Main Issue

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 systems and land use evolve will have major implications for the health of the planet. During the sixth GEF replenishment cycle (also known as GEF-6), the GEF joined forces with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), to launch the Integrated Approach Program on Food Security (IAP-FS), also known as the Resilient Food Systems (RFS) program. The five-year program (2017-2022) is committed to fostering sustainability and resilience for food security in Sub-Saharan Africa, targeting four geographies in the region that are seriously affected by environmental degradation and loss of ecosystem services, resulting in persistently low crop and livestock productivity.

The Resilient Food Systems program is conducting activities across 12 African countries - Burkina Faso, Burundi, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda - contributing to a paradigm shift in the continent’s agriculture: one which emphasizes the importance of natural capital and ecosystem services to enhance agricultural productivity.


The Resilient Food Systems program fosters sustainability and resilience by creating or strengthening institutional frameworks, scaling up integrated approaches, and monitoring and assessment of global environmental benefits. Two million households are expected to benefit from the program’s interventions across 12 Sub-Saharan African countries. The program contributes to maintaining globally significant biodiversity and the ecosystem goods and services, bringing 1.1 million hectares of landscapes under improved production practices, and an additional 2.1 million hectares under sustainable land management. It also supports a transformational shift towards a low emission and resilient development path, mitigating 59 million metric tons of carbon.

Looking Ahead

Given the fact that increasing demand for food is one of the major drivers of biodiversity loss, land degradation, and depletion of water resources, during GEF-7, the GEF’s Food Systems, Land Use, and Restoration Impact Program (FOLUR) 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.

The FOLUR Impact Program will support 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 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 FOLUR 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.