Advocating for farmers in new global Food Systems Integrated Program

April 27, 2023

Ensuring food security and farmer livelihoods while reducing the environmental footprint of agriculture under an increasingly variable climate is a huge challenge all countries—rich and poor—share. Global and national policies and resources are needed to equip farmers with environmentally sound solutions as natural resources shrink and populations increase. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) are developing a joint, new program to meet these multiple challenges and direct $230 million to promote global and country-level transformation of food systems into nature-positive, resilient and pollution-reduced systems (program announcement).  This new Food Systems Integrated Program focuses on creating sustainable production systems and supporting efficient value/supply chains in selected food crops, commercial commodities, livestock, and aquaculture.

Solutions from the Land and other stakeholders have been invited to comment and provide input into the development of the guidelines for this new program. Lois Wright Morton, farmer and board member of SfL, says, “Solutions from the Land fully supports this important integrated effort for farmers, ranchers, fishers and foresters to improve agricultural and food production. Increases in production must be accomplished with fewer resourceswhile concurrently delivering biodiversity, quality ecosystem services, increased food and nutrition security, robust rural livelihoods, and a host of other sustainable development goals (SDGs).”

Ernie Shea, SfL president, notes that this new program reaffirms the SfL May 2022 intervention, “The role of agriculture in concurrently delivering ecosystem services and food and nutrition security,” submitted as a candidate for FAO HLPE 3rd Note on Critical, Emerging and Enduring Issues. Shea says, “This new Food System Integrated Program offers SfL an opportunity to further elaborate how farmers can concurrently produce an abundance of nutritious food while protecting soil, water and other ecosystem resources.”

“Integrated farming systems have great potential to maintain high yields; improve soil-water dynamics; and control weeds, disease and insects while sustaining natural environments and resources,” Morton says. Integrated agricultural systems include integrated crop-livestock-forestry systems; aquaculture-rice systems; cropping systems that use moderate intensity integrated agronomic practices (e.g.,  no-till, nutrient management, crop residue retention); and circular systems that reuse-recycle products, retain on-farm nutrients, protect soil and water resources, and add value to farm production systems.

On behalf of SfL, Morton reviewed the draft program, made comments and proposed edits, modifications, and recommendations.

One recommendation was that the drafting team rethink their use of the “Theory of Change” planning model and adopt a “Change of Theory,” that would put farmers, ranchers, fishers and foresters at the center of all discussions and place much greater emphasis on enabling policies, programs and mechanisms that incentivize and reward them financially when they deliver both high-quality, nutritious food and a full range of ecosystem services.

“The SDGs cannot be achieved unless agricultural contributions are fully enabled,” Morton says. “For agriculture to be successful, farmers must be successful in sustainably intensifying production of the full range of goods and services that come from well managed environmentally responsible farming operations.”

Furthermore, she called for the global initiative to emphasize that each country receiving funds engage their farmers, fishers, ranchers, foresters as they develop their own country-specific policies, programs, projects and investments.

Morton recommended language that would:

  • Highlight the positive, not just negative, impacts of land management on the environment and farmer-driven opportunities for environmental improvement. 
  • Identify increased competition for water resources and increased competition for land resources as challenges for sustainable agriculture.
  • Raise respect and awareness of farmers, ranchers, foresters and fishers as the beginning of the food system, for example, noting “inadequate governance and active engagement of food system producers and directly affected food system stakeholders,” and “lack of appreciation or valuation of ecosystem services delivered by producers” as barriers to sustainable agriculture.
  • Advocate for “markets that actually incentivize production of ecosystem services.”
  • Emphasize the need for multistakeholder collaborations and farmer-to-farmer exchanges.
  • Promote circular systems and technologies that “recover discarded wastes for productive uses, continually reuse products and materials, protect and renew natural systems, and provide economic benefits.”
  • Encourage investments in science-based monitoring of agroecosystems over time.

Find Solutions from the Land’s full recommendations and observations in the “New Food System Integrated Program to support the transformation of food systems into nature-positive, resilient and pollution free systems.”

More information about the Food Systems Integrated Program along with comments from other international agriculture and environment groups is available online.

These comments, including Morton’s, will be presented to the Global Environment Facility Council, likely in June, for their approval. The input will guide projects in Argentina, Benin, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Chad, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Eswatini, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Türkiye.

SfL will also be spotlighting these same points next week in Rome at the IAFN Climate, Science and Innovation forum on May 3 followed by the Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture annual forum on May 4 and May 5. The following week, in Washington, D.C., SfL is holding a special side event at the AIM for Climate Summit, co-hosted by the United States and United Arab Emirates, where we will again showcase technologies and innovative circular approaches, systems, and practices used by producers to deliver food security and better nutrition while concurrently producing improved livelihoods, better and more healthy agroecosystems, enhanced biodiversity, and high-value terrestrial solutions to climate change. Stay tuned for updates from these and other forums where SfL’s farmer envoys are helping shape the future of global agriculture.

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An Agricultural Renaissance, led by innovative and entrepreneurial farmers, ranchers and foresters constructing sustainable, profitable and resilient systems that lay the foundation for a world of abundance on many scales capable of producing nutritious food, feed, fiber, clean energy, healthy ecosystems, quality livelihoods, and strong rural economies.