Lifeworlds of Sustainable Food Consumption and Production:
Agrifood Systems in Transition (FEAST Project)

  1. FS①
  2. FS②
  3. PR
  4. FR①
  5. FR②
  6. FR③
  7. FR④
  8. FR⑤

2017

PL Photo Project Leader

Steven R. McGREEVY

RIHN

Steven R. McGreevy is an environmental sociologist (Kyoto University Ph.D. 2012) and associate professor at RIHN. He has a background in agriculture, rural sustainable development, and environmental education. His research focuses on novel approaches to rural revitalization that utilize local natural resources, sustainable knowledge dynamics, sustainable agrifood and energy transition, and the relinking of patterns of food consumption and production in local communities.

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Sub-Leader
TAMURA NorieRIHN Senior Project Researcher
Project Researchers at RIHN
KOBAYASHI MaiProject Researcher
RUPPRECHT, Christoph D. D. Project Researcher
OTA KazuhikoProject Researcher
SPIEGELBERG, MaximilianProject Researcher
IMAIZUMI AkiProject Researcher
MATSUOKA YukoProject Research Associate
KOBAYASHI YukoProject Research Associate
Main Project Members
TSUCHIYA KazuakiThe University of Tokyo
AKITSU MotokiKyoto University
TACHIKAWA MasashiIbaraki University
SUDO ShigetoNational Agriculture and Food Research Organization
SHIBATA AkiraRitsumeikan University
INABA AtsushiKogakuin University
HARA YujiWakayama University
TANIGUCHI YoshimitsuAkita Prefectural University
NAKAMURA MariNagoya Bunri University
TANAKA KeikoUniversity of Kentucky, USA
KISHIMOTO-MO AyakaNational Agriculture and Food Research Organization

Research Background

Photo 1 Mother and daughter harvesting daikon in the Phobjikha valley, central Bhutan

Photo 1 Mother and daughter harvesting daikon in the Phobjikha valley, central Bhutan

Agrifood systems in Asia face a myriad of sustainability challenges related to declining environmental health (GHG emissions, resource overuse, pollution, soil fertility), loss of diversity (biological, cultural, knowledge), and deterioration of small-scale farming due to globalizing market forces. At points of consumption, over-reliance on globalized food flows limits consumer agency and decreases food security and sovereignty. Diets increasingly composed of processed foods also negatively impact public health (rise in diabetes, obesity). The ways in which food is provided, consumed and governed need urgent change, but we lack real understanding of how agrifood transitions emerge and take root, or of the role of existing and alternative institutions, social practices, and economic arrangements to advance sustainable transitions.

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Research Overview and Objectives

Figure

Figure Diagram detailing how each FEAST working group is organized around the question of “What knowledge is necessary to catalyze sustainable agrifood transition?” Four kinds of knowledge are listed: 1) Current system and contextual knowledge; 2) Visions of sustainable future systems knowledge; 3) Future system scenario knowledge; and 4) Knowledge associated with intervention and transition strategies

The FEAST project takes a transdisciplinary approach to explicate the reality of, and potential for, sustainable agrifood transition in Asia. Individual field sites are located Japan, Thailand, Bhutan, and China. Taking a lifeworld perspective, we analyze patterns of food consumption, the socio-cultural significance of food-practices, and the potential of consumer-based agency to change deeply held cultural notions and regional food systems. We also develop structural description of the food system, by mapping national, regional, and local production, distribution, and consumption contexts. In combining socio-cultural and structural descriptions of the relationships between production and consumption, we are able to conduct visioning workshops with stakeholders and initiate food citizenship-oriented experiments and actions.

FEAST’s process of co-design and co-production of sustainable food systems seeks to challenge mainstream economic thinking on consumption and growth. In engaging the public in structured debate of societal relationships with food and nature, our project reorients consumers to consider themselves as citizens and co-producers of the foodscapes on which they depend. FEAST seeks knowledge and mechanisms that can redefine the notion of long-term food security.

FEAST Working Groups will produce four types of knowledge relevant to catalyzing agrifood transitions (Figure). These are: 1) contextual knowledge of contemporary national, regional, and local food systems (production, distribution, and consumption); 2) co-produced visions of alternative food consumption and production practices and corresponding municipal-level transition plans identifying research, education, and policy needs; 3) modeling- and scenario-based knowledge supporting deliberation and planning processes; and 4) knowledge of two intervention strategies: the social learning dynamics affecting execution and effectiveness of workshop-based consensus-building for collective food action; and the significance of new methods of market transparency (e.g. eco-labels, food impact smartphone apps) in food system change.

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Progress to Date

Photo 2 Consumer workshops on visioning food futures, held in Noshiro City, Akita Prefecture. Drawings of an “ideal meal” 30 years in the future (inset)

Photo 2 Consumer workshops on visioning food futures, held in Noshiro City, Akita Prefecture. Drawings of an “ideal meal” 30 years in the future (inset)

Photo 3 Organic farmer and citizens workshop at the Kyoto Farmers’ Market

Photo 3 Organic farmer and citizens workshop at the Kyoto Farmers’ Market

Investigations of the major drivers of, and environmental impacts from, the gaps between “potential foodshed”(ie. potential food systems) and “observed food flow” (ie. current food system) began at three sites in Japan (Kyoto, Akita, and Nagano). Methodologies used include extensive statistical and literature review of national and regional food distribution networks, compilation of food production data and GIS analysis of satellite imagery to determine food production potential, interviews of major food market actors and government regulators, and fieldwork in wholesale food markets.

Fieldwork was initiated at various sites in Asia examining production-led agrifood transitions toward agroecological rural development. Sites in Japan (Wakayama, Ishikawa, Gifu) and Bhutan will set the stage for further research on the viability of agroecological models such as GIAHS (Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems), organic farming in developing-world contexts, and the effectiveness of development policies emphasizing valorization. A comprehensive review of “support structures” aimed at encouraging new farmer entry into agriculture in Japan was accompanied by thorough fieldwork. Studies on the economic and ecological feasibility of carbon off setting production practices with an accompanying branding scheme were initiated in Kameoka City.

Analysis also continued on the development of civic food networks (CFN) and their impact on regional food policy. Fieldwork in North America on food policy councils sought to determine the preconditions, possibilities, and restrictions for the emergence and success of such networks. Collaborating with local government and local food system actors in Noshiro, Akita Prefecture, a series of workshops to forecast and backcast possible and ideal food futures was held (Photo 2). A comparative study of consumer visions of sustainable food practices in Thailand, China, and Japan is scheduled for next year. Four teams composed of food-impact analysis experts from academia and the food industry (seafood, agriculture & meat, processed food, and app design/consumer behavior) began collaborating on data collection and structuring as initial steps toward the design of a smartphone app.

A research partnership was finalized with Kameoka City, Kyoto and partnerships with Bhutan Royal University, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Noshiro City, Akita are expected in the near future.

Photo 4 FEAST Project Annual Assembly held January 7–8, 2017 at RIHN

Photo 4 FEAST Project Annual Assembly held January 7–8, 2017 at RIHN

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