Four years into the project, roughly 30 country level food systems reports and about 18 deliverables later… And many of us will have had a question about mangoes at some point in time while at a conference or a local meeting. To clear the air and clarify what TRANSMANGO is all about; I’ll give a brief (as possible) overview of the project’s interdisciplinary, multi-layered and multi-sited work and some of the key deliverables and interesting reports produced throughout these years. Sad to say, this will not involve any mangoes… 🙂
As we set out on this ambitious project, our aims were to firstly, reformulate the debate on FNS. A second, more methodological objective, was to develop new ways of system modelling by combing quantitive and qualitative approaches. And lastly, through his new methodological approach we aimed to connect EU-level dynamics and local-level dynamics regarding food systems. The idea behind all these objectives was to connect the work on quantitative and indicator-based assessments of food systems to the vast empirical diversity regarding the securities, vulnerabilities and sovereignties around food, and as such build a comprehensive picture of EU food systems.
Throughout the work packages, a mix of -among others- stakeholder engagement, local qualitative case-studies, and quantitive (scenario) modelling was designed to capture (1) the state of the EU food systems, its drivers, challenges and vulnerabilities, and (2) ways to address these challenges that are already developing at a local scale with a future perspective. In the next section I will describe briefly what the main findings of the various work packages are. Figure 2 shows an overview of the web of work packages and how they roughly interrelate and flow into each other.
Starting with the first objective, and mostly embedded in WP2, to develop a conceptual framework around food and nutrition security (FNS) in food systems. Not only is this essential to frame the work done in the project, we also found this also a critical step in reformulating the debate around FNS as much of the work around food still is predominantly production and agriculture focused. The result is a framework that positions sustainable FNS as the main outcome of food systems (see figure 1 for a representation), rather than the more common economic-focussed outcomes. This conceptual framework pivots around the 6 main TRANSMANGO findings:
- Food is consumed and produced in systems;
- FNS is the main outcome of food systems;
- Food systems are vulnerable, such that FNS is endangered;
- Food systems can be considered from different perspectives;
- Food systems can be created through reassembly;
- New food system assemblages can be made more resilient through a dialogue with the future.
The second objective of TRANSMANGO, focussing on developing new approaches to modelling, has resulted in a number rich, multidimensional EU scenarios that are described in the this deliverable. These scenarios have been built, based on input from (1) the Delphi analysis (WP5) that consulted stakeholders on food systems, their drivers, and threats and weaknesses from, (2) a media analysis (WP2) on meanings and controversies around FNS in European countries, and (3) the vulnerability framework (WP2). This resulted in a number of factors (i.e. consumption patterns; poverty and inequality; environmental degradation; etc.) that were used to frame different scenarios with the assessment model GLOBIOM. This process led to a final set of 4 diverse, mostly quantitative scenarios that were given narratives through the first EU workshop (WP3). Novel in these scenarios is that they are focussed on food systems, rather than production. The idea is that other projects, or organisations can use or build on these four multidimensional scenarios. To encourage the use of these scenarios, we have also developed two workshop training guides, one on scenarios and one on transition pathways.
Lastly, TRANSMANGO was aimed at connecting the highly detailed empirical level to the EU level. Based on 18 case studies, WP6 aimed to cover local diversity in pathways to addressing FNS failings. Detailed reports on these food initiatives have been written, with initiatives ranging from urban food policy, and urban agriculture, to food banks and access to food (they can all be found here). This highly detailed empirical material was then synthesised into a number of design principles (WP6), hinging on the notion of re-assembling (for a brief overview you can read this earlier blog post).
- ReDP 1. Re-enforcing food entitlements of traditional and newly emerging vulnerable groups
- ReDP 2. Re-connecting sustainability and health
- ReDP 3. Re-linking food systems that foster urban-rural synergies
- ReDP 4. Re-balancing socio-technological engineering
- ReDP 5. Re-thinking resilience building (shock and/or stress components)
To complete the complexity of the project and its work packages; these Re-design principles were then again taken back to the EU level (WP4, described in a blog post here). In this EU-level workshop that featured stakeholders and several high-level experts, discussions were centred around tackling EU food system challenges and the possibilities for a Common Food Policy (also here), as has been advocated a number of times by Terry Marsden. Results of this will be published soon.
Currently, the TRANSMANGO consortium is working on the final work package 7 on policy recommendations, and the final conference that will take place on the 28 and 29th of November in Leuven Belgium. While the 28th is a stakeholder meeting and is on invitation only; we welcome all people interested to join us on the 29th of November. Please register now!
I hope this blog has contributed to clearing of any mango-related queries 🍋. In case I have not succeeded in clarifying what TRANSMANGO is about, but you still would like to know more: please contact us!
 The project name of TRANSMANGO is derived from Esperanto; Transiro (transition, crossing) and Manĝo (food, meal, eat).