Food and agriculture are essential keys to sustainable development and tools to eradicate poverty and hunger. They are linked to food security, rural development and economic growth, and directly linked to the conservation of natural resources, responding to climate change, and thus achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. As the world’s population continues to grow, the issue of food systems being out of balance becomes more urgent, with 815 million people going hungry, and every third person suffering from malnutrition.

 Transforming Food and Agriculture to Achieve the SDGs

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently published a report titled “Transforming food and agriculture to achieve the SDGs.” It contains a set of tools and guidelines that can help reform our broken food systems and accelerate the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) effective implementation. The report shows how food, agriculture, people’s livelihoods, and natural resource management are separated and dealt with as different issues and not as one issue. However, they all aim for the same goal; this vision has been translated into an approach that can support and accelerate the transition to more sustainable food and agricultural systems. The report presents five principles and twenty “interconnected actions” that balance the social, economic, and environmental dimensions of sustainability, help decision-makers design strategies, and develop action plans to accelerate the agricultural sectors’ transformation.

The report was designed as an educational tool and introduced five main principles:

  • Increase productivity, employment and value addition in food systems
  • Protect and enhance natural resources
  • Improve livelihoods and foster inclusive economic growth
  • Enhance the resilience of people, communities and ecosystems
  • Adapt governance to new challenges

Under the five principles, twenty actions are designed to support countries in selecting and prioritizing resources to accelerate progress. It identifies sectoral synergies that can catalyze the achievement of national goals and the achievement of results across the multiple goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda. The twenty actions also provide countries with a thread connecting several sectors of agriculture and rural development to the country’s broader development program that includes poverty eradication, national growth, job creation, natural resource wealth, and urban renewal.

In line with the 2030 Agenda’s call for transformation, many of the approaches described in the report are cross-sectoral and rely on government cooperation and stakeholder dialogue. It requires policymakers to recognize the need to manage trade-offs, and to put in place concrete measures to improve the alignment of multiple goals and incentive structures. It also encourages legal frameworks that recognize and guarantee access rights for smallholders and local communities, and favorable policies to stimulate private sector participation in sustainable market activities.

Private-sector partnerships promise technology development, knowledge transfer, innovation, job creation, and alternative revenue streams. Therefore, engaging with entrepreneurs and benefiting from the experience of the private sector, including agricultural producer organizations, cooperatives, small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as international companies, is a prerequisite for implementing the 2030 Agenda.

 Measuring progress transforming food and agriculture

The interconnectedness of the SDGs is beneficial to investors, researchers, and technical practitioners as well as decision-makers responsible for integrating the goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda.

Governments and stakeholders need to work together to develop more integrated programs and policies, linking different goals and objectives better. To enable real transformation, they must intensify efforts to monitor progress and identify and address barriers to change, signaling the way forward for sustainable food and agriculture to help countries achieve their development goals.

The central factor in achieving the SDGs will be the introduction of new and effective methods of collecting data, monitoring goals, and measuring progress. Decision-makers need better data to set measurable goals, design and monitor implementation of food security initiatives and social safety programs and define adequate support for agriculture and rural development. Data disaggregation will help transform food systems, achieving zero hunger, and leaving no one left behind.

 For a brighter future for everyone

Sustainable food and agriculture systems are the critical link between people and the planet. They have great potential to help us overcome many of our challenges, provide affordable, nutritious food, enhance livelihoods, revitalize rural and urban landscapes, achieve inclusive national growth, and drive positive change through the 2030 Agenda.

In its report, FAO paved the way for decision-makers, presenting twenty interlinked actions, describing approaches, policies, and tools that contribute to the many SDGs. These actions integrate the three dimensions of sustainable development, but these actions can only be achieved through the participation and partnerships between different actors and stakeholders.

Achieving SDGs requires transformative action. These twenty actions address the real issues countries face in building a world without poverty and hunger and a brighter future for all so that no one is left behind.

Photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash

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