Sustainable diets for all 

2016 - 2020

Through citizen action, the Sustainable Diets for All programme promoted diets that were diverse, healthy, fair, and sustainable.

A stallholder measures her produce in a marketplace

A stallholder measures her produce in a marketplace (Photo: copyright Hivos Bolivia)

The world produces enough food to meet the needs of the global population, but many people do not have access to healthy and affordable diets from food that is produced in a sustainable way.

The globalised food industry promotes low cost, highly processed foods that contribute to obesity and diet-related diseases that many people fear will lead to a public health crisis. Large-scale intensive agriculture degrades the environment, damages biodiversity and cuts out small producers. There is a compelling case for re-examining food systems.

Sustainable Diets for All was an advocacy programme that used evidence, including evidence generated by citizens, to work with low-income communities as they increased access to sustainable, affordable and nutritious food in five countries: Uganda, Zambia, Kenya, Bolivia and Indonesia.

Coordinated by Hivos and IIED, the programme was implemented by Movimiento de Integración Gastronómico Alimentario de Bolivia (MIGA), Fundación Alternativas, La Casa de les Nigunes, Tanoker, ADS-Central Rift, Growth Partners AfricaBeacon, Slow Food Uganda, Vedco, Kabarole Research and Resource Centre (KRC), Food Rights Alliance, Consumer Unity and Trust Society CUTS International, Zambian Women’s Alliance, CSO-SUN Zambia, Civil Society for Poverty Reduction Zambia (CSPR) and the Alliance for Zambian Informal Economy Associations (AZIEA).

Policy and behaviour change achievements

The Sustainable Diets for All programme achieved policy and behaviour change in three areas:

  1. Healthy and diverse food production: the programme promoted and protected crop and seed diversity, including the preservation of traditional seed varieties
  2. Small and medium enterprise: implementers supported informal food sector actors and small businesses to connect cities with rural areas through trade in sustainable produce, and
  3. Healthy and diverse consumption: working with small businesses and community groups the programme promoted healthy food choices that improved diets.

In addition, the programme worked to increase the collective capacity of all stakeholders (coordinators and implementers) to deliver citizen-generated advocacy and research for food system change. 

This citizen science approach to national and local advocacy planning and delivery, and evidence generation, proved to be an important and enduring achievement. The skills gained across the programme led to the definition of highly relevant advocacy agendas that resulted in persuasive and inclusive influencing in pursuit of agriculture diversification, resilient markets and healthy consumption.

The programme used multi-actor initiatives to bring people that work in food systems together, and to link them to policymakers, creating winning alliances focused on sustainable food system transformation.

The full evaluation of the SD4All programme (PDF) includes case studies of policy influencing and behaviour change in each of the five programme countries. The programme also published a series of reflection papers drawing on lessons learned in five different areas:

SD4All was part of the consortium ‘Dialogue and Dissent’ that includes an energy programme focused on building green and inclusive energy. It was funded by and conducted in partnership with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There is also a full evaluation of all the consortium’s thematic programmes.

Videos of change

In Zambia almost 90% of agriculture is devoted to maize. This has resulted in a lack of crop and dietary diversity. The 2017 film ‘Life Beyond Maize’ looks at the issue of maize monocropping and dietary diversity in low-income families, particularly those living in cities. Watch it below, or on IIED's YouTube channel.

In Indonesia, low-income city dwellers rely on the informal food sector for much of their diet. SD4All set up a change lab to bring vendors, consumers and policymakers together to discuss how to improve access to safe, affordable healthy food.

In October 2019, the lives of individuals championing healthy food in Indonesia were charted in film entitled ‘Healthy generations ahead’. Watch the film below or on Hivos' Vimeo channel.

In Bolivia, many people eat highly processed food while traditional crops and biodiversity – and the nutritious food they produce – lack investment. The SD4All change lab is bringing together women to explore local food systems.

The short film 'A turn for the better' explored food, diet and traditions from the perspective of three women. The film was shortlisted for the 2019 Social Impact Media Awards. Watch the film below or on Hivos' Vimeo channel.

