Many nations and communities are struggling to meet growing food and water demands in the face of climate change, urbanization, and conflict globally. The ACWFS is an interdisciplinary institute at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU) which conducts research in collaboration with societal stakeholders and end-users in order to enhance food & nutrition security by identifying policies and strategies that are economically, socially and environmentally sustainable, responsible, and that increase the quality of life.
One of our fundamental views is that food and nutrition security is part of a complex system of factors, including economic, agro-ecological, technological, health and cultural aspects. This is why we strive to be as interdisciplinary as possible while maintaining transparency and tractability of assumptions, models and scenarios.
Our main ambition is to foster interdisciplinary cooperation in research, education and outreach by being active in the acquisition of externally funded research projects, in developing interdisciplinary education; in promoting communication between researchers at the VU by organizing seminars, workshops and conferences; and in representing the VU in national and international food and nutrition security forums.
We also aim to enrich existing (monodisciplinary) theory and tools to account for the physical, economic, social and cultural reality of production, transport, consumption and impact of food and food components on quality of life.
Finally, we strive to ensure that research is demand-driven, starting from real-world problems. Here, we endorse transdisciplinary approaches and capacity building as important components of research projects. Co-creation of expertise with relevant stakeholders and actors is a key component of this venture by seeking partnerships with international and Dutch knowledge institutes.
We bring together people and groups from various institutes as well as from two faculties of the VU, the School of Business and Economics (SBE) and the Faculty of Science. Our management team consists of Director Dr. Lia van Wesenbeeck (SBE) and Deputy Director Dr. Ben Sonneveld (Faculty of Science). Research associates are affiliated to departments or groups within the VU, but devote significant time and effort to research, education and outreach of the institute.
The roots of the ACFWS are rich and can be traced back to the Centre for World Food Studies; in Dutch: Stichting Onderzoek Wereldvoedselvoorziening or SOW-VU. SOW-VU was founded in 1977 by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Agriculture and VU Amsterdam. Although the research agenda consisted of many crosscutting issues, the SOW-VU focused on development of new tools, poverty reduction, management of natural resources, and agricultural and food policy.
During the decades when the SOW-VU was active, it achieved international recognition not only for its contribution to knowledge and policy-making in the domain of food and nutrition security but also for its demonstrated ability to develop analytical tools to assist with the analysis of critical analytic and policy-related questions. The ACWFS carries on the legacy of the SOW-VU by referencing and drawing from its former tools of empirical, data-driven, country-wide models which not only capture economic processes but also include physical, environmental, geographic and sociocultural constraints and interactions.