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A diagnostic framework for food system governance arrangements: The case of South Africa

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Mark WhittinghamORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


© 2017. Although policymakers and scientists are increasingly embracing the food system perspective, it has been poorly reflected in institutional terms. We aim to fill this gap by addressing the question as to what forms of governance are most appropriate to govern food systems in a more holistic way. The article presents a diagnostic framework consisting of five principles: 1) system-based problem framing to deal with interlinked issues, drivers and feedback loops; 2) connectivity across boundaries to span siloed governance structures and include non-state actors; 3) adaptability to flexibly respond to inherent uncertainties and volatility; 4) inclusiveness to facilitate support and legitimacy; and 5) transformative capacity to overcome path dependencies and create adequate conditions to foster structural change. This framework is used to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of three food governance arrangements in South Africa, each of which deliberately aimed to embrace a holistic perspective. Although promising on paper, the outcomes are disappointing because of a reversion to a technical onedimensional problem framing during the implementation, the dominance of single departments, the limited attention to monitoring and flexible responses and the exclusion of those most affected by food insecurity. We conclude that the tensions between the ambitious objectives of the arrangements and the institutional constraints of implementing them can persist because of inadequate resources to facilitate transformative change. Finally, we propose an agenda to further elaborate the framework and improve its practical usefulness.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Termeer CJAM, Drimie S, Ingram J, Pereira L, Whittingham MJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: NJAS - Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences

Year: 2018

Volume: 84

Pages: 85-93

Print publication date: 01/03/2018

Online publication date: 30/08/2017

Acceptance date: 17/08/2017

Date deposited: 10/11/2017

ISSN (print): 1573-5214

ISSN (electronic): 2212-1307

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.njas.2017.08.001


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