Transformative Interventions

The transformation of small-scale agriculture and food systems are systemic problems that require systemic solutions that try to consider how the whole system interacts and behaves.  It is impossible to engineer and control complex human systems.  However, with smart interventions that consider system relationships and that are adaptive, it is possible to nudge systems toward more desirable outcomes, and dampen down less desirable directions.

Developing, implementing and adapting coherent sets of interventions to drive a transformation of small-scale agriculture will require radical shifts in the single sector, piecemeal, short-term and powerful interest group driven approaches that so often characterise the current era of public policy making. Nobody is going to suggest that this is easy, but bending away from the trajectory of a business as usual scenario to something more desirable for all is going to require different approaches.

Again, the food systems framework provides a starting point.  What needs to be mapped out, be it at local level for a specific value chain, or for a countries overall food system are the relationships between key food system actors and the incentives that drive their actions. A deeper understanding of the core activities of the food system and how these interact with supporting services and the institutional environment is needed to better identify intervention points and establish theories of change to guide transformation.  Rapidly developing computer modelling and visualisation capabilities open up enormous potential for complex analysis and hypothetical testing of what might work.

As illustrated in Table 4, the numerous reports on small-scale agriculture on which we have drawn already provide a rich menu of the sorts of interventions that will be needed to transform small-scale agriculture. But by and large they have not be acted upon, at least not sufficiently to drive a significant scale of change. For this to happen, there must be much greater agreement on the outcomes we seek and how the menu of interventions can be integrated into a coherent and systemic transition pathway.

See the report for a detailed categorization of interventions.