FAO at forefront of global efforts to build partnership between agri-food systems and conservation

FAO Director-General QU Dongyu addresses World Conservation Congress in Marseille

06/09/2021 - Rome/Marseille - The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is at the forefront of efforts to restore and maintain a positive relationship between agri-food systems and conservation by promoting sustainable practices around the world.

That was the key message of FAO Director-General QU Dongyu in his address to a High-level dialogue at the World Conservation Congress, currently underway in the French city of Marseille.

The September 3-11 congress, which is hosted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), seeks to set priorities and drive conservation and sustainable development action.

Agriculture accounts for nearly 40 percent of the global land surface and around 70 percent of freshwater use, making it heavily dependent on biodiversity and ecosystem services. Agri-food sectors are very vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis while at the same time are responsible for about 34% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions ,  making them an essential component in mitigating and adaptating to climate change. According to FAO's Director-General, green and climate resilient agri-food systems can offer key solutions to the biodiversity and environmental crises.

"By scaling up sustainable practices, we can reduce negative impacts on the environment and conserve biodiversity across shared and productive landscapes and seascapes," Qu said today in a video message.

Seeking convergence between agriculture and the environment

Unsustainable farming contributes to a reduction in biodiversity, for example through soil degradation and the loss of habitat. The aim of Monday's High level dialogue was to address the challenge by  strengthening the convergence between agri-food systems, conservation and biodiversity ahead of this month's UN Food Systems Summit , the COP 15 UN Biodiversity Conference, which takes place in October in Kunming, China, and the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference, which takes place in Glasgow later this year.

It follows a Global Dialogue on the Role of Food and Agriculture in the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, which was co-hosted in July by FAO and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The Dialogue brought together ministers, scientists, family farmers, the private sector and civil society and sought to explore ways of boosting biodiversity-friendly practices.

Biodiversity not only makes essential contributions to rural livelihoods and the environment, it also helps secure food security and nutrition.
"The nexus between biodiversity, healthy diets and the climate crisis is essential," Qu said.

The July meeting also highlighted the importance of addressing inequalities.

"This includes the need to recognize and protect the rights of Indigenous Peoples, local communities, women, youth, small-scale producers and family farmers who can make important contributions as the custodians of biodiversity," Qu said today.

Being part of the solution

FAO is already helping its Members achieve such objectives as the custodian agency for several biodiversity-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), for instance by helping build capacity on data collection, monitoring, and reporting. At the country-level, this includes more than 800 FAO projects worth in excess of  $2 billion in investments.

Bold examples that can serve as inspiration include Africa's Great Green Wall, an initiative to grow an 8,000km strip of plants and trees across some of the continent's most arid areas. The project is already transforming the lives of millions of people in the Sahel region. Once completed, it aims to restore 100 million hectares of currently degraded land, sequester 250 million tonnes of carbon, and create 10 million jobs.

"FAO is committed to support its Members to transform to more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agri-food systems for better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life for all, leaving no one behind," Qu said.

Photo courtesy of GIAHS (Rice Terraces in Southern Mountainous and Hilly areas, China).
China - Rice Terraces in Southern Mountainous and Hilly areas.