Sustainable Development Goals

Greater investments in the agricultural sector can counter the current setbacks in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals

FAO’s report “Tracking progress on food and agriculture-related SDG indicators 2020” offers detailed analysis and trends on the SDG indicators under its custodianship


FAO has launched its second comprehensive assessment of 22 indicators across 6 SDGs (2, 5, 6, 12, 14 and 15). Available in a digital format, this year’s edition has also been enriched with an assessment of the progress made at national, regional and global levels towards the achievement of the SDG targets. This assessment is supported by a methodological annex and a dedicated table summarizing the main results.

According to the latest data and estimates collected before the COVID-19 pandemic started, progress remains insufficient in the food and agriculture domain. Now that an unprecedented health, economic and social crisis is threatening the lives and livelihoods of both rural and urban communities worldwide, eradicating hunger, achieving food security and preserving natural and genetic resources remain even more challenging.

For all of this year’s key findings, please visit the full report.

The report offers the following recommendations:

While there are certainly multiple threats to progress in the food and agriculture domain, including conflict, climate change, economic downturns and, most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic, there are a number of steps that countries and the international community can take to address the challenges identified in the report. For instance, many of these threats could be countered, at least to some extent, by higher investment in the agricultural sector (including fishery and forestry). By contrast, the report indicates that public expenditure in agriculture has declined in most regions of the world since 2000, which suggests an underinvestment in agriculture compared to the sector’s contribution to GDP.

Among the series of actions to put the world back on track to reach the Sustainable Development Goals related to food and agriculture, the report stresses the need to: increase spending on agriculture; support small-scale food producers;conserve plant and animal genetic resources for food and agriculture; and adopt measures to counter food price volatility. These interventions will be critical, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, for reversing the trends of rising hunger and for reducing the number of people living in extreme poverty.

Furthermore, the report calls on governments to adopt urgent and concrete measures to save water and increase water use efficiency in the regions most affected by high water stress; collect evidence to better target interventions at critical stages of the value chain with a view to reducing food losses and waste; and protecting terrestrial ecosystems, including by continuing to expand sustainable forest management and protected area coverage for terrestrial, freshwater and mountain areas, as well as by doing more to ensure access and benefit-sharing of genetic resources.

Finally, although many countries have taken legislative action to promote gender equality and to combat illegal fishing, the report warns that substantial progress is still needed to realize women’s land rights in the legal framework and in practice, as well as to ensure that illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing no longer represents a threat to the sustainability of fisheries worldwide.

In a dedicated section examining the impact of COVID-19 on agriculture and food statistics, the report also draws attention to how the pandemic is intensifying data scarcity problems at a time when timely, reliable information has become even more essential for immediate policy responses. Shifting to alternative data collection means and using new statistical methods to minimize data gaps will be crucial to reduce the impact on data availability and quality, and FAO has already unrolled a number of complementary initiatives to support countries towards this objective.

Related links

FAO and the food and agriculture-related SDGs

The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020

2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Food and Agriculture Microdata Catalogue (FAM)

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