Sustainable Food Systems

Building resilient, equitable and sustainable food and agricultural commodity systems

Learn more

Food is fundamental 

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

UNDP work on FACS focuses on three key areas: forest positive agriculture, sustainable landscapes, and food systems resilience - all of which address the key impacts that food systems have on nature. 

  • UNDP's vision is, through multi-stakeholder collaboration, to transform food and commodity systems into resilient, equitable, inclusive, environmentally, socially and economically sustainable systems.  
  • UNDP works in a holistic manner, with the understanding that Food and Agricultural Commodities are 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 facets thereof) simultaneously.
  • UNDP focuses on countries where shifting the production of food and agricultural commodities towards sustainability has the potential to address rural poverty and reduce the negative effects that food production can have on local and global ecosystems.  
Woman with fruits

UNDP is building trusted relationships with governments to:  

  • Integrate the Sustainable Development Goals with a broad development mandate, bringing a multi-disciplinary approach at country level, thereby linking inclusive growth, climate change, crisis recovery, forest conservation, landscape management, and gender equality to tackle the root causes of unsustainable food systems.
  • Bring its unique convening power to bear, facilitating a government- and society-wide approach, using multi-stakeholder collaboration for systemic change, and ensuring constructive dialogue and collaboration across ministries and stakeholders - from government to smallholder farmers to large corporations.  
  • Bring technical expertise in 170 countries to unlock synergies and build capacity for integrated work.  
  • Build partnerships and leverage strengths within UN sister agencies, IGO/NGO partners, and other stakeholders, including FAO, IFAD, WHO, UNEP and others. 
  • Support the implementation of global commitments including the Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Nationally Determined Contributions; the New York Declaration on Forests; the Convention on Biological Diversity, and others.  
  • Work across multiple geographical scales and organizational vectors, both top-down and bottom-up.  
  • Unlock and catalyse financing across the private and public sectors, with bilateral and multilateral funders. 

FACS initiatives  

  • Green Commodities Programme: Acts as a catalyst of mid to long-term national, structural and systemic commodity sector changes in support of sustainable agriculture.  

  • Good Growth Partnership: Convenes a wide range of stakeholders and initiatives to reduce deforestation and enable sustainable development in key global commodity supply chains driving land use change.  

  • From Commitment to Action: A UNDP flagship initiative piloted in Colombia, Peru and Ecuador to support governments and companies to accelerate a reduction in deforestation from agricultural commodities in key forest eco-regions. 

  • Global Dialogues: The New York Declaration on Forest, Sector Transformation in Coffee Exporting Countries, and The Forest, Agriculture and Commodity Trade Dialogue.  

  • Global Marine Commodities: Contributes to the transformation of the seafood market by mainstreaming sustainability in fishery commodity value chains from developing countries.  

  • Co-Inquiry for Food Systems Transformation: Exploring how we can accelerate systemic change in global food and agricultural systems.  

  • Conscious Food Systems Alliance: Supporting people from across food and agriculture systems to cultivate the inner capacities that activate systemic change and regeneration.  

  • Food Systems, Land Use and Restoration (FOLUR): Promoting sustainable, integrated landscapes and efficient commodity value chains.  

  • The Scaling up Climate Ambition on Land Use and Agriculture through Nationally Determined Contributions and National Adaptation Plans (SCALA): Responds to the urgent need for increased action to cope with climate change impacts in the agriculture and land use sectors.  

  • Value Beyond Value Chains: Increasing the effectiveness of private sector collaboration with national governments in developing countries to build the enabling conditions for the sustainable production of major agricultural commodity crops driving deforestation.  

  • Food Systems Country Support Facility: Seeks to provide customized country-level assistance for transformation of food systems. 

Learn more: UNDP FACS work

Reaping dividends

Transforming food systems is among the most powerful ways of reversing climate change and environmental degradation, and has the benefit of improving health and livelihoods around the world.  

Food and Agricultural Commodity Systems depend on nature and functioning ecosystems to be productive. However, current practices within food and agricultural systems can lead to deforestation, land and ecosystem degradation, pollution of water, air and soil, and significant greenhouse gas emissions.  

As we react to the intertwined crises of climate, biodiversity loss, conflict, and the cost of living, the world faces a remarkable opportunity to transform food and land use systems over the next ten years in a way that can reap significant societal and agroecological dividends, thereby moving from recovery to resilience. However, to achieve systemic change, remaining barriers must not be overlooked.  

Solutions and improvements in food and agricultural production and consumption are often expected to derive from technical, financial or technological innovations. At the same time, individual, institutional and societal innovations and best practices are also essential for change.

Fostering meaningful collaboration and reflection, and facilitating the inclusion of historically marginalized groups, requires patience, time and sustained commitment and support from participants, facilitators and sponsors.