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Promises and Pitfalls of Multi-Stakeholder Food Governance

Date: October 4, 2021
Time: 14:00-16:30
Venue: Zoom

A meeting of the Food Governance Community of Practice (FG-CoP)


Please register here for the meeting and to receive a zoom link.



  • Gareth Haysom (African Centre for Cities)
  • Chantell Witten (University of the Free State)
  • Ralph Hamann (UCT Graduate School of Business)


  • Lori Lake (Children’s Institute)
  • Andrew Boraine (Economic Development Partnership)


The UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) taking place in New York on 23rd September presents itself as a multi-stakeholder dialogue.

However, it faces significant criticism for side-lining existing governance structures and privileging large private-sector interests over alternative food movements. For some commentators, multi-stakeholder partnerships “allow the very businesses that have given us obesogenic foods, greenhouse gas emissions and agrochemicals – and that stubbornly resist regulation of their labour, environmental and marketing practices – to ‘help’ devise solutions”.

National and provincial consultations in South Africa linked to the UNFSS have also been polarised, reflecting an emphasis by dominant stakeholders on agricultural and technological solutions rather than deep food systems transformation.

Meanwhile, in August, child nutritionists and activists raised the alarm about a proposed event by Nestlé billed as an online “Free Stokvel Mom and Child Forum” where health professionals and brand ambassadors would share information about infant feeding – in apparent violation of regulations in South Africa prohibiting the marketing of infant formula and complementary foods for children under the age of three.

These developments point towards significant legitimacy challenges and risks of multi-stakeholderism.

Key Questions: How should we deal with potential conflicts of interests between profits and public goals in public private partnerships and collaborations? How can stakeholder processes be more reflexive rather than attempt to emulate pre-existing models such as Food Policy Councils and Food Charters? To what extent is it possible to acknowledge and collaborate despite apparently contradictory narratives and positions on how food should be governed in South Africa?

Join our next CoP gathering, in which we explore how some of these questions affect our pursuit of democratic, just, and sustainable local food systems governance in South Africa.


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We recognise that producers, processors, distributors and consumers are incorporated into the food system under varying terms and returns. We also recognise the economic, social, human and environmental health impacts associated with food security. Therefore our goal is to conduct research, build capacity and disseminate findings that will promote a sustainable food system in South Africa.


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