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January/February 2007        

The creation of a new Department:

Natural Resources Management and Environment Department

The responsible management of natural resources is the key to attaining sustainable agricultural and rural development. FAO has long been at the forefront of promoting natural resources management and environmental protection in its work, but, as of 1 January 2007, this commitment has been strengthened by the creation of the new Natural Resources Management and Environment Department. The new Department replaces the former Sustainable Development Department, although its former work in the areas of gender, equity and rural employment will continue to be carried out by FAO’s Economic and Social Development Department. The new Natural Resources Management and Environment Department’s main functions are to support environmental services, to promote the sustainable management and use of land, water, and genetic resources, and to strengthen agricultural research and extension systems. The Department will take the lead in the areas of bioenergy, climate change issues, land and water management, land tenure issues, biodiversity for food and agriculture, and research and extension.

The new Natural Resources Management and Environment Department will consist of three Divisions:

  • Environment, Climate Change and Bioenergy Division
  • Land and Water Division
  • Research and Extension Division

The Office of the Assistant Director-General will host the Secretariat of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and the Secretariat of the Science Council of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.

Environment, Climate Change and Bioenergy Division

The new Environment, Climate Change and Bioenergy Division builds upon the work of the former Environment and Natural Resources Service, with particular attention focused upon the role of rural institutions in addressing local development issues. This reflects the greater interest expressed by member countries in Climate change issues related to agriculture, forestry and fisheries. The new Division will assist its member countries both in the mitigation of climate change and in the development of adaptive capacities of agriculture, fisheries and forestry to the effects of climate change. This assistance will be made available through a variety of approaches, including technical support, policy tools, institutional strengthening, guidelines and best practices. While FAO has been involved with Bioenergy for the past three decades, the structure of the new Department places a greater emphasis on FAO’s work in Bioenergy for poverty alleviation, food security and climate change mitigation and increases opportunities for cooperation with member countries, other organizations and private-public partnerships. The Division will continue to serve as a focal point for organizing and facilitating a multidisciplinary and global approach to bioenergy through the mechanisms of the International Bioenergy Platform (IBEP) and the Global Bioenergy Partnership (GBEP). IBEP is expected to provide analysis and information for policy and decision-making support; to build and strengthen institutional capacity at all levels; to enhance access to energy services from sustainable bioenergy systems; and to facilitate opportunities for effective international exchange and collaboration. GBEP’s Secretariat is located at FAO’s Headquarters and is supported by the Italian Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea . The GBEP Secretariat will act as the principal coordinator of Partnership communications and activities and will assist international exchanges of know-how and technology, promote supportive policy frameworks and identify ways of fostering investments and removing barriers to the development and implementation of joint projects.

Land and Water Division

The Land and Water Division will integrate the work of the Water Development and Management Unit, previously the Water Resources, Development and Management Service located in the Agriculture Department, and the Land Tenure and Management Unit, comprising the Sustainable Development Department’s Land Tenure Service and staff from the former Land and Plant Nutrition Management Service of the Agriculture Department. The Division is concerned with the productive and sustainable use of land and water resources through their improved tenure, management, development and conservation, in order to increase food security, alleviate poverty and secure a healthy environment. The Division’s work on water development and management will continue to work closely with member countries to ensure a more productive and efficient use of water resources in order to meet present and future agriculture demands on a sustainable basis. The Division will enhance its assistance to member nations in developing policies, programmes, best practices and tools for land tenure in order to facilitate access to land and to ensure user rights, including access to natural resources, and to improve land markets. The Division, by offering an integrated land and water management approach, addresses long term sustainability of land and water quality and quantity, and the development of irrigation and rainfed agriculture.

Research and Extension Division

The Research and Extension Division will provide advisory and technical services to FAO members to support an integrated approach to agricultural research and extension in order to respond to the technology, knowledge and human capacity building needs of national development policies and priorities. Work in this area concentrates primarily on supporting and enhancing the capacities of public and private-sector agricultural Research and extension systems and Rural education and Communication institutions, including establishing strong linkages among researchers, extensionists, educators, communicators and producers and users of agricultural, rural, environmental and natural resource knowledge and technology. The Division will continue to contribute to activities related to capacity building for the safe application of Biotechnology. The Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) continues to be hosted in the Division. GFAR is a stakeholder-led initiative that serves as a neutral forum for the discussion of strategic issues in agricultural research for development. It facilitates and promotes cost-effective partnerships and strategic alliances among agricultural research for development stakeholders in their efforts to alleviate poverty, increase food security and promote the sustainable use of natural resources.

Office of the Assistant Director-General

The Office of the ADG will host two important multi-stakeholder activities:

  • The Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, previously located in the Agriculture Department, was originally established in 1983 as the Commission on Plant Genetic Resources; its mandate was broadened in 1995 to cover all components of biodiversity relevant to food and agriculture. The Commission includes 168 member countries and the European Community. The Commission serves as the main intergovernmental forum in which members debate and negotiate policy instruments, regulatory frameworks, and specific action programmes addressing the conservation and sustainable utilization and equitable sharing of genetic resources for food and agriculture, as well the fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from their use, for present and future generations.


  • The Secretariat of the Science Council (SC) of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) The Science Council promotes the quality, relevance and impact of science in the CGIAR System. The Science Council assesses the impact of CGIAR research and assists in mobilizing global scientific research. The Science Council provides support to the CGIAR System through: participation in priority setting and strategy planning; analysis of the Centres’ plans and priorities; advice on science policy and broad strategic questions; and periodic external review of activities and outputs.

Structure of the Natural Resources Management and Environment (NR) Department:

Office of the Assistant Director-General

  • Secretariat of the Science Council of the CGIAR
  • Secretariat, Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
  • Programme Coordination Unit

Environment, Climate Change and Bioenergy Division

  • Office of Director
  • Climate Change and Bioenergy Unit
  • Environmental Assessment and Management Unit

Land and Water Division

  • Office of Director
  • Land Tenure and Management Unit
  • Water Development and Management Unit

Research and Extension Division

  • Office of Director
  • Research and Extension Unit
  • Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR)


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