Director-General  QU Dongyu

FAO in Review: Transforming agrifood systems in the face of the climate crisis

©FAO/Luis Tato

Beekeepers in Mafinga, Tanzania, harvest honey using modern methods. ©FAO/Luis Tato


The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has made huge strides in pushing for agrifood systems transformation towards more efficiency, inclusivity, resilience, and sustainability in the face of the climate crisis, through coherent and ambitious actions that also tackle global environmental degradation and biodiversity loss.

FAO’s work on climate change is guided by the new FAO Strategy for Climate Change 2022-2031, which aims to support Members to transform to sustainable, climate-resilient and low-emission agrifood systems while striving to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Agrifood systems transformation is at the core of climate action. This is the message that FAO brought to the UN Climate Conference (COP27) in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. FAO’s delegation leveraged the full potential of the new Strategy, calling for increased resources and partnerships to put agrifood systems transformation into action, and strengthening not only global and regional climate policies and governance, but also developing country-specific capacities to scale-up climate action on the ground.

The COP27 Presidency in partnership with FAO launched the Food and Agriculture Sustainable Transformation Initiative (FAST) to enhance Members’ capacities to identify and access climate finance and investment giving greater access to knowledge and providing support in crafting appropriate climate action policies. With support from FAO, the World Health Organization (WHO) and other UN agencies, the COP27 Presidency also presented the Initiative on Climate Action and Nutrition (I-CAN).

“FAO’s engagement at COP27 firmly positioned the Organization as a key player in all major negotiations, debates and high-level events amplifying the role of agrifood systems transformation as a key driver to concrete, sustainable, inclusive and resilient solutions to the climate change crisis,” said Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director-General who led FAO’s delegation. “FAO built and enhanced strategic partnerships, capitalizing on our new Climate Change Strategy to provide greater support on the ground and to our Members in promoting resilient and green climate action needed to transform their agrifood systems,” she added.

Green Climate Fund and Global Environmental Facility 

FAO has ramped up its support to Members in accessing climate and environment finance through the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF). 

Since 2016 FAO has successfully partnered with the GCF to help countries, particularly those most vulnerable to climate change, to transition towards climate-resilient, low-emission agrifood systems. Today with a portfolio of over $1 billion, FAO is currently leading 17 high-impact projects across the globe and has catalysed public and private sector investments across the agricultural sectors.

With 230 projects in 124 countries, FAO is a go-to partner agency for the GEF, supporting countries worldwide in addressing the complex challenges at the nexus of environment, agriculture, forestry, marine and freshwater resources. The eighth GEF replenishment cycle (GEF-8), from July 2022 to 2026, will offer greater opportunities for collaboration and impact, leveraging FAO’s extensive technical expertise, strong field presence and in-country alliances, including through a newly-announced global $230 million food systems integrated programme and a regional Indo-Malaya critical forest biomes integrated programme. 

Since 2019, FAO has more than doubled its GEF and GCF portfolios, enabling countries to mobilize more than $6 billion in nearly 130 countries.


© FAO/FameMedia

A fish farm in Al Wathba, United Arab Emirates where FAO is supporting the government build sustainable and profitable aquaculture production to maintain the country's fish supply, improve its food security and transform its food system. © FAO/FameMedia


Mainstreaming biodiversity protection

Recognizing that biodiversity is key to making agriculture, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture systems productive, sustainable and resilient and that today’s agrifood systems are the greatest driver of biodiversity loss, FAO has been working hand-in-hand with Members and partners to deliver on the 2021-2023 Action Plan for the implementation of the FAO Strategy on Mainstreaming Biodiversity across Agricultural Sectors. Aimed at reducing the negative impacts of agricultural practices on biodiversity while conserving, using sustainably and restoring biodiversity as a whole, the Action Plan supports countries to integrate biodiversity in their policies and practices.

FAO will participate in COP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Montreal, under the Presidency of China, to advocate the central role of biodiversity for food security and nutrition, resilience and livelihoods. FAO will showcase solutions to transform global agrifood systems with sustainable use, conservation and restoration of biodiversity.

Water and soil management

Water is a precious resource that is also vital to agriculture, which accounts for 72 percent of global freshwater withdrawals, and is core to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. FAO’s key focus has been on the need to improve water use efficiency for food production while making sure that ecosystems are unharmed and natural resources used sustainably.

The Organization has proposed a country-led water dialogue and country-owned National Water Roadmaps to help strengthen the inter-sectoral coordination on sustainable water resources management, accelerating the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

FAO is also supporting countries in the run up to 2023’s UN Water conference, through the Rome Water Dialogue and water related strategic programmes, to support countries in their water related actions for food security, climate resilience and adaptation, sustainable production and healthier diets.

FAO has also been working to make sure improving soil health is a global priority. Soil is essential to food production and agriculture. We rely on soils for 95 percent of the food we consume. But as things stand now, by 2050, 90 percent of all soils are set to be degraded. Without change in management and policies, degrading soils will put our ecosystems, our climate and food security in jeopardy.

FAO’s Global Soil Partnership (GSP) has been working for the past decade with countries and over 500 partners to address soil-related issues, highlighting soil on the Global Agenda. Under this programme, FAO is working with countries to recarbonize soils, map global soils, shape government policy and trigger action among other initiatives.


© FAO/Oliver Bunic

A family working inside their newly installed greenhouse, part of a FAO project supporting flood affected small-scale farmers in Serbia. © FAO/Oliver Bunic


Aquatic food systems

Fisheries and aquaculture have been high on FAO’s agenda. This year FAO participated in the 2022 UN Ocean Conference, where it presented Blue Transformation, a vision aimed at expanding aquatic food production to make healthy diets available to all, while safeguarding the environment, managing resources sustainably and conserving biodiversity.

With measurable climate-resilient objectives, Blue Transformation is supporting concrete action and efforts to improve the understanding of climate change impacts, risks and vulnerabilities, while strengthening guidance on efficient climate adaptation and mitigation.

FAO is now implementing adaptation projects for fisheries and aquaculture in more than 30 developing countries with the involvement of governments and local communities.

Through partnerships such as CC4Fish, Blue Transformation is working with communities to enhance the productivity of fisheries and aquaculture value chains, while increasing resilience of marine and coastal livelihoods and ecosystems.

Forestry and agriculture sectors, working hand-in-hand

Halting deforestation and forest degradation is critical for agrifood systems transformation and combating climate change. As co-lead for the UN-wide initiative on Turning the Tide on Deforestation, and with the support of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, FAO supports countries to scale-up and accelerate synergistic solutions between agriculture and forestry sectors to make agrifood systems more sustainable and resilient, including through increasing evidence-base and understanding on the direct and underlying drivers of deforestation and land degradation. FAO also assists Members to restore forest ecosystems for better production and mainstreaming biodiversity, while supporting livelihoods and adaptation capacities with key programmes such as The Action Against Desertification programme in support of Africa's Great Green Wall initiative, the GEF-7 Sustainable Forest Management Impact Program on Dryland Sustainable Landscapes, and our Forest and Landscape Restoration Mechanism. Looking forward, the implementation of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030), co-led by FAO an UNEP, will support Members in investing efforts for biodiversity and climate action.