Food security

Sustainable Development Goal 2

End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

Overview

Food security and sustainable agriculture have been identified as priority issues for the sustainable development goals. Biodiversity contributes directly to food security, nutrition and human well-being. Biodiversity is essential to the provision of food and is an important determinant of food quality. The thousands of different crop varieties and animal breeds are founded in the rich genetic pool of species. Biodiversity is the basis for soil fertility, pollination and pest control and key aspects for producing food for a growing population.

Agriculture is a major user of natural resources such as land, soil, water and nutrients. Sustainable agriculture aims to use water, land, nutrients and other natural resources efficiently or at the rate they are replenished so that resources are conserved and other ecosystem services are sustained, with the potential to also reduce poverty and ensure food security. The conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity for food and agriculture play a critical role in the fight against hunger, by ensuring environmental sustainability while increasing food and agriculture production in a world faced with the impacts of climate change and a growing population. Sustainable agriculture is important to ensure the biodiversity that provides the very basis for agriculture.

Challenges

The major challenges for agriculture are to ensure food security, provide adequate nutrition, support fair agricultural product prices and stable livelihoods for all by increasing food production while adopting sustainable and efficient agriculture. According to the fourth edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook, drivers linked to agriculture account for 70% of the projected loss of terrestrial biodiversity. Global demand for food as well as non-food agricultural products (e.g. biofuels) is increasing, and more resource-intensive foods (for example animal protein) represent a great part of this demand. As a result, unsustainable practices in agriculture, aquaculture and forestry still cause substantial environmental degradation and biodiversity loss.

Over the past decades, biodiversity has been lost at an unprecedented rate in all ecosystems, including agro-ecosystems. Between 1985 and 2005, the world’s crops and pasture expanded by 154 million hectares. Agriculture is estimated to be the proximate driver of around 80% of deforestation worldwide. Homogenization of agricultural production systems, mainly due to intensification of agricultural systems coupled with specialization by plant and animal breeders and the harmonizing effects of globalization, is one of the greatest causes of agricultural biodiversity loss, through genetic erosion and the increasing levels of genetic vulnerability of specialized crops and livestock.

By implementing the CBD programme of work on agricultural biodiversity, and its specialized initiatives on soil biodiversity, pollinators, and food and nutrition, governments can contribute to the achievement of the proposed targets for Goal 2 of the SDGs.

The conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity should be the cornerstone of sustainable food production systems and resilient agricultural practices. Protecting biodiversity has the potential to increase productivity and production, help maintain ecosystems, strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters. Over time, protecting biodiversity including soil biodiversity can progressively improve land and soil quality.

Since the 1900s, some 75% of crop diversity has been lost from farmers’ fields. Implementing the Convention on Biological Diversity can contribute to maintaining the genetic diversity of seeds, cultivated plants, farmed and domesticated animals and their related wild species, for example through supporting soundly managed and diversified seed and plant banks at national, regional and international levels. The Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing can also contribute to maintaining genetic diversity for agriculture by ensuring access to and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge.

Messages

  • Progress in reducing food insecurity and malnutrition has been uneven. Persistently high levels of hunger and malnutrition (nearly 870 million people suffered from chronic undernourishment in 2010-2012) still exist, particularly in the rural areas of developing countries.
  • To reorient food consumption towards diets that are less-resource intensive and more nutritious will be crucial for food sustainability.
  • To meet the demand for food, feed, fuel and fibre, agricultural systems need to become more productive and less wasteful. They must be more efficient and more sustainable in terms of their use, and effects on, the natural resource base and ecosystems.
  • Sustainable agricultural systems are likely to be associated with more targeted use of external inputs, a more integrated approach to managing natural resources and biodiversity, and more analysis at the landscape/ecosystem level together with better management of ecosystem services.
  • Agricultural ecosystems also have to provide other important ecosystem services such as water provision, pollination, flood and disease control and maintenance of soil fertility.
  • 500 million small farms worldwide provide up to 80% of the food consumed in a large part of the developing world. Investing in smallholder women and men is an important way to increase food security and nutrition for the poorest, as well as food production for local and global markets.
  • Agriculture is the largest source of income and jobs for poor, rural households. In developing countries, agriculture accounts for 29% of GDP and 65% of jobs.
  • Biodiversity has proven economic value for agricultural systems. For instance, bees and other insects that pollinate crops are estimated to be worth more than US$ 200 billion per year to the global food economy.
  • It is crucial to secure access rights over natural resources and biodiversity as well as to enhance and harness ecosystem services for food security based on sustainable agriculture.
  • Traditional knowledge can make a significant contribution to sustainable food production as most indigenous peoples and local communities are situated in areas where the vast majority of the world's genetic resources are found, and many have cultivated and used biodiversity in a sustainable way for thousands of years.