People are already consuming natural resources at a rate faster than the planet can replenish them. Yet the world’s population is expected to grow from 7 billion to 9 billion by 2050. Thus, the demand for energy, transport, buildings, and food will only increase in the years ahead. Agriculture will need to meet the growing demand for food — projected to increase by 70 percent by mid-century.
The global food system’s impact on biodiversity, ecosystems, and ecosystem services is overwhelming. With 40 percent of the planet’s landmass (excluding deserts, permanent ice, and lakes) being used to grow food, the potential for environmental degradation will only increase as agriculture continues to expand. At the same time, nearly 2 billion hectares of cropland, grazing land, forests, and woodlands are degraded. This has negative impacts on ecosystem services, including the provision of freshwater, food, fuel and fiber, clean air and water, climate regulation, and habitat.
The global challenge is to find sustainable ways to feed a growing population. The world needs a more sustainable food system, one that embeds sustainability from farm to fork, generates agricultural commodities without deforestation and habitat conversion, and restores soils and degraded areas back into natural ecosystems or into productivity.
What We Do
How the world’s food system and land use evolves will have major implications for the health of the planet. The GEF’s Food Systems, Land Use, and Restoration Impact Program is supporting efforts to design systems that protect our planet’s biophysical processes and resources, absorb greenhouse gas emissions, provide nutritious and affordable food for the growing number of people worldwide, and strengthen the resilience and prosperity of rural populations. Achieving these outcomes could generate 80 million jobs and create an additional US$2.3 trillion in productive growth by 2030.
A one-size fits all approach will not achieve the required shift to a more sustainable food and land-use system, because countries vary considerably in their approach to food systems and land use challenges. In Africa, the GEF’s Food Security Program focuses on safeguarding the natural resources — land, water, soils, trees and genetic resources — that underpin food and nutrition security in 12 countries. The GEF, along with a variety of partners, is investing more than US$900 million over five years for the program.
By taking a holistic perspective, the program helps smallholders strengthen soil health, improve access to drought-tolerant seeds, adjust planting periods and cropping portfolios, and enhance on-farm agro-biodiversity. This, in turn, will foster long-term sustainability and resilience for food security by reducing land degradation and biodiversity loss, recovering natural vegetation and increasing soil carbon.
The Food Security Program fosters sustainability and resilience by creating or strengthening institutional frameworks, scaling up integrated approaches, and monitoring and assessment of global environmental benefits. This contributes to maintaining globally significant biodiversity and the ecosystem goods and services, bringing 1.1 million hectares (ha) of landscapes under improved production practices, and an additional 2.1 million ha under sustainable land management. It also supports a transformational shift towards a low emission and resilient development path, mitigating 59 million tonnes of carbon.
To strengthen food security
Hectares of land under improved production and sustainable management practices
Tonnes of carbon to be mitigated
Given the fact that increasing demand for food is one of the major drivers of biodiversity loss, land degradation, and depletion of water resources, in GEF-7 the Food Systems, Land Use, and Restoration Impact Program will support efforts to ensure that productive lands are embedded within landscapes that provide ecosystem services as well as protect the natural ecosystems and soil on which they depend. Achieving this transition will require a holistic, system-wide approach integrating both horizontal (land and natural resources) and vertical (food value and supply chain) dimensions.
In order to accommodate differences between countries with respect to opportunities for leveraging GEF financing, the Impact Program focuses on three interrelated priorities: promoting sustainable food systems to tackle negative externalities in entire value chains; promoting deforestation-free agricultural commodity supply chains; and promoting large-scale restoration of degraded landscapes for sustainable production and ecosystem services.
The Food, Land Use, and Restoration Impact Program seeks to transform food and land use systems and help countries reconcile competing social, economic, and environmental interests by moving away from unsustainable sectoral approaches. GEF support will help countries meet the growing demand for increased crop and livestock production while eliminating the risk of further expansion of farmland into natural high-biodiversity habitats and forests, erosion of genetic diversity, overexploitation of land and water resources, overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and inefficient practices that lead to greenhouse gas emissions.