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Food as a Collaborative Commons

Rural-urban and local-to-global physically and digitally interconnected regional food networks of “commons” build sustainable food systems.

Photo of Tulsi Giri
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Lead Applicant Organization Name

Development Voyage Pvt. Ltd.

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

We collaborate with multi-stakeholders from local to global scale to build the vision around 'food as collaborative commons'. In local context: 1. Bazaar Agriculture Cooperative, a cooperative of 1300 small farmers and entrepreneurs in Pokhara, Nepal that operates THE BAZAAR: Market for Fairtrade & Organic ( 2. DV Excellus Pvt. Ltd., a company from Kathmandu, Nepal that has developed and operating an agri-food-tech platform named KHETI ( 3., a startup for good and healthy food delivery In global context: 1. Food Networks, an association of local food networks established in Zurich, Switzerland which also is the leading organization for the concept behind 'Sustainable Regional Food Networks' ( 2. One Planet Network, Sustainable Food Systems Program (, where I represent Food Networks as a multi-stakeholder advisory committee (MAC) member

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 10+ years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?


Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?


Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Cities of Nepal: POKHARA covering around 464 km^2 and KATHMANDU covering around 700 km^2

What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

I was born in a small village named Rivan near Pokhara city in Nepal. I grew up and did my schooling in Pokhara and my higher studies in the capital city, Kathmandu. I also started my career in Kathmandu working in a youth NGO in 2006. In 2008, I and my friends, started our own project named ‘youth in sustainable development’. The main aim of this first project was to build livelihood opportunities for rural youth to minimize abroad labor migration, which is still very prominent in Nepali societies, in collaborations between rural and urban youth. It included series of activities such as trainings in organic farming practices, fish farming, computer literacy and homestay tourism for young people in Rivan and surrounding villages. As an outcome of this project, we ventured into the business of THE BAZAAR: Market for Fairtrade & Organic in 2010. This business now has grown up into a cooperative of more than 1300 smallholder farmers in the network. It creates market opportunities for local farmers linking to the consumers in the city of Pokhara. Gradually, we developed this business model into the concept of ‘sustainable regional food networks’ together with an entrepreneur, Mr. Patrick Honauer, from Switzerland who also has similar business model named Bachsermaert in Zurich. Since then we have been working rigorously with different stakeholders in Pokhara and Kathmandu as well as abroad to define and develop this concept with the vision of 'food as collaborative commons'. As I have spent most of my life living and working in Pokhara and Kathmandu, I am very familiar with the people, cultures, potential stakeholders such as farmers, clients, business environments and government/non-government organizations. We are collaborating with them in our day-to-day business activities, and we have been well known for our works. Hence, as the seed of this vision was planted from the region of Pokhara, it is the reason why we have selected it for prototyping.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Nepal is one of the least developed countries sandwiched between two giant economies India and China. Agriculture is the major GDP provider of Nepal (more than 25%) where about 66 percent of population are engaged primarily in subsistence farming. Pokhara and Kathmandu, the two major cities of Nepal and their border region where we are focused in developing this food systems vision, are both fertile valleys surrounded by hills and mountains rich in natural and agricultural resources. These places have diverse ethnicity (namely Thakali, Gurung, Magar, Brahmin, Tamang, Newar etc.) and cultural heritage. Associated with these ethnic groups and respective cultures, the agricultural productions and food cultures are also widely diverse. There are set of food cultures such as Thakali food, Newari cuisine etc. very famous among the local consumers. Both, Pokhara and Kathmandu, are also the major touristic destinations of Nepal. Hence, these cities have big influence of multi-national cuisine especially in the gastronomy and hospitality sectors. Rice is the major staple food followed by wheat, maize and millet. Lentils, legumes and vegetables (both seasonal as well as wild collected and home grown perennials) are also major part of the food. Nepali agriculture is primarily dominated by subsistence farming and small family farms. In most of the cases a family grow their own staple food, vegetables as well as rare animals (esp. chicken, goats, cows or buffalos) for meat and dairy. Nevertheless, growing trends and policy direction is towards market driven commercial farming, which has also created an adverse effects to smallholding farming. This issue is coupled with various other macro-economic issues such as labor migration creating shortage of manpower in farms, changes in food habits due to influence of supermarket cultures and commercials, weak market facilities to link and develop local food such as food processing and storage, lack of access to finances as well as global issues such as adverse effects of climate change. Importantly, both the cities also has growing trends and demands for local and sustainable food. 

