Food security governance: a systematic literature review

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The role of governance has been receiving increasing attention from food security scholars in recent years. However, in spite of the recognition that governance matters, current knowledge of food security governance is rather fragmented. To provide some clarity in the debate about the role of governance in addressing food (in)security, this paper reports the results of a systematic review of the literature. The synthesis revolves around seven recurring themes: i) the view of governance as both a challenge and solution to food security; ii) a governability that is characterized by high degrees of complexity; iii) failures of the current institutional architectures; iv) the arrival of new players at the forefront; v) calls for coherency and coordination across multiple scales; vi) variation and conflict of ideas; and vii) calls for the allocation of sufficient resources and the integration of democratic values in food security governance. Two lines of discussion of this synthesis are raised. First, the researcher argues that a large proportion of the food security governance literature is characterized by an optimist governance perspective, i.e., a view of governance as a problem-solving mechanism. Complementing this body of literature with alternative governance perspectives in future research may strengthen current understandings of food security governance. Approaching food security as a ‘wicked problem’ could provide valuable insights in this respect. Second, food security governance as a research field could make headway by engaging in further empirical investigation of current governance arrangements, particularly at sub-national levels. Keywords Food security . governance . Systematic literature review . Food governance .Wicked problem . Agricultural policy
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)585-601
JournalFood Security
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • global governance
  • south-africa
  • consensus frame
  • policy
  • debate
  • collaboration
  • insecurity
  • management
  • government
  • health


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