Empowering Communities to Lead the Transformation of Food and Land Use

SDSN extends the scope of its FELD Action Tracker to catalyze policy action in countries

One year into the SDSN-led initiative to establish a global Food, Environment, Land and Development (FELD) Action Tracker , the team is excited about the opportunity to add a dedicated country component in the new Catalyst project: practical support to local solutions for sustainable food and land use, joint learning and the sharing of lessons and good practices with other countries.

Support for the FELD Catalyst, based at the SDSN Food/Land Team in Paris, will be provided by the Germany-based Robert Bosch Stiftung , one of Europe’s most significant foundations. The Foundation’s goals and commitments are closely aligned with our own, with a priority to focus on global issues to promote a “regenerative world, in which life and livelihoods are sustained by a just transition of land use – in keeping with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement”.

Supporting systemic transformation towards sustainable food and land use

Working closely with our partners in the Food and Land Use Coalition (FOLU), our team will be involved in a small number of FOLU partner countries in South America and Sub-Saharan Africa. The focus will be on empowering local communities, policy professionals, and scientists in their efforts to identify, design, and accelerate the implementation of local solutions to address urgent challenges around food, nature, and land use management. In most places, a few reforms and changes won’t be sufficient – in fact, as systemic challenges involving international trade, they require a deeper transformation at the core of the SDGs. This was also recognized most recently at the UN Food Systems Summit in the context of the UN Climate Conference in Glasgow (COP26). Taken together, national food systems and current land use and their associated sectors are estimated to contribute about a third of the global emissions of greenhouse gases that cause the warming of the earth’s atmosphere.

Facilitating local solutions that fit local needs and contexts

Across the world, aspects of food, nature, and land use are inherently contextual and complex. What they have in common, however, is that almost everywhere they need to be adjusted and realigned with changing needs and priorities, and to a warming planet: current land use and food systems don’t support healthy, sustainable diets but are responsible for and contribute to under- and malnutrition, disease and starvation; they hold back rural communities and lock millions of farmers in perpetual poverty under increasingly fragile conditions; they are the number one driver of deforestation and biodiversity loss everywhere; and on top of all this, they make up to a third of our climate problem. At the same time, if we manage to transform how we produce and allocate food, manage our resources, manage land, and revive rural communities, this holds the promise and potential of a broader transformation and sustainable development within planetary boundaries.

Assessing national policies and joint learning for accelerated action

But time is short, and concrete progress to develop and implement net zero strategies across different countries is slow. As we identified in FELD’s first systematic assessment of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that was launched by FOLU in Glasgow at COP26, most countries have yet to fully address, integrate, and take into account specific actions on food and land use. Without addressing how we as societies produce food, including the impact of large scale, industrial agriculture, and manage natural resources and land, there will be no “net zero future” that is essential to limit global warming as aimed for in the Paris Agreement. The coming years, or as the UN has declared it, “Decade of Action”, will be critical to turn around, across, and in all countries.

Strengthening local expertise, accountability, and implementation

With the FELD Action Tracker and the new Catalyst project, SDSN and its partners want to act on our understanding that change has to come as much from the bottom up as from the leaders on top. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientists and UN conferences have an important role to play in setting targets, providing resources, and monitoring progress; but the task of finding local solutions, designing policies and programs, evaluating their impacts, and ensuring a just and equitable transition has to be led by local governments, policymakers, institutions, and communities. By providing inputs to national dialogue on solutions, facilitating the involvement of scientists, and the sharing of lessons and good practices from other contexts, SDSN and its FOLU partners hope to make a direct contribution to accelerate collective progress, to mobilize international support, and ensure a fair and sustainable future on a warming planet.

The project will gear up its in-country work by mid-2022. For questions please contact us at [email protected]