Towards safe and sustainable food systems in Vietnamese cities

Towards safe and sustainable food systems in Vietnamese cities

Rikolto decided to take the Food Systems Framework of CIAT as guiding framework.

I. What is sustainable food system?

Sustainable food systems are those food systems that aim at achieving food and nutrition security and healthy diets while limiting negative environmental impacts and improving socio-economic welfare.

Sustainable food systems are therefore protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, as well as human well-being and social equity.

Sustainable food systems provide culturally acceptable, economically fair, affordable, nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy foods in a way that balances agro-ecosystem integrity and social welfare.

II. The food system drivers – stages and outcome?

1. Food system drivers?

Any actor or factor or policy framework which push or shape the food system, internally or externally can be the drivers of the food system. Key drivers include demographics, socio-economic-cultural, technology, policies and environment.

2. Food system activities and actors

Sustainable food systems are interconnected and represent the full agri-value chain, from pre-production and production to supply chains and consumption:


The sustainability of a food system begins well before a crop is grown or an animal raised. This “pre-production” stage includes how genetic resources are conserved and used to improve the quality and productivity of domesticated crops and livestock for the future. It also includes innovations in agricultural inputs, such as fertilizer or crop protection products. These can help to boost yields and incomes while preventing further land from being converted for cultivation. And it also includes advances in agricultural practices themselves to ensure that farmers can continue to thrive in the face of climate change and other increasingly unpredictable conditions.


In the “production” stage, farmers must contend with the myriad challenges involved in growing and harvesting, including pests and disease, severe and unpredictable weather, food loss management and fluctuating market conditions. Under current projections, 60 per cent more food will be needed by 2050, yet current production efforts are falling short of this target and global hunger levels are on the rise again after decades of progress. This is in addition to the two billion people already suffering from malnutrition globally today.


The “supply chain” stage refers to the steps taken to deliver food from the farmer to the consumer. Transformed into sellable goods, these products can be processed, packaged and stored before eventually being transported to market. Post-harvest food loss is an especially important issue across the developing world, where the infrastructure, energy grids and transport systems are often poor or missing. In these countries, more than 40 per cent of food losses occur post-harvest and during processing.


A food system does not only capture how something is grown; it also includes how a food is cooked, eaten and disposed of by consumers. During this “consumption” stage, each of us makes a series of decisions, which have broader implications to our food and nutrition security, the well-being of our communities and to the wider environment and natural resource base. Some high-income countries spend less than 10 per cent of income on buying food while others, mostly in Africa and Asia, spend more than 40 per cent. Likewise, while some countries are facing obesity epidemics, others suffer from the impacts of undernutrition.

3. The sustainable food system’s outcomes?

  • Delivering affordable, nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy (and even culturally or religiously acceptable) food is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a food system to be sustainable;
  • To be sustainable a food system also needs to aim at reducing food waste and food losses and at minimizing its present and future impacts on the environment and society;
  • In that regard, we see the balance and the trade-offs between agro-ecosystems integrity and social well-being as being at the core of sustainable food systems;
  • By definition the sustainability of a food system is locally (and possibly timely) determined. There is no such thing as a global sustainable food system.

III. Rikolto’s role within food systems

Rikolto will not address the whole food system. We will only work connecting farmers and consumers through facilitating sustainable crop production, market inclusion for as well farmers as consumers and the creation of an enabling environment to make this possible.

Rikolto believes that family farms are a big part of the solution. We empower farmer groups to become reliable business partners and implement future-proof, sustainable practices. We support them so that their products meet quality standards. We connect them with innovators in the food industry to explore new ways of doing business.

Rikolto builds the bridges of trust and trade, between the food industry, governments, research institutions, banks and farmer organizations around this one central question: ‘What will we eat tomorrow?’. We plant and harvest new solutions, making the food system more transparent so that consumers can make a sustainable choice.

IV. Rikolto’s role within Food System in Vietnam

  1. We facilitate the process of product quality assurance, compliance with sustainability and food safety standards, and the acquisition of low-cost certification. We support farmer organizations and its member in applying sustainable cultivation practices to ensure safe and healthy food and reduce greenhouse gas emission to the environment and bring positive impact to climate change.

    In the vegetable sub-sector, we support farmers in implementing BasicGAP and Organic PGS standards. Currently, Rikolto works with ten farmer organizations in 4 provinces in northern Vietnam (Ha Nam, Phu Tho, Da Nang and Vinh Phuc) to help build up the production and marketing skills of farmers

    In the rice sub-sector, we have been applying the application of Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) in Dong Thap and Kien Giang province. By the Summer and Autumn Season 2020, Rikolto reached 500 farmers with 1200-hectare sustainable rice production after two years support.

    Furthermore, together with farmers, cooperatives and local government, we set up the Participatory Guarantee Systems-PGS, a reliable and affordable quality assurance mechanism to monitor and certify compliance with food safety production standards in both vegetable and rice sectors.

  2. We support the development of farmer organizations into business farmer organizations and help them to develop fair business partnerships with private actors that are interested in sourcing directly from them. We strive to make the case for inclusive business models and relationships and support both companies and farmer organizations to make steps towards this goal.

  3. We support the development of a food smart city strategy for Da Nang and Hanoi that supports consumers’ access to safe food and smallholder farmers’ participation in safe food value chains. We facilitate sustainable linkages between actors in the food chains by supporting the development of a learning community for safe food producers, and facilitating market linkage between producers and markets, both modern and traditional.