Sustainable diets for all 

2016 - 2020

Through citizen action, IIED and Hivos are promoting diets that are diverse, greener, healthier, fairer and more sustainable.

A snack store in Bandung, Indonesia (Photo: Ikhlasul Amal, Creative Commons via Flickr)

We are producing more food than ever but for citizens across the world, now and in the future, food security is further and further away.

High levels of food production are eroding our environment and putting excessive strain on natural resources, including water and land. Meanwhile a global public health crisis threatens as diet-related diseases escalate. All this makes a compelling case for re-examining our food systems.

IIED and Dutch NGO Hivos are working together to rethink the way we produce and consume food. This means tackling policies that favour big business at the expense of small-scale producers. It means challenging policies that focus on production as the answer to food security, often overlooking the struggles of the rural and urban poor who are continually forced to choose between quality, food safety, convenience and price.


We recognise people – with their capacity to innovate and power to drive change – must be at the centre of efforts to reshape our failing food systems. 

Through citizen action we will work with others to influence policy and practices of markets, to convince government actors and international institutions to promote diets that are diverse, greener, healthier, fairer and more sustainable.

How we will work

Our programme will combine Hivos' strong track record of supporting social movements and civil society organisations (CSOs) with IIED's long-standing experience of generating evidence and influencing environment and development policy. 

Working with partners we will facilitate evidence-based advocacy by citizens starting in four target countries: Bolivia, Indonesia, Zambia and Uganda. We believe that bringing in a stronger citizen voice – especially of consumers – and a greater involvement of CSOs, research institutions and media, opens up ways for sustainable and equitable production, supply and consumption of food.

Our programme embraces a strategy that builds the learning and advocacy capacity of CSOs in selected countries to jointly challenge unsustainable practices and incentives in food production and consumption, while stimulating policies and practices that help make sustainable diets attainable for all.

Three goals to transform food systems 

We aim to:

  • Strengthen local voices and choices of low income producers and consumers. Producers and consumers – including those in the informal economy – have more influence and control over the food they grow and eat. Consumers know where their food comes from, more local food is available and economic value is retained locally
  • Build multi-stakeholder coalitions to promote local, national and global sustainable food systems using innovative methodologies such as food Change Labs, and 
  • Promote efficient and transparent food systems; decrease food loss and waste and drive down social and environmental costs, including impacts of fossil fuels and animal protein dependency; and recognise the role of the informal sector in the food chain such as food vendors.

In October 2017, a film was launched highlighting the importance of diversifying agricultural production in Zambia, from farm to fork, in order to improve the nation's diet. Watch it below or on IIED's YouTube channel.


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

Additional resources

Life beyond maize (2017), Hivos/IIED film

Uganda Food Change Lab: planning for the future food system of Kabarole district (PDF), Bill Vorley, Felia Boerwinkel (2016), Hivos/IIED


Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Netherlands