INSSPIRE: Catalysing Sustainable Global Food Systems through South-South and Triangular Cooperation

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU Amsterdam) have partnered under the umbrella of the “South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SSTC)” framework. This alliance aims to unite scholars from African and European universities within a shared network to tackle challenges and identify opportunities within the food systems landscape. The primary focus of this collaboration is to advance evidence-based higher education and research initiatives. The anticipated result of this initiative involves the enhancement of curricula in food systems and climate change, incorporating contemporary theoretical frameworks alongside evidence-based practical education.

INSSPIRE is one of the projects under the SSTC initiative, facilitating the mobilisation of academic knowledge and information resources to develop capacities, stimulate innovative research, share, and disseminate knowledge and experience in the field of food and nutrition security. Being part of the SSTC network, INSSPIRE expands the project’s scope, enhancing both sustainability and impact.

This past summer marked a significant milestone for the SSTC network, as academics from all partner universities convened for the first time at VU Amsterdam. They explored commonalities, identified potential collaboration areas, and laid the foundation for the enhancement of courses in the respective higher education institutes. Prof. Saa Dittoh, an adjunct professor of food systems at the University for Development Studies in Ghana emphasized the holistic approach of the SSTC initiative, stating: “The interdisciplinary SSTC Network is charting a holistic path for practical sustainable food system agenda for Africa; indigenous as well as scientific knowledge are being woven together for the enrichment of our curricula”. In October, the network reconvened virtually to review progress and strategically plan the next steps in their collective journey. The second physical workshop in March 2024 at Mbarara University for Science and Technology in Uganda will focus on Real Life Learning Labs as tools for student learning beyond the classroom. Dr. Denyse Snelder, the interim- director of the Centre for International Cooperation (CIS-VU) and coordinator of the SSTC initiative, recognises significant potential in this network, stating: “We’re already witnessing numerous ideas for collaboration on evidence-based education on food systems transformation, including new proposals, emerging from the SSTC initiative, aligning perfectly with our intended outcomes for this network.”

The SSTC network currently involves academics from diverse disciplines across Benin, Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, Spain, Slovenia, and the Netherlands. Through the dedication of the partner universities to evidence-based research and higher education, the project will contribute to a more sustainable and resilient future for global food systems.

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