Enabling sustainable food systems: Innovators' handbook

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Institut national de recherche pour l'agriculture, l'alimentation et l'environnement (INRAE)
Resource type:
Case studies and tools

This is an incredibly practical resource, written collaboratively to bring real-life experience and lessons from local food systems actors from Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe who are leading initiatives to grow, share, sell and consume more sustainable foods in their local contexts. According to FAO, this handbook was written for “sustainable food systems innovators... who are actively experimenting in (re)valuing agriculture in sustainable food systems, i.e. changing the way we produce, transform, transport, store, sell, and consume our food and agricultural products. In the authors’ experiences, these actors can be farmers, researchers, traders, consumer groups, committed individual consumers, NGOs, local-level officials, among many others.”

The handbook provides case studies, tips, checklists, and matrices to help readers think critically about potential opportunities in their own food systems, and seeks to answer the following questions: 

  1. Are customers asking about your sustainable practices and you’re not sure how to communicate them?
  2. Do you want to learn about how to access the necessary inputs to meet your market requirements?
  3. Do you have a consumer base and a dedicated group of producers, but you are unable to maintain a steady supply?
  4. Have you heard about participatory guarantee systems and want to learn more about them?
  5. Do you want to learn how to price your products for different markets?
  6. Do you want to know more about transparent intermediaries and how they might be able to support your initiative?
  7. Do you want to learn how to organize a farm visit for consumers?
  8. Are you trying to work with other initiatives but aren’t sure how to collaborate?
  9. Do you want to know more about sustainable production in order to better calculate your prices?
  10. Have you exhausted your usual means to finance your initiative and are looking for new ideas?

Described as a "choose your own adventure", the handbook covers topics across 11 areas of the food system, and how each connects to others. 

FAO INRAE diagram


This resource presents evidence or data but has not been peer reviewed