The Council of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has endorsed two thematic strategies that will guide FAO’s work on climate change and on science, technology and innovation over the next decade.
The strategies are designed to drive the implementation of FAO’s Strategic Framework 2022-31, which steers FAO’s efforts to transform agrifood systems and promote a food secure world for all, as envisioned by the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.
They were endorsed on Monday and Tuesday in Rome by the 170th session of FAO’s executive body, at a time of rising hunger numbers and growing threats to global food security.
“These two strategies are the extraordinary result of our collective efforts,” FAO Director-General QU Dongyu told the Council.
“The Strategy on Climate Change will guide FAO in providing strengthened support to Members in their ambitions to address climate change in agrifood systems, and in the implementation of the Paris Agreement,” the Director-General said. “The Strategy on Science and Innovation will benefit the billions of small-scale producers and their families who are urgently in need of the best available science, technologies and innovation to play their part in transforming our agrifood systems.”
The two thematic strategies deal with the entire global agrifood system, which covers the journey of food from farm to table – including when it is grown, fished, harvested, processed, packaged, transported, distributed, traded, bought, prepared, eaten and disposed of. Agrifood systems also encompass non-food products, such as forestry and aquaculture, including the sustainable management and conservation of related ecosystems, as well as all the activities, investments and choices that play a part in getting us these food and agricultural products we need.
Resilient and productive land and aquatic ecosystems are the foundations of sustainable agrifood systems.
The latest scientific evidence from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirms the unequivocal and unprecedented climate risks that the planet is facing from intensifying heatwaves, heavy precipitation and droughts, fires and tropical cyclones.
Increasing weather and climate extreme events have already caused economic damages and exposed millions of people to acute food insecurity and reduced water security. Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are at particular risk due to warming ocean temperatures, ocean acidification and rising sea levels.
Given the already tangible impact of extreme weather events on food security, nutrition and poverty, “the urgency to address climate change has significantly increased,” the Council was told.
Global agrifood systems are responsible for about a third of total greenhouse gas emissions and are one of the major victims of climate change. The FAO Strategy on Climate Change 2022-2031 presents them as part of the solution.
Agrifood systems are envisioned to be sustainable, inclusive, resilient, and adaptive to climate change and its impacts, contributing to low-emission economies while providing sufficient, safe and nutritious foods for healthy diets, as well as other agricultural products and services, for present and future generations, leaving no one behind.
The strategy aims to address a broad range of interlinked challenges, including the loss of biodiversity, desertification, land and environmental degradation, the need for accessible, renewable energy, and food and water security.
It is organized under three Pillars: i) Global and regional levels (strengthening global and regional climate policy and governance); ii) Country level (developing countries’ capacities for climate action); iii) Local level (scaling up climate action on the ground).
Its guiding principles include empowering and engaging farmers, livestock keepers, fishers, aquaculturists, Indigenous People and forest-dependent people, embracing both traditional good practices and innovations, and building on science-based evidence.
The Strategy is informed by science, prioritizes innovative solutions and inclusiveness, and recognizes the importance of scaling up both finance and investment.
Science and Innovation
FAO sees science and innovation as a powerful engine to transform agrifood systems and end hunger and malnutrition. But it needs to be accompanied by strong institutions, good governance, political will, enabling regulatory frameworks, and effective measures to promote equity among its actors.
Important strides have been made in a range of scientific and technological fields, including in biotechnology, data analytics and nuclear techniques in food and agriculture. Public-private partnerships are on the rise in research and development. At the same time, market concentration has heightened concerns about unequal access to resources and knowledge, both between countries and within social groups.
The challenges in harnessing science and innovation for agrifood systems range from underinvestment in research, to gaps in using science and evidence for decision-making.
The FAO Science and Innovation Strategy focuses on three Pillars: i) Strengthening science and evidence-based decision-making; ii) Supporting innovation and technology at regional and country level; iii) Serving Members better by reinforcing FAO’s capacities.
Achieving the strategy’s vision means that all countries have access to the science and innovation they need to overcome the complex social, economic and environmental challenges facing their agrifood systems. Achieving this vision in a globally equitable, inclusive and sustainable manner requires the active involvement of under-represented stakeholders – such as women and youth.
The two thematic strategies will be operationalized through Action Plans and are due to receive a mid-term review by the Council five years after their adoption.