of Russia for instance, young people get disconnected from good and traditional cooking and diet, when they go to the cities for educational purposes (out of their rural family environment…):  this has consequences on their health. This issue mainly comes from the fact that in our societies, no sufficient “value” (cultural value) is given to traditional ways of cooking and good diet.


Last but not the least: it is crucial to include civil society in decision making processes regarding agriculture and food policies. This is a message for all governments and all UN agencies: we encourage them to increase their support to Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) as well as local governments/authorities in a more comprehensive process.


3‎. policy recommendations for Sustainable Food Systems and healthy diets

In France we just concluded a very large policy building national consultation process, which permitted to have all actors, from field to fork, working together, during 4 months. We’re now expecting a law that will materialize the proposals put forth to ensure peasant’s revenue and access for all to healthy diets. We truly hope this law will be concrete, as we think that to ensure countries are able to place again peasant agriculture and food in a central position in their culture and society, which is a condition to ensure sustainable food systems and healthy diets, we should ensure there is an strong and long-term commitment by governments, as well as coherence between all levels of guidelines and regulations (local/global). Local laws should also promote access to local production (for instance for public procurement). Marketing concerning processed/prepared food must be seriously regulated.


Speech by Judith Hitchman – URGENCI


1. Sharing good practice that contributes to good diets 


As mentioned by the moderator, alliances are a key to how the various constituencies of social movements work collectively both within the Civil Society Mechanism of the CFS and beyond. Urgenci is the international Community Supported Agriculture network, and we represent approximately 2 million people around the world. Our practice is rooted in peasant agroecology, with one pillar in food sovereignty, the other in solidarity economy. As such, it represents not one, but many best practices. Firstly, it contributes to relocalising the food system in a sustainable manner. Secondly, agroecology contributes deeply to soil health, and thus to increased nutritional value. And as today is International Day of Soils, I would like us all to celebrate this! Thirdly, prices in Community Supported Agriculture are farmer-led, so farmers and farm workers have decent incomes. And as there is no middleman involved, the price is also affordable for consumers/eaters. As the SDG indicators are highly productivist in nature, I have been working on developing some new indicators that I would be happy to share.


2.‎ The main challenges for sustainable food systems in Europe and Central Asia

There are many challenges today. The need to protect peasant agroecology from encroaching industrial agriculture (including co-optation of the word agroecology); the importance of access to land for youth and women; the need to continue to raise consumer awareness on the health risks of industrial processed food consumption and use of sugar: they have a real choice, and need to vote with their feet! It is also a challenge to show people who have lost / never had the habit of cooking that it doesn’t require a long time in the kitchen and is far healthier! This means fighting to preserve agricultural land to grow food in peri-urban areas from construction and speculation and (re) connecting urban and rural areas. It is also a challenge to guarantee public space that allows communities – especially in lower income urban areas that have become food deserts – for farmers’ markets for territorial produce.


3‎. Policy recommendations for Sustainable Food Systems and healthy diets

First and foremost, States should implement the existing policy voted by CFS on the VGGT (Voluntary Guidelines of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests) and especially on Connecting Smallholders to Markets. In most cases it is the brief of local government to implement the above (especially in terms of zoning of land, public procurement and supporting the vulnerable). Local Government should therefore should implement collective public procurement policies from groups of small-scale food producers (including fishers) for canteen food (schools, homes for the elderly, administrative canteens, hospitals, prisons…). A best practice example is in Mouans-Sartoux where municipal land is used, a local farmer paid by the Municipality to grow organic food for the school canteen. A larger scale example of agroecology built into in municipal policy is the case of Barcelona. Schemes to support vulnerable people through food stamps or other financial aid that enables access to fresh fruit and vegetables through CSA, farmers markets, or a scheme linking food banks and local small-scale producers that enable socially excluded people to access fresh produce is the key to achieving this successfully.