UNDP FACS works in a holistic manner, considering Food and agricultural commodities as part of an interlinked, complex global system. Therefore, any attempt to tackle the crises in food and agricultural commodity production must take a systems approach and address multiple issues and multiple aspects of the issues, together.

Following this approach, UNDP FACS focus on 3 key areas. Click on the images below to discover them:

Our Mission

Food and Agricultural Commodity Systems (FACS) are fundamental to the sustainable development of the 170 countries UNDP supports. FACS are often the largest contributor to their economies; food and nutrition is fundamental for citizen health; and FACS have a key role to play in achieving the SDGs.

UNDP aims to shift to a new paradigm for food and agricultural commodity systems (FACS) based on diversified, resilient, agroecological systems and value chains which work simultaneously on achieving economic, environmental, social and health outcomes, with smallholders central to the transformation as the engine of economic development.

UNDP works to transform FACS through collaborative action among stakeholders, to build trust and generate breakthrough solutions on systemic issues. With the current multiple crises of climate change, conflict, food and fertilizer shortages and the cost of living increase, UNDP is supporting governments and other national actors to transition their FACS from recovery to resilience for them to become equitable, inclusive and environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable systems. 

As incremental change is not enough in the current scenario, we need to put food and nature at the heart of development. For this reason, UNDP launched the Nature Pledge, bolstering its commitment to provide accelerated and upscaled support to over 140 countries to reach their ambitious targets in the historic Global Biodiversity Framework. The Pledge builds around a Global Value Shift, to transform the value we place on nature and drive changes in people’s behaviour.

How FACS are linked to 

    Food and Agricultural commodity systems both contributes to climate change, and it largely affected by climate change. Agriculture, including the livestock sector, and its impact on soil, forests and other land uses represent around 30 precent of all GHG emissions. A handful of global agricultural commodities play an outsized role in tropical deforestation, with beef, soy and palm oil accounting for nearly 75 precent of all tropical deforestation. However, changes in temperatures and more frequent and severe droughts and floods poses huge challenges for farmers and threatens the global food security.

    This is why incorporating FACS into Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Climate Promise is so important, as climate change affects agricultural production and the whole value chain, and thus drives food insecurity, addressing the risks of climate change across the value chain, yielding significant mitigation and adaptation benefits to vulnerable small producers and rural communities at large. NDCs and development plans must therefore include sustainable practices, and adaptation measures for agriculture and food security, or they will fall short of assisting countries achieve resilience. These efforts will support global efforts to end hunger and poverty, build more effective farming practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and accelerate the ambition of the NDCs to the Paris Agreement.

    UNDP can help government formulate their development strategies and plans, including their NDCs and REDD+ strategies to address the impacts of FACS on the global climate, as well as working with countries to fine-tune the design of indicators, in line with the SDGs and NDCs, and to improve monitoring and evaluation systems and data systems on agricultural commodities.

    Food and agricultural commodity systems play a critical role in ending poverty in all its forms and reducing inequalities. Agriculture is the largest employer in low-income countries, accounting for 60 precent of the labour force and producing 25 percent of GDP. More than two-thirds of all people surviving on less than USD 1 a day live and work in rural areas either as smallholder farmers or as agricultural laborers. Rural women are particularly vulnerable as they form the majority of those unpaid contributing family workers in family farms and are less likely to have access to land and productive resources.

    We cannot achieve SDG1 (No Poverty) without improving the lives and livelihoods of poor rural producers especially when climate change is disrupting food availability, reducing access to food and affecting food quality and nutrition. Improving food and agricultural commodity systems to benefit the millions of smallholder farmers producing the bulk of the world’s food is a fast track to keeping people out of poverty. Poverty reduction strategies such as land rights and access to credit can contribute to improved rural producer livelihoods and security. In helping governments developing policies on social protection, labour, rural development and land management, among others, UNDP makes sure that the needs of farmers, family farm members and rural women and men are included.

    System-wide food and agricultural commodity transformation requires significant financial resources, yet finance at national and global levels are currently not aligned to incentivize sustainable and healthy food and agricultural commodity systems. Global markets and financial investments continue to drive deforestation for agricultural production, and foreign direct investment, and food and agricultural subsidies is increasing the availability, affordability and consumption of unsustainable and unhealthy food and drinks.