Many healthy Indigenous crops in Uganda have been abandoned in favour of cash crops such sugar cane and rice, with detrimental effects on people’s diets.

The short film, 'Food is Life', shows how crucial it is for public policy to include the voices of people working in and using local food systems if we are to ensure sustainable diets for all. Watch the film below or on Hivos' Vimeo channel.


Using food diaries within a citizen agency framework, Anne-Marie Mayer, Alejandro Guarín, Giulia Nicolini (2021), Project report

Promoting women’s influence in their food systems. Women's influence within food systems outcomes in the Sustainable Diets for All programme, Tarisirai Zengeni (2020, Project report

Strengthening capacity for advocacy in food systems of the poor, Natalie Lartey (2020), Project report

Food systems and climate change, Giulia Nicolini, Nout van der Vaart, Alejandro Guarín, Carol Gribnau, Frank Mechielsen, Hugo Verkuijl (2020), Project material

Multi-actor initiatives in action: lessons from the Sustainable Diets for All programme, Wenny Ho, William Chilufya, Mangiza Chirwa, Maria Gomez, John Kiwagalo, Frank Mechielsen, Maria Teresa Nogales, Aurora Stobbelaar, Immaculate Yossa Daisy (2020), Project material

Agency and advocacy in the food systems of the majority: Food for thought from the Sustainable Diets for All programme, Bill Vorley, Alejandro Guarín, Costanza de Toma, Frank Mechielsen (2020), Project material | Bahasa Indonesia | Español

Putting indigenous foods and food systems at the heart of sustainable food and nutrition security in Uganda, Angela Kimani, Anne-​Marie Mayer, Krystyna Swiderska (2020), IIED/Hivos Discussion paper 

The voices of women cooks in food markets in La Paz, Jorge Vladimir García, Marcelo Collao, Alejandro Guarín (2020), Report | en español

Indonesia’s triple burden of malnutrition: a call for urgent policy change, Anne-​Marie Mayer, Ninna Rohmawati, Isa Ma’rufi, Dewi Rokhmah, Khoiron, Ruli Bahyu Antika, Karera Aryatika, Manik Nur Hidayati (2019), Research report

Informal food markets in Zambia: perspectives from vendors, consumers and policymakers in Lusaka and Kitwe, Mutale Mwango, Matildah Kaliba, Mangiza Chirwa, Alejandro Guarín (2019), Discussion paper

Beyond maize: Exploring agricultural diversification in Zambia from different perspectives, Marjolein Mwanamwenge, Seth Cook (2019) Discussion paper

Informal food vendors and their role in the food and nutrition security of low-income workers in Bandung City, Indonesia, Ronnie S Natawidjaja, Hepi Hapsari, Dindin Makhmudin, Irlan A Rum, Hanny Sulistyoningrum, William Vorley (2019), Research report

Sustainable Diets for All: harnessing citizens’ voices for a diverse, healthy, fair and green food system, (2019), HIVOS/IIED

Taking stock: Indonesia Food Change Lab: raising the profile of street food vendors as providers of healthy food for low-income consumers, Felia Boerwinkel, Silvana Paath (2019), HIVOS/IIED

Taking Stock: Zambia Food Change Lab: Mobilising diverse actors to advocate for food diversity, Felia Boerwinkel, William Chilufya (2019), HIVOS/IIED

Taking Stock: Uganda Food Change Lab: Planning for a sustainable food system in the face of rapid urbanisation, Felia Boerwinkel, Shariff Mohammed, Immaculate Yossa Daisy (2019), HIVOS/IIED

The spice of life: the fundamental role of diversity on the farm and on the plate, Seth Cook, (2018), Discussion paper

Citizen-generated evidence for a more sustainable and healthy food system, Bill Vorley (2018), Research report

People centred advocacy for a more sustainable food system, Costanza de Toma (2018), Toolkit

Nourishing diversity: a five-point plan to enrich our food systems, Seth Cook (2017), Hivos Briefing Paper

Agriculture, food systems, diets and nutrition in Zambia, Marjolein Mwanamwenge, Jody Harris (2017), Hivos/IIED Discussion Paper