Qu Dongyu, director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), has said that agrifood systems must be part of the solution to the loss of biodiversity and the climate crisis facing the planet.
He was speaking at a high-level Ministerial Meeting on Sustaining Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services for Food Security on Friday (June 16).
“Despite progress, today we are facing alarming rates of biodiversity loss, jeopardising food security and nutrition, poverty eradication, prevention of natural disasters and climate change mitigation and adaptation,” Qu said.
With as many as 828 million people worldwide facing hunger in 2021, and 3.1 billion unable to afford a healthy diet in 2020, “the urgency is clear” he added.
The FAO Director-General emphasised that there needs to be genetic diversity to adapt agrifood systems to climate change, emerging pests, pathogens, and changing ecological conditions. He said that there needs to be a diversity of species for diverse foods; and that there needs to be healthy ecosystems to provide water, regulate the climate, and provide resilience against disasters.
QU pointed out that despite the acknowledged needs, many drivers of biodiversity loss can be found in inappropriate agricultural practices.
“My message is clear: agrifood systems must be part of the solution to the biodiversity and climate crises. This means promoting improved practices that can help address trade-offs, maintain ecosystems, improve land and soil quality, reduce input use, and strengthen the resilience and adaptation capacity of farming systems to extreme weather events linked to climate change,” Qu said.
Working on solutions
The interlinkages between food security and biodiversity are recognised in the recently adopted Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, which sets out an ambitious pathway for a world living in harmony with nature. More than half of its 23 targets for 2030 are directly related to agrifood systems, which encompass the full food and non-food range of agricultural products, from production to consumption.
Agriculture Ministers attending the G20 were therefore encouraged by Qu to be actively engaged in ensuring that their biodiversity commitments “are holistically implemented, considering environmental degradation, social impacts and economic opportunities for the agricultural sectors.”
The FAO reports that it is already working with its Members and partners to scale up biodiversity-friendly practices in crop and livestock production, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture through its Strategy on Mainstreaming Biodiversity across Agricultural Sectors.
The organisation’s support includes practical guides, tools and other normative or policy instruments for the implementation of the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries and Aquaculture, sustainable forest management, diversification approaches, integrated pest management and agroecology.
FAO, along with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), also co-lead the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration – partnering to prevent, halt, and reverse the degradation of ecosystems on every continent and in every ocean.
During the Plenary Session on Sustainable Agriculture for Food Security and Nutrition, Qu reminded his audience about the multiple challenges facing our efforts to feed a growing global population sustainably. These include conflicts and economic hardship; weather extremes, such as heavy rains, tropical storms, cyclones, flooding and drought; as well as rising food, fuel and fertiliser prices.
“To transform our agrifood systems to become more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable, we need to accelerate and intensify actions and boost investments in agriculture,” Qu said.
The FAO has developed two important strategies in this regard: the Strategy on Climate Change and the Science and Innovation Strategy.
“Their implementation should get us closer to the Zero Hunger goal,” the FAO director-general said.
FAO is also hosting the Food Systems Summit Hub and developing a roadmap to lower greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural activities to achieve the 1.5 degrees Celsius target set by the Paris Agreement, while enabling the sector to step up to the challenge of eradicating hunger.
“Achieving Zero Hunger under 1.5 degrees will require significant investments, and FAO is working through its Hand-in-Hand Initiative to accelerate investments for the transformation of agrifood systems,” Qu said.
Send feedback to [email protected]