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

We believe that the predominant food system of today is increasingly dysfunctional. The government of Nepal at all three administrative levels, i.e. local, state and federal, have given priority on topics of food sovereignty and food security. Nevertheless, there is a serious lack in systems-thinking approach and cross-sectoral collaborations as major policies are directed only towards increasing agricultural production. Below are some of the major challenges within these interconnected six focus themes that have direct impact at our present and future food systems. In the cities we work, middle-class as defined by GDP economy, is becoming visible and demanding alternative lifestyles: leaving their self-reliant households, many smallholder farmers (among 60% of population), especially young, are leaving the rural areas and/or country primarily driven by reasons of economic incentives. (a) ‘family farms’ are subsistence in nature that doesn’t provide higher ‘economic returns’ to match the changing needs of modern societies, (b) farming as business is highly prone to various factors such as harsh weather conditions due to climate change, (c) farming (or food sector in general) becomes a highly uncertain business as there is minimum or no incentives for whatsoever sustainable practices you contribute towards. This creates a situation where smallholders lag behind in the global competitions thus always at risk of losing livelihoods. On-top, our Pre and Post-harvest agri-ecosystem are highly disintegrated, often blamed to the middle-men, but it is rather a systemic challenge, i.e. lack of transparency, where each ecosystem players needs to be responsible. Some specific examples: (a) A big demand and supply mismatch especially in vegetables sector: - Farmers always claim to get a low price and no guaranteed market for their produce, - haphazard use of inputs (seeds, fertilizers, pesticides etc.) but maintain no farm-records for cross validation of impacts, productivity and profitability - Consumers are paying excessively fluctuating prices but no guarantee of fair price, unaware of the product's quality and source, (b) High post-harvest loss, our survey in Pokhara in 2016 showed that wholesale market of Pokhara alone throws 25% of vegetables in wastage every day. But, market of Pokhara lacks basic facilities such as warehousing, cold-storage, proper logistics, value-added food processing etc. Importantly, Nepal has growing demand of food to feed 36 million people by 2050 but different researches has shown that it shares many of the systemic challenges within food systems: (i) Nepal has daunting issues of malnutrition, stunting among children while food-borne issues such as anemia, diabetes as well as obesity are quite grave, (ii) Nepal traditionally has a diverse culture of freshly home-cooked food consumption yet a recent research shocked everyone that infants in Kathmandu were getting 25% of their calories from junk food, (iii) Agriculture sector is also major GHG emission contributor i.e. 50.1%, of total emission of Nepal.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Our prototype vision addresses above challenges by engaging with Major Actors within the Food Systems: farmers, food entrepreneurs/companies, consumers and stakeholders, and initiating Solution Actions around building commons fund, technological intervention, and future food systems education.  

It is already clear that our food systems based on long-distance commodified export and highly mechanized and chemical based production are definitely not the solutions. We can solve above challenges on one side, by providing smallholder farmers incentives for sustainable production, access to quality inputs and services and encouraging them for demand-based farming to increase productivity and profitability, Digitalization of farmer’s data to provide customized recommendations on sustainable agricultural practices, and on the other side, by inspiring and attracting consumers to consume local food providing quality, convenience, competitive price and incentives, building a collaborate framework and common narrative towards sustainable food systems in policy level. With these understandings we have been working in different layers of the solution: 1) Building Commons: as a prototype example we have been developing a cooperative structure named THE BAZAAR in Pokhara that inspires the vision of commons and collaboration between the farmers and consumers who are the biggest part of the solution, 2) Technological innovation for transparency: to innovate the efficient business model in food production and distribution we are implementing an agri-food-tech digital platform named KHETI that provides one-stop solutions for pre-harvest (including access to quality inputs, services such as finances, and dynamic farm management tool to the farmers) and post-harvest (market facilities for farmers, and direct access to local food for consumers). KHETI has already built its network with more than 10,000 smallholders in 5 districts and serving consumers in two market centers i.e. Kathmandu and Pokhara. 3) Social gastronomy for good food and social inclusion: We are prototyping a startup in mass catering concept named Sarvaguna Kitchen, a social business that, brings awareness in consumers about healthy and farm to the table local food, delivers food to public/private institutions e.g. hospitals and schools, and hosts social gastronomy movement hub in Nepal, as well as offers vocational education and training and offer jobs to underprivileged and marginalized young people. 4) Policy advocacy for sustainable food system: Being engaged in global networks such as Association Food Networks and Sustainable Food Systems Programme under One Planet Network for SDG12, we are working in the policy level in collaboration with different local NGOs such as Li-Bird Nepal and state ministry of Agriculture to bring 'collaborative framework for sustainable food systems' in our government systems.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Being implemented our vision, the place and the lives of its people will have positive impacts as explained below:

