Mapping Food Systems: A Participatory Research Tool Tested in Kenya and Bolivia

Jacobi, Johanna; Wambugu, Grace; Ngutu, Mariah; Augstburger, Horacio Florian; Mwangi, Veronica; Zonta, Aymara Llanque; Otieno, Stephen; Kiteme, Boniface P.; Burgoa, José M. F. Delgado; Rist, Stephan (2019). Mapping Food Systems: A Participatory Research Tool Tested in Kenya and Bolivia. Mountain Research and Development, 39(1), R1-R11. International Mountain Society 10.1659/MRD-JOURNAL-D-18-00024.1

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Food system research requires an understanding of system actors and activities. To this end, we codesigned and conducted a food system mapping process in 2 regions, one in Kenya and the other in Bolivia, that stretches from mountains to lowlands and involves sites of interconnected food system strategies related to these habitats. We adapted an existing method of mapping local food webs to an approach that subdivides food systems into 4 subsystems: operational, political, information and services, and natural resources. Through the mapping process, a group of local and external researchers and practitioners identified the most important food value chains in the study areas. They also identified the value chains’ reach, as well as related actors; flows of knowledge, information, and finance; and the natural resources the food systems depend on. A power/interest matrix complemented the mapping results with information about different actors’ roles in the food systems; this can help to identify the best target groups and entry points for efforts to improve the sustainability of food systems in the diverse habitats forming part of these food systems. Mapping and a brief analysis of actors and interests are first steps toward assessing the sustainability of a food system. The participatory nature of our approach enhanced coordination between projects of research and practice and helped to increase the relevance and applicability of the mapping results and related activities.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Integrative Geography > Unit Geography of Sustainable Development
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Integrative Geography
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
10 Strategic Research Centers > Centre for Development and Environment (CDE)

UniBE Contributor:

Jacobi, Johanna; Augstburger, Horacio Florian and Rist, Stephan


900 History > 910 Geography & travel




International Mountain Society


[437] Towards food sustainability Official URL
[805] Sustainability Governance




Stephan Schmidt

Date Deposited:

30 Jul 2019 16:44

Last Modified:

22 Oct 2019 19:53

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Food sustainability, food system mapping, power/interest matrix, transdisciplinary research, Kenya, Bolivia




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