    The financial sector and governments need to rethink the way agriculture is subsidized and supported, as the current majority (87 precent) of USD 540 billion annual support to agricultural producers is either price distorting or harmful to nature and health. Repurposing this support represents a significant opportunity to help transform food systems, support climate action, and achieve the SDGs. Based on current trends this support could reach USD 1.8 trillion by 2030. There is therefore a clear need for action at country, regional and global levels to phase out the most distortive, environmentally, and socially harmful support, such as price incentives and coupled subsides, and redirect it towards investments in public goods and services for agriculture, such as research and development and infrastructure, as well as decoupled fiscal subsidies.

    UNDP need to support in aligning food system policies, subsidies, investment finance and economic incentives (including consumer and market demand) to increase responsible investments and finance supporting sustainable food and agricultural commodity supply chains, and improve market and financial incentive for producers to shift to more sustainable production. Furthermore, support countries to mobilize, access and program bilateral and multilateral finance to address national, regional and global development challenges, and develop financing strategies, policies and related tools and mechanisms to unlock national budgets and private finance (including microfinance and micro-insurance) to tackle development challenges.

    The food, agricultural commodity and energy systems are not aligned, resulting in competition between the use of productive land for biofuels or food crops with impact on food security. This misalignment has several facets. First, percentage of crops grown for biofuels is increasing, and this proportion is expected to grow significantly to meet increasing demand. Second, rural people rely heavily on biomass for their fuel – more than three out of five families have no access to clean cooking solutions and cook with charcoal, straw or wood, and more than a billion people live without access to energy, 85 percent of whom are rural, and presumably farm for a living. Yet reliable energy is essential for productive farm households and solving competing interests for food versus biofuel is critically important to stem biodiversity loss around the world.

    According to FAO, current food systems use about 30 precent of globally available energy, and this energy accounts for about 30 precent of agri-food systems greenhouse gas emissions because modern food systems are heavily dependent on fossil fuels. 70 precent of the energy consumed by agri-food systems occurs after food leaves farms, in transportation, processing, packaging, shipping, storage, marketing, etc. Additionally, the estimated one-third of food lost or waste, accounts for approximately 38 precent of energy consumed in food systems. Energy is essential for the agricultural sector, food security and development, and it is crucial to find green and resilient solutions that can support sustainable food system transformation.

    Focusing on renewable energy solutions within the food and agricultural commodity system can alleviate drudgery, increase productivity, expand incomes, enable rural producers to avoid food loss and assist in achieving SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy). Rural producers are also one of the most significant targets for closing the energy gap, with more than 17.3 precent of rural people still having no access to electricity in 2020. Developing the renewable energy infrastructure and supporting to the development of a sustainable energy sector will improve access to clean, renewable and affordable energy for producers. UNDP needs to help government align agricultural, biofuel and climate policies to achieve these goals.

    Global and regional trade play an important role in achieving sustainable food system transformation, poverty reduction and achieve more inclusive and sustainable development, as it can assist in providing livelihoods for farmers and people employed along the value chain, reduce food insecurities across the global and provide better choices in consumer goods. The global food system has become more “global”, as exports from developing countries, and emerging economies made up more than one-third of global agri-food exports by 2018, with around a third of global agricultural and food exports traded within global value chains, according to FAO. Agri-food value chains have been driven by foreign direct investment and trade, allowing companies to operate across multiple regions and making it easier for developing countries to integrate into global markets.

    However, trade is currently falling short in being fully economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable, with the producing countries largely facing the challenges in an effort to comply to international measures and standards (e.g. trade costs, environmental and social cost). For example, in the past the challenge of sustainable commodity production and reducing deforestation has been seen as primarily the responsibility of producing countries. Trade rules, agreements and commitments needs to be updated and enhanced so that they ensure food security, favour smallholders, and promote environmentally sustainable practices. Therefore, working closely with governments and other stakeholders, UNDP needs to support in strengthening capacities to formulate, implement and monitor trade policy and programmes relevant to food and agricultural commodity systems and broader sustainable development themes.