FAO Regional Office for Near East and North Africa

Biodiversity for food and agriculture: the foundation of our food systems

Biodiversity for food and agriculture: the foundation of our food systems


07/11/2023 , Amman

The loss of biodiversity is seriously undermining our ability to feed and nourish an ever-growing global population. Biodiversity includes not only the plants and animals that we eat and that provide feed, fuel and fibre. Biodiversity for food and agriculture also includes the myriad of organisms that support food production: The beetles, worms and micro-organisms that keep soils fertile; the insects and birds that pollinate our crops and keep pests in check, the animals and plants that nourish the fish we catch and the trees and plants that filter our water and regulate our climate.

From 7 to 9 November 2023, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Federation for Beekeepers Associations (Apimondia) will hold a Regional Workshop on Taking Action on Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture in Near East and North Africa. The meeting, hosted by the National Agricultural Research Center of Jordan, will be opened by Her Royal Highness Princess Basma bint Ali. High-level experts and national focal points from the region will discuss ways and means to improve the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use genetic resources for food and agriculture.

The diversity of the world’s domesticated crops, livestock and farmed fish is a vital resource for producers and breeders faced with rapidly changing production environments, markets and societal demands. Wild plants and animals, aquatic invertebrates and forest trees, but also a vast variety of other species, are a key source of nutrition and livelihoods for many. “Yet,” as Dan Leskien, Officer in charge of FAO’s Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, points out, “the status of biodiversity and the threats it faces are worrying. As a result of the climate crisis, human behaviour and other drivers, key ecosystems continue to shrink and degrade; species populations are declining; extinctions proliferate; production systems are becoming more homogenous; and genetic diversity is lost.”

The regional workshop will therefore consider ways and means to facilitate the implementation of a Framework for Action on Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture, adopted by the FAO Members in 2019, shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Through the Framework for Action FAO Members responded to FAO’s 2019 report on The State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture, the first-ever report of its kind. The report, prepared under the guidance of FAO’s Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, provides a global assessment of the status and management of biodiversity for food and agriculture, drawing on information provided by 91 countries and reports from international organizations.

The workshop is being held at a time when biodiversity is high on the agenda in many international fora. In December 2022, Contracting Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity adopted the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. The Framework calls upon countries “to ensure that areas under agriculture, aquaculture, fisheries and forestry are managed sustainably, in particular through the sustainable use of biodiversity, including through a substantial increase of the application of biodiversity friendly practices, such as sustainable intensification, agroecological and other innovative approaches, contributing to the resilience and long-term efficiency and productivity of these production systems, and to food security, conserving and restoring biodiversity and maintaining nature’s contributions to people, including ecosystem functions and services.” The importance of biodiversity for food and agriculture is also recognized by the Sharm el-Sheik joint work plan on implementation of climate action on agriculture and food security.

Nabil Assaf, FAO Representative in Jordan, expressed optimism about the chances of governments taking action on biodiversity for food and agriculture: “Governments increasingly recognize that biodiversity provides an important reservoir of solutions to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Biodiversity increases the range of options that farmers may draw upon to adapt their production strategies to changing conditions. Biodiversity for food and agriculture means resilience, the ability to recover from and adapt to disasters and other shocks.”

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