FAO and the GEF

Partnering for sustainable agri-food systems and the environment

As a partner agency for the Global Environment Facility (GEF), FAO supports countries worldwide in addressing the complex challenges at the nexus between the environment, agriculture, forestry, marine and freshwater resources. FAO’s global GEF portfolio currently exceeds USD 1 billion, assisting more than 120 countries in projects that respond to local priorities, deliver global environmental benefits, and advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The eighth GEF replenishment cycle (GEF-8), from July 2022 to 2026, will offer new opportunities for collaboration and impact, leveraging FAO’s extensive technical expertise, strong field presence and in country alliances. FAO’s ability to convene diverse stakeholders, facilitate partnerships and mobilize resources will support countries in designing and delivering projects that achieve sustainable, scalable results in the GEF-8 Focal Areas and Integrated Programs.

GEF-8 Focal Areas


With FAO’s mandate and expertise in agri-food systems (including crops, livestock and aquaculture), forestry and fisheries, FAO is uniquely positioned to support the mainstreaming of biodiversity into these sectors, thereby assisting governments in implementing the Post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. In GEF-8, FAO will support countries in integrated management of food production landscapes and seascapes to maximize biodiversity values and sustainability, and to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity, crop wild relatives and wild food plants in and adjacent to protected areas. FAO will also assist countries in implementing national and regional measures on access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from their utilization, operationalizing the Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) mechanism of the Nagoya Protocol to achieve the third objective of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

Climate change

In GEF-8, FAO will support countries in making transformational shifts in the agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFOLU) sectors for climate change mitigation and climate resilience development. This will involve scaling up Nature-based Solutions (NbS) with high mitigation potential, such as in forest ecosystems, wetlands and agricultural landscapes. Interventions will also promote the protection and restoration of natural ecosystems, as well as sustainable and resilient agricultural practices that increase soil carbon and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Cross cutting transformational adaptation will be needed to achieve the Paris Agreement’s global adaptation goal, addressing food security and health, conflict, fragility and migration, and early warning and climate information systems.

Land degradation

Leveraging momentum from FAO’s leadership of the GEF-7 Sustainable Forest Management Impact Program on Dryland Sustainable Landscapes, FAO will scale up its assistance to countries in GEF-8 to achieve land degradation neutrality (LDN) through avoiding, reducing and reversing land degradation with a focus on drought, desertification and deforestation. Interventions will target sustainable land management, including agroecological intensification and diversification, climate-smart agriculture, drought smart land management, integrated watershed management, and community-based natural resources management; landscape restoration, including protecting and restoring agro-ecosystem services and forests; and participatory land and water governance to address desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD) issues.

International waters

Building on results from FAO’s GEF-7 Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ) program, in GEF-8 FAO will continue supporting nations in transboundary cooperation in shared marine and freshwater ecosystems. Through a nexus approach, FAO will also focus on enhancing food, water and ecosystem security for a blue recovery and blue economic development.


GEF-8 programs and initiatives

FAO is the leading GEF Agency in its expertise on agri-food systems. Building on FAO’s work in the GEF-7 Food Systems, Land Use and Restoration (FOLUR) Impact Program, and its hosting of the Coordination Hub following the 2021 United Nations Food Systems Summit, FAO is supporting governments in transforming agri-food systems to drive economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and get back on track to achieve the SDGs. For GEF-8, FAO is developing new strategic approaches for regenerative food production and sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and livestock, with a vision that links diversified, productive and resilient farming, livelihood and landscape systems; harmonized multi-sectoral policies; and value chains that reward sustainable production and the availability of healthy, sustainable food for consumers.

Through FAO’s co-leadership of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, FAO is assisting countries in restoring ecosystems to foster a green recovery and secure livelihoods, and to generate ecosystem services upon which people, food systems and biodiversity depend. Building on this effort and the community and tools it generates, for GEF-8 FAO is working with diverse partners to identify priority landscapes for restoration and to develop new approaches and funding mechanisms to maximize impact at scale.

Expanding upon FAO’s global work with Small Island Developing States (SIDS), in GEF-8 FAO will support the design and implementation of integrated approaches to landscape and seascape management, featuring the use of Nature-based Solutions in key ecosystems. Interventions will also assist decision-makers in using ecosystem valuation tools to optimize environmental and socioeconomic benefits. FAO strategies will target key sectors, including food production (aquaculture and fisheries), tourism and urban development, to improve livelihoods while conserving the environment and biodiversity. 

Drawing upon FAO’s expertise in forestry, governance, and engagement of indigenous peoples and local communities, and leveraging FAO forest monitoring and geospatial tools, FAO will assist countries in protecting critical forest biomes in GEF-8. These include the Amazon, Congo Basin and other biologically important regions, such as Indo-Malaya, Meso-America and Western Africa, where forest conservation also benefits people, biodiversity and our global climate. FAO interventions will integrate agri-food systems and ecosystem restoration approaches to address the drivers of deforestation and enable sustainable land management. 

Wildlife is an important food system component in certain regions, but food production systems contribute to human-wildlife conflict and can lead to disease spill-over affecting biodiversity, which can be transferred to people in the absence of effective biosecurity and other food safety interventions. In coordination with the Sustainable Wildlife Management Program and its partners, FAO will assist countries in improving wildlife conservation and food security through innovative, collaborative and scalable approaches to conserve wild animals, protect ecosystems, and improve the livelihoods of indigenous peoples and rural communities that depend on these resources. FAO’s One Health approach in planning and governance support will reduce conflicts and promote sustainable agricultural production for alternative food and income sources that reduce pressures on wildlife.

Aligned with FAO’s Green Cities Initiative, FAO is working to improve the livelihoods and well-being of people living in and around cities through enhancing green spaces, urban and peri-urban agriculture and forestry, urban-rural market linkages, and access to healthy diets, contributing to climate change mitigation and resilience. FAO will expand its support to governments and communities on these critical issues in GEF-8.

CBIT was created in 2016 to strengthen the institutional and technical capacities of developing countries to meet enhanced transparency requirements in Article 13 of the Paris Agreement. Since then, FAO has been supporting 17 national projects and 48 additional countries through global CBIT projects. FAO-CBIT projects build the capacity of AFOLU sectors and non-AFOLU sectors included in the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The CBIT is a separate program from the STAR and will be one of the baseline initiatives for the Net-Zero Nature-Positive Accelerator IP. At COP26, the GEF highlighted FAO’s important CBIT work on data management and knowledge sharing among countries. 

Healthy Planet, Healthy People

At the core of the GEF-8 framework is a Healthy Planet, Healthy People approach, recognizing the interdependency of human well-being and a healthy environment. FAO’s work on zoonotic diseases (e.g. COVID-19, SARS, MERS), anti-microbial resistance, and food systems, food safety and veterinary services are essential in a Healthy Planet, Healthy People approach. FAO will assist countries in developing and delivering projects that apply this approach in each Focal Area, Integrated Program, and other GEF investments such as the Small Grants Program. FAO’s support will promote a blue and green post-COVID-19 recovery, including through One Health strategies and sustainable agricultural production, agrobiodiversity conservation and resilient food systems.


Cross-cutting themes

FAO will also assist countries in addressing seven cross-cutting GEF-8 themes through project design and resource mobilization. These themes include circular economy, Nature-based Solutions, transboundary and freshwater environmental security, gender responsive approaches, behavior change, resilience, and private sector engagement.