Social Impact: Being an integrated, collaborative commons vision it will provide equal opportunity to every actors engaged in the sustainable food systems. It will help to avoid the gender gaps and inequalities in rural areas. It improves livelihoods of individual farmers and rural agriculture ecosystem players. Through quality inputs, better services and proper knowledge management system our vision will resolve the poverty issues by increasing the productivity and profitability. It also create positive impact on health of our farmers and consumers through sustainable farming practices and access to quality-local food. 

Economic Impact: Our vision will increase the productivity and reduce the input cost of cultivation. Knowledge based system will help to identify the judicial ways of using pesticides, fertilizers and other agri- inputs while promoting sustainable agricultural practices. Builds an integrated approach for individual farmers to gain more income and profit by assuring better market access and price. 

Environmental/Biodiversity Impact: Sustainable agriculture practices will ensure the reduced use of chemical fertilizers by giving latest technology and organic product access. Continued log management of individual farmers will help the system to predefine cultivation strategies of those farmers and sustainable practices will be followed. Moreover, sustainable agriculture practices improving the soil-health and biodiversity.

Besides these direct impact, our vision builds the society with the philosophy of collaborative commons that is driven by the values of positivity, ethics, mutual respect and support.  The table below (also attached seperately) shows the general characteristics that are adopted by societies after implementing our vision and the possible outcomes and indicators to prove those characteristics. 

