If we do not transform food systems it will be impossible to sustainably use our land and natural resources. Around 40% of all habitable land is used to produce food. This has come at the expense of nature, causing 80% of deforestation and 70% of biodiversity loss on land. Soil degradation has reduced the productivity of nearly a quarter of the global land surface, affected the well-being of about 3.2 billion people and cost about 10% of annual global gross domestic product in lost ecosystem services. But food systems can be transformed from being the primary cause of degradation to the principle catalyst in restoration and recovery for a nature-positive future.
The UNCCD defines land degradation neutrality (LDN) as "a state whereby the amount and quality of resources necessary to support ecosystem functions and services and enhave food security remains stable or increases." Over 100 countries have set LDN targets, to avoid, reduce and reverse land degradation at scale, with one billion hectares promised to be restored through quantitiative commitments under the Rio Conventions and the Bonn Challenge. But this is only possible if we transform the way we produce food - by tackling supply-side issues, changing food production practices, but also demand-side drivers like consumption and food loss and waste.
At the same time, restoring arable and pasture land is critical to food security. Our ability to produce healthy and nutritious food declines when land is degraded. We are pushing for the stronger inclusion of food systems in LDN targets, for the benefit of people and nature, but also for improved alignment across LDN targets, the Global Biodiversity Framework and Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Climate Agreement. Ecosystem restoration is key to delivering all these goals, with food systems an essential component for sustianable land use.
WWF is calling on public and private stakeholders to adopt a food systems approach in all restoration action and land-use planning. Actions that need to be urgently adopted include:
- Accelerate and scale-up joint and aligned implementation of restoration commitments, made under the three Rio Conventions (UNCCD, UNCBD and UNFCCC)
- Better align Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN), Nature Positive and Nature-based Solutions: Land Degradation Neutrality is a critical foundation to reach a Nature Positive World by 2030, as noted in the UNCCD’s Global Land Outlook, and for Nature-Based Solutions, addressing the broader societal aims of restoration.
- Develop comprehensive and inclusive policy portfolios to support restoration of degraded natural and semi-natural ecosystems to bolster food security, regain ecosystem services, support rural communities and reduce or eliminate the need for conversion of additional natural ecosystems for food production.
- Promote sector-specific enabling conditions and incentives for financing and implementation of restoration across the entire economy, including supportive land tenure policies, and full and effective participation, including of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs), women and youth.
Specifically, WWF wants stakeholders to act with urgency in six key areas of food systems, on both supply and demand sides:
- Grasslands and savannahs
- Healthy soils
- Healthy and sustainable diets
- Land tenure
- Gender mainstreaming
The fifteenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) will take place in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, from 9 to 20 May 2022.
The COP15 theme, ‘Land. Life. Legacy: From scarcity to prosperity', is a call to action to ensure land, the lifeline on this planet, continues to benefit present and future generations.
For the first time ever at a UN Rio Convention COP, there will be a Food Day. This event, co-hosted by WWF on 12 May, will focus on cross-cutting policy responses spanning multiple global agreements, the interdependence of food system demand-side drivers and supply chains, and capacity to deliver a coherent suite of on-the-ground actions.
WWF is also working with partners to convene member states to launch a Grasslands, Savannahs and Rangelands Coalition that will building political momentum and public and private investments to protect, restore and sustainably manage these landscapes; ensure that grassland, savannah and rangelands are included in restoration, climate, nature loss and food security action plans; land degradation neutrality (LDN), climate mitigation, biodiversity protection, and food security; and restore at least 90 million hectares of degraded grasslands, savannahs and rangelands by 2030.