Sustainable diets for all 

2016 - 2020

Through citizen action, IIED and Hivos are promoting diets that are diverse, greener, healthier, fairer and more sustainable.

A stall-holder measures her produce in a marketplace (Photo: Hivos Bolivia)

A stall-holder measures her produce in a marketplace (Photo: Hivos Bolivia)

The world is producing more food than ever before, but many people don't have access to healthy and affordable food that is produced in a sustainable way.

Large-scale intensive agriculture is degrading the environment, damaging biodiversity and cutting out small producers. Meanwhile, a globalised food industry is promoting highly processed foods that contribute to rising levels of obesity and diet-related diseases, threatening a public health crisis. 

There is a compelling case for re-examining our food systems.

Sustainable Diets for All is an advocacy programme that uses evidence, including evidence generated by citizens, to help low-income communities to improve their access to sustainable, affordable and nutritious food. The programme is working in Uganda, Zambia, Kenya, Bolivia and Indonesia, and is coordinated by Hivos, IIED and partners in the focal countries.

This is part of a strategic partnership between IIED and Hivos on ‘Dialogues and Dissent’ that includes an energy programme focused on building green and inclusive energy.

How we work

Our aim is to build the capacity of civil society organisations (CSOs) to challenge unsustainable practices in food production and consumption, and support policy change that can make sustainable diets available to all. 

We bring together a broad range of stakeholders within local food systems, including farmers and other food producers, processors, vendors and consumers - particularly those in low income communities. We use facilitation methods such as change labs to encourage diverse stakeholders to share ideas and work together to identify solutions to local challenges. 

Together with citizens and CSOs, we work to influence markets, government policies and international institutions to promote more sustainable food production and healthy diets.

Three goals for policy and behavior change

We aim to achieve policy and or behaviour change on three key issues:

  1. Healthy and diverse consumption: promoting healthy food choices that improve diets.
  2. Small and medium enterprises and market linkages: focusing on how the informal food sector and small businesses can help connect cities with rural areas.
  3. Healthy production: safeguarding crop and seed diversity, including the preservation and promotion of traditional varieties.

Promoting change

In Zambia almost 90 per cent of agriculture is devoted to maize. This lack of crop diversity has contributed to stunted growth among children and high levels of obesity. The 2017 film ‘Life Beyond Maize’ takes looks how to solve it this issue and improve the nation's diet. Watch it below, or on IIED's YouTube channel.

In Indonesia, low-income city dwellers rely on the informal food sector for much of their diet. We set up a change lab to bring vendors, consumers and policy makers together to discuss how to improve access to safe, affordable healthy food. Watch the video below to see this work in action, or watch the video on IIED's YouTube channel.

In Bolivia many people eat poorly, while traditional crops and biodiversity are disappearing. Our change lab is bringing together women to explore local food systems. The short film 'A turn for the better' explored food, diet and traditions from the perspective of three women. The film was shortlisted for the 2019 Social Impact Media Awards. Watch the film below, or view it on Hivos' Vimeo channel.

Many healthy indigenous crops in Uganda have been abandoned in favor of cash crops such sugar cane and rice, with consequent detrimental effects on people’s diets. The short film, Food is Life, shows how crucial it is for public policy to include the voices of people working in and using local food systems if we are to ensure sustainable diets for all. Watch the film below, or view it on Hivos' Vimeo channel.

In October 2019, the lives of individuals championing healthy food in Indonesia were charted in film entitled ‘Healthy generations ahead’ film. Watch the film below, or view it on Hivos' Vimeo channel.


Promoting women’s influence in their food systems. Women's influence within food systems outcomes in the Sustainable Diets for All programme, Tarisirai Zengeni (2020, Project report

Strengthening capacity for advocacy in food systems of the poor, Natalie Lartey (2020), Project report

Food systems and climate change, Giulia Nicolini, Nout van der Vaart, Alejandro Guarín, Carol Gribnau, Frank Mechielsen, Hugo Verkuijl (2020), Project material

Multi-actor initiatives in action: lessons from the Sustainable Diets for All programme, Wenny Ho, William Chilufya, Mangiza Chirwa, Maria Gomez, John Kiwagalo, Frank Mechielsen, Maria Teresa Nogales, Aurora Stobbelaar, Immaculate Yossa Daisy (2020), Project material

Agency and advocacy in the food systems of the majority: Food for thought from the Sustainable Diets for All programme, Bill Vorley, Alejandro Guarín, Costanza de Toma, Frank Mechielsen (2020), Project material | Bahasa Indonesia | Español

Putting indigenous foods and food systems at the heart of sustainable food and nutrition security in Uganda, Angela Kimani, Anne-​Marie Mayer, Krystyna Swiderska (2020), IIED/Hivos Discussion paper 

The voices of women cooks in food markets in La Paz, Jorge Vladimir García, Marcelo Collao, Alejandro Guarín (2020), Report | en español

Indonesia’s triple burden of malnutrition: a call for urgent policy change, Anne-​Marie Mayer, Ninna Rohmawati, Isa Ma’rufi, Dewi Rokhmah, Khoiron, Ruli Bahyu Antika, Karera Aryatika, Manik Nur Hidayati (2019), Research report

Informal food markets in Zambia: perspectives from vendors, consumers and policymakers in Lusaka and Kitwe, Mutale Mwango, Matildah Kaliba, Mangiza Chirwa, Alejandro Guarín (2019), Discussion paper

Beyond maize: Exploring agricultural diversification in Zambia from different perspectives, Marjolein Mwanamwenge, Seth Cook (2019) Discussion paper

Informal food vendors and their role in the food and nutrition security of low-income workers in Bandung City, Indonesia, Ronnie S Natawidjaja, Hepi Hapsari, Dindin Makhmudin, Irlan A Rum, Hanny Sulistyoningrum, William Vorley (2019), Research report

Sustainable Diets for All: harnessing citizens’ voices for a diverse, healthy, fair and green food system, (2019), HIVOS/IIED

Taking stock: Indonesia Food Change Lab: raising the profile of street food vendors as providers of healthy food for low-income consumers, Felia Boerwinkel, Silvana Paath (2019), HIVOS/IIED

Taking Stock: Zambia Food Change Lab: Mobilising diverse actors to advocate for food diversity, Felia Boerwinkel, William Chilufya (2019), HIVOS/IIED

Taking Stock: Uganda Food Change Lab: Planning for a sustainable food system in the face of rapid urbanisation, Felia Boerwinkel, Shariff Mohammed, Immaculate Yossa Daisy (2019), HIVOS/IIED

The spice of life: the fundamental role of diversity on the farm and on the plate, Seth Cook, (2018), Discussion paper

Citizen-generated evidence for a more sustainable and healthy food system, Bill Vorley (2018), Research report

People centred advocacy for a more sustainable food system, Costanza de Toma (2018), Toolkit

Nourishing diversity: a five-point plan to enrich our food systems, Seth Cook (2017), Hivos Briefing Paper

Agriculture, food systems, diets and nutrition in Zambia, Marjolein Mwanamwenge, Jody Harris (2017), Hivos/IIED Discussion Paper