FAO-Led GEF Projects: Advancing Sustainable Agrifood Systems and Environmental Conservation

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) has recently approved 48 projects led by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), amounting to approximately $2.9 billion. This funding comprises $294 million in project financing and $2.6 billion in co-financing, aimed at facilitating a sustainable transformation of agrifood systems to address hunger and environmental conservation.

These initiatives are set to benefit 4.2 million individuals across five regions worldwide. The projects will focus on restoring over 474,000 hectares of land, enhancing practices on more than 24 million hectares of land and marine habitats, establishing and improving the management of over 2 million hectares of protected areas both on land and at sea, mitigating 133 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, and removing 202 metric tons of hazardous agrochemicals.

Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director-General, emphasized the significance of this decision made during the 66th Council Sessions of the GEF, held in Washington DC, United States. The approved projects represent the largest work program of FAO-led initiatives sanctioned by the GEF Council. Collaboration with partners and countries on the ground is paramount to realizing the potential of these projects in enhancing agrifood systems while aligning with the Sustainable Development Goals.

Forty-six countries have partnered with FAO to access financing from the GEF for these endeavors. The initiatives span various regions, including Africa, Asia, and Latin America, benefiting from financial support for projects directed towards sustainable agriculture, biodiversity conservation, and climate change mitigation.

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Fishermen preparing their nets for their next fishing expedition…source@FAO

In addition to these individual projects, the GEF Council approved three FAO-led global and regional programs focusing on food systems, oceans, and ecosystem restoration. These programs are designed to address critical issues such as land and marine pollution, habitat degradation, and water resource management in specific regions.

The Food Systems Integrated Program (FSIP), co-led with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), will receive $252 million in project financing and $2.2 billion in co-financing to support 32 countries in transforming global agrifood systems towards sustainability and resilience.

Similarly, the Clean and Healthy Ocean Integrated Program will allocate $100 million in project financing to 14 countries, aiming to reduce land-based ocean pollution in nine Large Marine Ecosystems.

The Central Asia Water and Land Nexus Program, led by FAO, will direct $26 million in funding to restore ecosystems and enhance water security in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, focusing on the Amu Darya and Syr Darya basins.

These approved programs reflect a concerted effort to apply agrifood systems solutions to pressing environmental challenges, aligning with international frameworks such as the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework and the Paris Agreement. FAO’s selection as an implementing agency for the GEF’s Small Grants Program further underscores the commitment to supporting local actions by civil society organizations and marginalized groups in addressing environmental issues.

Through these initiatives, FAO aims to foster sustainable agriculture, enhance biodiversity conservation, and promote resilience in food systems, contributing to the broader global agenda of achieving food security and environmental sustainability.

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