Food Systems Thinking: Buguruni Informal Fresh Food Market Rehabilitation (Tanzania) using the IFSS Portal’s Backcasting Approach

14 November 2022

Written by Ann Trevenen Jones (Food Systems Governance, GAIN), Charlotte Pedersen and Françoise Cattaneo (Innovations for Health and Planet, GAIN), and Silvia Martinez (Wageningen University)

The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) held a 20th anniversary celebration in the Netherlands, on 20th October 2022. The Innovations for Health and Planet team and the Food Systems Governance team came together to facilitate a ‘reshaping food systems and nutrition’ workshop. This workshop referenced GAIN’s real world experience of the
rehabilitation of the Buguruni informal fresh food market in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) and introduced participants to the IFSS Portal’s backcasting method. Backcasting involves defining a future vision of impact, and then working “backwards” to identify necessary steps to achieve this vision (IFSS Portal Backcasting Tool).

The session was made up of 22 diverse donors, partners and networks, from Royal DSM DSN, UNICEF NL, HAS green academy, Wageningen U&R – CDI, Impact institute, Save the Children NL, Solidaridad, Inconfin Investment Management, KIT (Royal Tropical Institute), NE Agency
(RVO), IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, East-Weed seed, Cordaid, CARE NL, The Hunger Project NL, HAS Green Academy, Netherlands Food Partnership (NFP), Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, Micronutrient Forum (MNF), MAX Foundation,
Unilever, NWGN. 

The main objectives for this session were:
– Diagnose the complex urban food environment challenge in Tanzania using a food systems approach.
– Design a transition pathway-to-impact map using a physical version of the backcasting tool to achieve the 2030+ vision: “50% of urban, informal fresh food markets in Dar es Salaam have robust infrastructure which is co-designed and locally-led by 2030.” 
– Collaborative learning experiencing the real world informal market case of GAIN’s project for the rehabilitation of Buguruni Informal Fresh Food Urban Market in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

An introduction to the IFSS backcasting tool and the Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (dietary, planetary, economic, and demographic challenges) food
system and nutrition context was provided. This was followed by a visual and evidence based description of Buguruni informal fresh food
transformed market (pre-rehabilitation). A vision of the market in 2030 was also presented. Participants were then divided into two groups to
consider this complex food systems challenge and
the 2030 vision. Part of this involved the identification of key food systems actors.

Next, one group was tasked with the identification of the key steps to achieve the 2030 vision, while the second group focused on identifying the barriers (risks, obstacles, and/or potential tradeoffs) to achieving this ideal vision. Then a rapporteur for each group, using coloured sticky
notes and the paper pathway map, ordered the barriers and steps into what their teams considered to be a logical order, from the present day through to 2030. Participants took a stroll along the pathway and write down on their sticky notes an indefinite number of strategies (or part thereof) to overcome the identified barriers and/or to facilitate the steps.

Finally, participants working in pairs decided which potential accelerators (such as Building Trust, Transforming Mindsets, Women and gender empowerment etc.) could advance various aspects of the pathway. They placed different accelerator cards on the pathway as part of the
innovation strategy. At the end of the workshop, the GAIN team shared the actual experience of the rehabilitation of the Buguruni Market and also gave a few other examples of GAIN’s co-designing endeavors
in traditional markets in Africa and Asia.

The backcasting map that was developed during the workshop is digitized on Miro and can be found via this link.


Discussion spotlighted critical considerations of inclusion and equity regards key actors and beneficiaries, constraints of the informal market infrastructure and lack of access to finance. Ideas were offered about how the IFSS backcasting tool could be enhanced. The steps identified included the build-up of a locally led consultative process followed by the identification of a project team and a design planning.

Key takeaways and comments from the session

Some of the challenges identified included the lack of finance investment, the risk of the exclusion and exploitation of the community’s stakeholders in the process and the competition of cheap imports. A few main strategies to overcome the barriers that were suggested, related to the involvement of the market stakeholders and local government throughout the whole process (board with representatives from all stakeholder groups) and the development of profitable business cases to enhance access to finance.

  • Participants were inspired by their workshop experience of a real-world food systems challenge (Buguruni market) and the application of the backcasting tool;
  • Feedback included, how to: a) include parallel processes linked to achieving the 2030 vision; and b) represent the trade-offs at each step (where trade-offs are not necessarily barriers);
  • Accelerators were of particular interest to participants. A few accelerators were not initially placed on the pathway, such as ‘’youth involvement’’, whereas others, like ‘’building trust’’, participants felt needed to be part of the whole pathway with relevance to barriers and steps;
  • Positively, all participants felt that GAIN’s programmes, involving multiple partners, both global and local, help build trust and ownership of food systems transformation for nutrition.

The 1 hour 30 minute workshop was a short time span for a diversity of participants to effectively process and develop a joint action approach to unpack the 2030 market vision into concrete steps. Additional time would have been preferred to dive deeper into understanding Tanzania’s local
context before building the pathway. Despite this, participants highlighted the value of the backcasting process, especially as a way of identifying the key beneficiaries and stakeholders in the food system pathway to the 2030 vision.


This workshop was designed to provide GAIN donors, partners and networks, with an experiential showcase of two of GAIN’s projects, namely, Resilient Markets (under the Food Systems Governance programme) and the IFSS portal. Furthermore, mention of the Food System’s Dashboard (at the national and shortly also sub-national government levels) and the Food Action Cities platform illustrated how our work can be shared and scaled up across different contexts. GAIN thanks the workshop participants for their enthusiasm and insights. The IFSS portal solution and backcasting map on Local food market infrastructure improvements can be accessed here.

Food Systems Governance and Food Action Cities
Contact Ann Trevenen Jones at
About: Food Systems Governance
Policy Options Toolkits
YouTube: Policy Options Toolkits
Website: Food Action Cities

IFSS Portal
Contact Charlotte Pedersen at
Contact Françoise Cattaneo at

Food Systems Dashboard
Contact Catia Pedro at