Sustainability Pathways

Greening the Economy with Agriculture (GEA)

Taking stock of potential, options and prospective challenges

The world is being confronted with a multitude of crises, from food and fuel crises to climate and financial crisis. In the last few decades, 60 percent of world’s ecosystems have been degraded, global carbon emissions have risen by 40 percent, significant water and oil scarcity may be less than a decade away, one billion people are going hungry, another one billion people suffer from over-nutrition and related diseases, one in four people in developing countries live in absolute poverty, two billion people live on less than $2 a day, inequality within OECD nations has increased and the financial crisis of 2008 brought questions on the sustainability of the dominant economic model. An economy respectful of our Earth boundaries requires rethinking the nature of progress and providing instruments that safeguard ecological systems, stabilize the economy and secure people’s livelihoods.

On the one hand agriculture including fisheries and forestry heavily draw upon natural resources, since they occupy over 60 percent of Earth surface, fishery activities can be found on virtually any marine and terrestrial water body and farming uses 70 percent of water withdrawals. On the other hand, besides being activities necessary for everybody’s life and wellbeing, they provide livelihoods for 40 percent of today’s global population. Thus the food and agriculture sector is critical in any efforts of greening the economy.

FAO has been examining how the green economy translates into the food and agriculture sector. Greening the Economy with Agriculture (GEA) seeks to contribute to the definition and implementation of the green economy in the context of sustainable development, food security and poverty alleviation through the mobilization of the food and agriculture sector. It analyzes (a) the interactions between the green economy and the food and agriculture sector, including opportunities and constraints; and (b) the bridges among different types of stakeholders and between constituencies, notably between agriculture and environment, while strengthening the overall resilience of countries to exogenous shocks.

As part of the GEA initiative, FAO organized broad stakeholder consultations through an FAO/UNCTAD/Biovision side event in New York on 8 March 2011. Studies have been made and reviewed at a joint FAO/OECD Expert Meeting on Greening the Economy with Agriculture in Paris, France, from 5 to 7 September 2011. The outcome went to the 143th Session of the FAO Council (28 November to 2 December 2011) which endorsed the GEA messages and definition.

"GEA refers to ensuring the right to adequate food, as well as food and nutrition security – in terms of food availability, access, stability and utilization – and contributing to the quality of rural livelihoods, while efficiently managing natural resources and improving resilience and equity throughout the food supply chain, taking into account countries’ individual circumstances.

GEA can be achieved by applying an ecosystem approach to agriculture, forestry and fisheries management in a manner that addresses the multiplicity of societal needs and desires, without jeopardizing the options for future generations to benefit from the full range of goods and services provided by terrestrial, aquatic and marine ecosystems. Therefore, GEA strives to:

  • achieve food and nutrition security through an appropriate balance between domestic production and trade;

  • contribute to achieving the right to adequate food for all;

  • ensure decent rural livelihoods;

  • use traditional and scientific knowledge to maintain healthy ecosystems that integrate food production and respect natural resource constraints.”

    CL 143/18, paras 7-8.

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