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Development Account Projects

Capacity-building in national planning for sustainable
food production


Recent major increases in food prices caused substantial concern worldwide, particularly on whether demand will gradually outgrow supply, and require a rapid expansion of food supply and increased efficiency in food production and delivery. Food prices are influenced by a range of factors such as biofuels production, oil prices, freshwater resources, production costs, increased meat production, and the governance of distribution and access to food. These factors are further compounded by climate change and natural disasters, and in particular the severe demand for irrigation for a large share of the proposed increase in food production as nearly 70 per cent of the water expenditure is related to irrigation. The Secretary-General requested the United Nations agencies to respond by assessing whether the food price increases may be part of a longer-term arising problem. A High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Crisis under the lead of the Secretary-General was established, which developed the Comprehensive Framework for Action on how to respond to the global food crisis in a coherent and coordinated manner. The Secretary-General stated that there is a need to increase food production by 50 per cent by 2030 to meet increasing demand. Countries are actively working to increase their food production to meet food security targets with little attention paid to the potential environmental impact this may cause. The first part of the equation pertains to the need for a better understanding of the drivers of the food price increases and to identify appropriate policy responses to avert further aggravation of the present food insecurity.

The second part of the equation is to understand the impact that increases in food or biofuels production will have on ecosystems and their services. Increased food production can cause an increased use of water, pesticides and fertilizers, as well as of genetically modified organisms. Loss of biodiversity as a source of genetic traits critical to future climate change adaptation in the food production cycle will be critical to supplying food over time and in a changing world. The sustainability of these initiatives is still unknown and there is a strong need for such an analysis.

This project aims at addressing the increasing food security deficits and decline in ecosystem services by conducting pilot studies for strengthening the capacity of national policymakers and stakeholders in two food-insecure countries in Asia and in Africa through: (a) better understanding of the principal drivers of food insecurity; (b) undertaking economic valuation of ecosystem services with relevance to food production and ecosystem management; and (c) undertaking trade-off analyses of food production and use of ecosystems for other services. The findings will feed into national food production strategies which will attempt to balance food production and ecosystem management in order to ensure long-term sustainability of both.

The project builds upon recommendations from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and recent major reports on these aspects. The project will be implemented by UNEP which is currently preparing the Rapid Response Assessment Report on the world food crisis in joint collaboration with UNDP, FAO, which has been given the task of overseeing the Secretary-General's recommendation to increase food production by 50 per cent by 2030, the International Council for Research in Agroforestry, which is promoting science-based knowledge about agroforestry, the use of its research to advance policies and practices to benefit the poor and the environment, and tree-based solutions to global problems of rural poverty, hunger and environmental degradation, and other organizations with main activities in this area.


To strengthen the capacity at the national level on planning for sustainable food production using an ecosystem management approach in two countries.

Expected accomplishments:

  • Increased understanding of the trade-offs between food production and ecosystem management by focusing on the three aspects, ecosystem resilience, economic development and human well-being, among national stakeholders
  • Increased interlinkage of national stakeholders with national and international networks and improved capacity at the national level to plan and design a sustainable food production strategy using an ecosystem management approach
  • Increased integration of environmental and sustainability considerations with regard to food production and ecosystem management in national planning for achieving sustainable food security

Implementation status: