Sustainable Food and Agriculture

FAO’s vision for Sustainable Food and Agriculture was developed in support to its Strategic Objective 2 “Make agriculture, forestry and fisheries more productive and more sustainable”. It is a vision of a world in which food is nutritious and accessible for everyone and natural resources are managed in a way that maintain ecosystem functions to support current as well as future human needs. In this vision, farmers, pastoralists, fisher folks, foresters and other rural dwellers have the opportunity to actively participate in, and benefit from, economic development, have decent employment conditions and work in a fair price environment. Rural men, women, and communities live in security, and have control over their livelihoods and equitable access to resources which they use in an efficient way.

Background

Agriculture production systems are facing unprecedented challenges from an increasing demand for food for a growing population, high competition over dwindling natural resources, loss of biodiversity, emerging pests and diseases, and the adverse effects of climate change.

Global food and nutrition security is under threat, with the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and producers who depend on agriculture, forestry and fisheries being particularly at risk. A fundamental shift in policies and practices is required at global and national levels to drive the transition to sustainable food and agriculture, promote innovations, strengthen science-led decision making, local capacities, and technologies to reconcile environmental, economic and social demands, while balancing synergies and trade-offs.

To provide for a population projected to reach 9.3 billion in 2050 and support changing dietary patterns, estimates are that food production will need to increase from the current 8.4 billion tonnes to almost 13.5 billion tonnes a year. 

A common vision for Sustainable Food and Agriculture must equally address social, economic and environmental dimensions to ensure sustainability. Neglecting any one area jeopardizes the attainment of sustainability in others. The principles which can collectively guide the process of transition to greater sustainability are summarized as:

Increase productivity, employment and value addition in food systems

Protect and enhance natural resources

Improve livelihoods and foster inclusive economic growth

Enhance the resilience of people, communities and ecosystems

Adapt governance to new challenges

The five principles are complementary – principles 1 and 2 directly support the natural system, while principle 3 directly supports the human system; principles 4 and 5 underpin both the natural and the human systems. For application of the five principles, a range of actions should be taken to enhance sectoral as well as cross-sectoral productivity and sustainability.

Working with countries to develop and apply these principles across food and agricultural production systems, FAO foresees national, regional and global systems that are socially, economically and environmentally more sustainable.

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