No green economy without food and nutrition security


The agricultural sector – including crops, livestock, forestry, fisheries and food processing – will play a vital role in the transition to a green economy. Croplands, pastures and forests occupy 60 percent of terrestrial land, agriculture uses 70 percent of globally withdrawn freshwater, and the sector as a whole provides livelihoods for 40 percent of the world’s population.

The agricultural sector depends heavily on natural resources for its production processes and can both cause environmental harm and provide environmental benefits. While current practices contribute to over one third of global greenhouse gas emissions, good management practices can result in an almost carbon-neutral sector, as well as the creation of environmental services and the generation of renewable energy, while also achieving food security.

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The agricultural sector can also be an engine for economic development and the creation of millions of green jobs, especially in the poorest countries. Consequently, there can be no green economy without the agricultural sector. At the same time, food and nutrition security will have to be achieved as an integral part of the green economy.

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This is because food and agriculture systems are threatened by climate change, resource degradation and poverty – the same problems that the green economy is designed to tackle. Only an economic system that results in improved human wellbeing and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities, will be able to deliver food security for over nine billion people, by 2050, in a resource-constrained world

Green jobs for smallholders

Small rural households, which still constitute two-fifths of humanity, are increasingly
under pressure and agricultural employment and opportunities have to be increased
in a green economy. Out-migration from rural areas is expanding urban slums, with
concurrent inability of these poor urban dwellers to access food and water.

Support to
smallholders is essential to both achieving food security and preserving natural resources.
Farming, forestry and fisheries operations in both developed and developing countries
play a fundamental role in the provision of landscape management and the provision of
ecological and cultural services.

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More diverse food systems and off-farm diversification
– such as value addition, rural-urban food networks, agri- and eco-tourism, small-scale
forest-based enterprises – offer livelihood opportunities in employment-scarce settings
(especially, but not only, in least developed countries), while improving land stewardship

Sustainability through nutritious diets

In a world facing increasing competition for scarce resources (e.g. water), resource degradation (e.g. soils), increased uncertainty (e.g. climate change), volatility (e.g. fuel and food prices), conflict (e.g. land tenure) and wastage (e.g. one third of all food is lost during post-harvest handling and retailing), food and nutrition security has become an issue of efficiency, resilience to shocks and distributional equity.

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The problem of undernourishment, with roughly one billion people going hungry, is super-imposed by the problem of micronutrient malnutrition, with roughly 1.7 billion people1 overweight and obese. At both ends of the spectrum, individuals are not deriving sufficient nutrition from their diets.

Improving nutrition through better diets can also reduce the ecological impact of dietary choices. A shift to more sustainable diets would trigger upstream effects on the food production (e.g. diversification) and processing chain. Improved diets, in terms of micro-nutrients density and quality will be more sustainable, resulting in substantial gains for both the environmental and public health

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