The global economic crisis, COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and wars are causing severe food production and supply disruptions. Although we are all impacted by high food prices, the risks are greatest for vulnerable groups such as displaced persons. Refugees and displaced persons, particularly women and youth, have limited access to and control over economic, social, and political resources, weakening their food production and security opportunities. Moreover, the immense pressure on the humanitarian system is challenging the sustainability of the existing refugee food aid model. Meeting these challenges requires transforming refugee food systems to cope with ongoing global crises by boosting opportunities for sustainable and inclusive local food production. Using participatory research methods, the ECOFOOD project will investigate how access to agricultural resources (land, water, farm inputs, technology, credit) and climate-resilient innovations, can foster the effective participation of women and youth small-scale food producers in local food systems. Climate-resilient innovations are technologies and practices that can foster better nutrition, biodiversity conservation, and social equity in food production systems in a changing climate.
ECOFOOD will provide knowledge on barriers and incentives to adopting climate-resilient innovations within different food systems (crop, livestock, and fisheries) in Refugee hosting contexts in Uganda and Tanzania. Both countries have different policy frameworks on refugee rights allowing comparison between different refugee food systems in Sub-Saharan Africa. This will also allow the project to investigate how the unequal distribution of rights and resources influences food production and access for different social groups. Finally, ECOFOOD uses a bottom-up multi-actor platform (MAP) for consultation and engagement with various stakeholders. The MAP seeks to co-create knowledge on strategies for restructuring food systems.
Armed conflict, climate change, and biodiversity loss exacerbate food and nutrition insecurity in Sub Saharan Africa, affecting local small-scale food producers and displaced persons and refugees who exist on the periphery of local food systems and depend on external food aid from an underfunded humanitarian system. Displaced women and children are hit the hardest. The influx of refugees and displaced people into rural communities also aggravate the pressure on land for agriculture and the demand for biomass fuels, accelerating environmental degradation.
There is a need to transform food systems in refugee-hosting contexts to facilitate the sustainable inclusion of displaced, small-scale women and youth producers, but knowledge on how to organize food systems to best meet goals related to food security, climate change, biodiversity, gender equity, and the inclusion of marginalized groups is sparse. Adopting agroecological and climate-resilient practices can significantly boost women and child nutrition, dietary diversity, gender equity, and self-sufficiency while the equitable inclusion of women, youth and girls in decision-making and control of agricultural resources are central to the transformation of food systems. Context-specific knowledge on enhancing women and youth’s access to agricultural resources and innovations for small-scale food producers in refugee-hosting contexts is required.
ECOFOOD focuses on harnessing agency and empowerment. The case-study approach involving collaborative, participatory, and digital research methods are used to investigate barriers and incentives for access to agricultural resources and climate-resilient innovations for female and youth small-scale food producers in refugee-hosting contexts in Uganda and Tanzania. Overall, the project provides foundational insights into fostering development-oriented programming that fully integrates nutrition, social equity, and environmental issues in humanitarian responses.