Natural Resources
     and Environment

About the NR Department

Natural resources and their services are essential to food production, enhanced rural development and sustainable livelihoods. Conflicts and competition over access to, and the use of these resources are likely to increase in many regions, due to soaring demands for food, fibre, energy as well as the loss and degradation of productive land. These conflicts will be exacerbated by changing growing conditions, increased water scarcity, loss of biodiversity, extreme weather events and other effects of climate change. The sustainable management of natural resources for the benefit of present and future generations requires addressing key aspects of natural resources and their governance across all sectors. As summarized by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Report published in 2005, “..... any progress achieved in addressing the Millennium Development Goals of poverty and hunger eradication and environmental sustainability is unlikely to be sustained if most ecosystem services on which humanity relies continue to be degraded....".

The Natural Resources Management and Environment Department mandate is to address these issues and provide leadership, technical and policy advice and knowledge towards the sustainable use of the earth’s natural resources (land, water, genetic resources and biodiversity); improved responses to global environmental challenges affecting food and agriculture, such as climate change and land degradation; assessment of opportunities and challenges of bioenergy; and strengthened transfer and extension of knowledge required towards these goals. In addition, the Department serves as a neutral forum and venue for dialogue on sustainable use of natural resources.

The Department consists of two Divisions:

In addition, the Office of the Assistant Director-General hosts the Secretariat of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA).

Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA)

The Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture 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. With 171 countries and the European Community as Members, the Commission provides the only permanent forum for governments to discuss and negotiate matters specifically relevant to biological diversity for food and agriculture. The Commission aims to reach international consensus on policies for the sustainable use and conservation of genetic resources for food and agriculture and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from their use. Since its establishment, the Commission has overseen global assessments of the state of the world’s plant and animal genetic resources for food and agriculture and negotiated major international instruments, including the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

Website: Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

Natural Resources Management and Environment Department factsheet

The challenges of scarcity and climate change

Natural resources – land, water and genetic material – are essential to food production, rural development and sustainable livelihoods. Unfortunately, conflicts over access to these resources, long a feature of human history, are likely to increase in many regions because of rising demand for food, fibre and energy, as well as the loss and degradation of productive land. Conflicts will be further exacerbated by changing growing conditions, increased water scarcity, loss of biodiversity, extreme weather events and other effects of climate change. If productive agriculture is to be safeguarded, these  challenges will have to be addressed.

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Contact

Assistant Director-General
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
00153 Rome, Italy
Tel: (+39) 06 570 53037
Fax: (+39) 06 570 53064
E-mail: NR-ADG@fao.org