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Our vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future of our place demands the establishment of Sustainable Regional Food Networks (SRFN). It is a model based in value-generating collaborations between actors aiming for a sustainable and equitable food system, that goes beyond the existing industrialized food supply chains with purely economic aspirations, to include cultural and social values and benefits, as well as ensuring food and nutrition security for all. It is explained as below. VISION: Nutritional security and sovereignty, ensuring good and sustainable food for everyone needs an understanding of "food as a collaborative commons”. The food system of the future has to be driven by collaborative local networks of people organized in more sustainable and equitable arrangement where economic profit is not the driver. It has to be based on cultural, environmental and social values and be realized in individual collaborative initiatives. An open dialogical culture and individual binding arrangements regulate the collaboration and balance the different interests of the participants along the food network. MISSION: To develop, implement and disseminate an innovative food system model as an alternative to the industrialized and commodified food supply chains dominant at present, with the objective of achieving food and nutrition security for everyone. This model is called the Sustainable Regional Food Network (SRFN). CONTEXT: The predominant food system of today is increasingly dysfunctional: One in six children is undernourished, while one in four is overweight (Gladek et al., 2016). While we have been able to improve food security in many regions, this has also led to other issues, such as declining soil fertility and threats to the biodiversity of our planet (Magnin, 2016). Risks are becoming increasingly systemic, with more widespread repercussions that are impossible to be dealt with by governments, industry or sector alone due to the global dimensions of this issue. Therefore, a paradigm shift is required in dealing with food. This shift needs to be better suited at addressing the challenges of the future food system: meeting the ever- increasing demand of food, reducing the environmental impact of agricultural production and consumption and ensuring dignified and fair livelihoods for all of the people involved in the food value chains. THE MODEL: The SRFN model looks at food supply chains as value-generating, reciprocal partnerships between equal actors that together act as custodians of a sustainable and equitable food system. The value generated in a SRFN goes beyond economic profit and also includes cultural and social value and benefits, as well as food and nutrition security for all. The extent of equitable partnerships around production and consumption of food is supported by the four principles of Sustainable Regional Food Network-manifesto: (1) Good governance, (2) Sustainable Livelihoods, (3) Ecological Sustainability, (4) Social Learning & Innovation Exchange. The SRFN takes the implementation of the right to food – as designated by the Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) – a step further and focuses not only on producers’ entitlement to productive assets. It focuses on empowerment of all food system actors by supporting systemic education and skill development in the food sector, fostering food literacy and institutionalizing participation in food network governance through innovative political mechanisms. In this manner, the SRFN supports rural and urban food system actors in establishing diversified incomes, enabling livelihoods and ensuring food and nutrition security. 4 PRINCIPLES OF THE SUSTAINABLE REGIONAL FOOD NETWORK: As mentioned before, implementing initiatives following the SRFN model requires a change in the way we understand food systems, as well as a number of values and perceptions that ensure that this is a system of collaborations, dialogue and shared prosperity. Since early 2016 in collaboration with the World Food System Center at ETH University Zurich, we are working to extract the core ideas behind SRFN. In this step-wise process, we recognized that both the existing food network models (Bachsermaert in Switzerland and THE BAZAAR in Nepal) presented some common characteristics and were implementing similar concepts and practices to address similar issues. This allowed us to come up with a simple categorization that we believe is necessary for our initiatives, as well as potential peer partners, to be able to work for a more sustainable food system, under the SRFN model. The principles are as follows: 1) Good governance (New rules for an increased collaboration):  The SRFN model calls for an open network of voluntary efforts and contributions from everyone involved in the food system. We believe that food has to be understood as “collaborative- commons” and not a market in future. This is a paradigm shift that needs substantial changes on the current system, which means that a new set of rules is required to manage the production, distribution and access to food in the local, regional and global levels.  2) Ecological Sustainability (Resilient and diversified food system): An important goal of a SRFN model is to ensure the ecological sustainability of the food system. This can be achieved by focusing in 4 attributes ranging from agroecological productions to the efficient distribution mechanisms in the food system and incorporating existing philosophies and principles aimed at this objective. 3) Sustainable Livelihoods (A collaborative relationship):  Both producers and consumers in a food system strive to ensure a livelihood that allows them to fulfill their needs and desires. The SRFN model calls for local and regional networks that work together to achieve the sustainability of all of those in the system, and not at an individual level.  4) Social Learning & Innovation Exchange: A social process of informal learning will commence once the people who are working in collaborative initiatives start transmitting to each other their own food culture, shared values and specific knowledge. This learning process aims at further strengthening the networks, connecting and integrating people, offering training opportunities and driving innovations. 

The principles and sub-principles are shown in table attached:

Hence, following the principles and sub-principles discussed above a Sustainable Regional Food Network initiatives becomes a powerful model to transform the food systems in systematic approach. It is noteworthy, that we have come to realize this potential by working since more than a decade and based on the findings of similar initiatives in different societal context ranging from Nepal to Switzerland to Portugal and Brazil.  

Food as a Collaborative Commons

Tomorrow’s food system calls for a system of regional connected food networks beyond the industrialized and commodified food supply chains. 

The basis for this shift is an understanding of food as a “collaborative commons” which implies value-generating, collaborative and reciprocal partnerships between equal actors. 

We aim at creating a working-model based on the combination of academic research, vocational training, entrepreneurial activities, and public actor support and consumer engagement.

This new food systems works when power comes to local networks between small farmers and farms, community, manufactories, shops, gastronomy inter-connected with research, politics and industry.

Local food-networks open new perspectives for mutual support: 

between farmers and communities, 

between rural and urban areas,

and between different regional food networks.

“It all comes down to building and maintaining relationships”. 

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • from a friend from Protugal
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Team (3)

Tulsi's profile
Usha's profile
Usha Poudel

Role added on team:

"Usha is the chairperson of the Bazaar Agriculture Cooperative in Pokhara, Nepal, and she is also leading the food and nutrition, and weekly Farmers Market segment within THE BAZAAR: Market for Fairtrade & Organic"

Debesh's profile
Debesh Pradhan

Role added on team:

"Debesh is co-founder of DV Excellus Pvt. Ltd. and he is leading the business model of agri-food-tech digital platform"


Join the conversation:

Photo of Ekaterina Egorova

Hi @Tulsi Giri  We’ve developed this Pocket Guide to support you through the final days of wrapping up your submission. This will give you the most important bullet points to keep in mind to successfully submit your Vision. Go ahead, review the check-list and final words of advice before the deadline.

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