The world’s population is predicted to increase to 9 billion people by 2050. Some of the world’s highest rates of population growth are predicted to occur in areas that are highly dependent on the agriculture sector (crops. Livestock, forestry and fisheries) and have high rates of food insecurity. Growth in the agriculture sector is one of the most effective means of reducing poverty and achieving food security.
Innovative approaches are needed across the agriculture sector to increase productivity, conserve natural resources, and use inputs sustainably and efficiently. Such approaches will require the participation of smallholders, women, indigenous peoples and marginalized groups.
Competition over natural resources, such as land, water and oceans, is intensifying and in many places is leading to the exclusion of traditional users from resources and markets. Social and demographic changes in rural areas also affect the labour available for production. The increasing movement of people and goods, and changes in production practices, give rise to new threats from pests, diseases and invasive alien species. Climate change reduces the resilience of production systems and contributes to natural resource degradation. The agriculture sector is both a contributor to, and impacted by, climate change. Improved practices and reducing deforestation and forest degradation offer significant potential for climate change adaptation and mitigation.
FAO’s vision for sustainable agriculture sector production systems requires integration across the sector and of social, economic and environmental considerations. It focuses on ways to ensure the transition to sustainable practices. FAO’s activities focus on:
- increasing resource use efficiency, to achieve higher productivity with reduced levels of inputs, while minimizing negative externalities;
- managing ecological, social and economic risks associated with agricultural sector production systems, including pests, diseases and climate change;
- identifying and enhancing the role of ecosystem services, particularly in terms of their effects on resource use efficiency and response to risks, as well as their contribution to environmental conservation; and
- facilitating access to needed information and technologies.
Sustainable development: a dynamic process
Given that sustainable development is a process, not a singularly defined end-point to be achieved, it requires the development of technical, governance and financing frameworks for the broad range of local needs and contexts, that support agriculture sector producers and resource managers engaged in a dynamic process of innovation. The use of sustainable production practices and technologies implies a more holistic view of agriculture sector production and its connection with natural resources. Such practices include, for example, agroforestry systems, crop–livestock integration and crop–aquaculture production, with connections among them to promote the conservation and use of ecosystem services.
FAO is working on integrated approaches to production that will:
- support the development, sharing and adaptation of locally-relevant technologies, explore approaches for assessing impact and vulnerability and for planning adaptation, and focus on addressing economic, institutional and financing barriers;
- create enabling frameworks for economically-, socially- and environmentally-sound production systems that embody resource use efficiency, diversification, climate change adaptation and mitigation, ecosystem services and accessibility;
- strengthen international and national governance mechanisms and instruments relevant to sustainable resource use, including building capacity for participation in the negotiation and implementation of international instruments;
- build capacity to access and use data to support policy and planning decisions.