Sustainable Production | WWF
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SUSTAINABLE PRODUCTION

Nature positive food production keeps soils healthy, water flowing, helps store carbon and provides homes for a range of biodiversity, both above and below the ground. Food can be produced in way that works with nature, not against it, but right now it’s the biggest threat, on land and in rivers and oceans.
THE TRUE IMPACT OF WHAT WE EAT

Food production is dependent on biodiversity. Biodiversity generates critical ecosystem services that support food production and make it more resilient to shocks and stresses, including those caused by a rapidly changing climate. 

But the conversion of land for food production is the biggest driver of biodiversity loss. Agriculture already occupies about 50% of the Earth’s habitable land and is a major threat to 80% of the mammal and bird species classified as close to extinction by the IUCN. Only 66% of marine fish stocks haven’t been overfished to critical levels and how we produce food is the biggest cause of water pollution, damaging lakes, rivers and oceans. We also use 70% of our readily available freshwater to produce food. The food system generates around 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions. This exploitation of the environment is behind multiple crises including accelerated climate change and rapid biodiversity loss. 

The agricultural revolutions of the past have allowed us to feed more people, but this has come at the expense of forests, grasslands, wildlife, water, and a stable climate. With the global population projected to increase by over 2 billion by 2050, expansion and intensification of food production will place our planet under even greater strains. A business-as-usual food system risks potentially irreversible impacts on the planet, making it an increasingly inhospitable place for humans and wildlife.

We want to see a sustainable approach to food production, with no more deforestation or conversion of habitats, that brings nature back into farming landscapes.

By 2030, we want to see 50% of all the area used for agriculture and aquaculture sustainably managed and that number rising as time goes on. Improving the traceability of food and driving the private sector to remove foods which cause deforestation and conversion from their supply chains is an essential step in driving more sustainable practices.

Ceasing conversion will depend on successfully rehabilitating the 30% of farmland which is currently degraded or disused. These lands have huge potential and to be returned to food production, not simply planted with trees. Adopting agroecological practices, such as conservation agriculture, agroforestry and regenerative agriculture, can restore and maintain ecosystem services like soil health, flowing waterways and the ability to keep carbon out of the atmosphere, while also helping close yield gaps. Other technological innovations can take us further, but we don’t need to wait for new inventions, we just need to apply the practices we know already work.

It is essential that multiple stakeholders, including local communities, companies and governments, come together to take integrated planning approaches. Sustainable production must be seen as an integral part of resilient landscape planning, something which can enhance nature rather than inhibit it.

What we're doing

We work to improve all food systems but focus our efforts where the need is greatest − at the intersection of products which pose the greatest threats, landscapes which provide significant amounts of food and livelihoods, and where food production has a critical impact on the environment.

For instance, grasslands and savannahs are being converted at the fastest rate of any biome, but they are often low on conservation and policy agendas. We are escalating their protection. Meeting the African continent’s demand for healthy and nutritious food is paramount in the 2030 sustainability agenda, so we develop solutions in key landscapes that cover multiple countries. Aquaculture is an essential part of sustainably providing protein to a growing population, but it’s production and sourcing needs to be transparent, so we work on traceability solutions.

We work with everyone from smallholders to supermarkets, governments to banks, to change things for the better.

PERSPECTIVES

SMOOTH AND SWEET: SUSTAINABLE PRODUCTION IN ECUADOR AND THE CONGO BASIN

"Today, many indigenous communities in the Cuyabeno region rely on cocoa production for their livelihoods."

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REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE: IS THIS WHAT SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE IS ABOUT?

"Regenerative agriculture is one among a myriad of terms we nowadays hear in relation to sustainable agriculture."

 

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TACKLING LAND DEGRADATION FOR NATURE, FOR US


"Over the past few months, as cities went into lockdown and factories shut down, we have seen clearer skies, cleaner air and even the return of wildlife in some areas...While the world tries to manage and recover from the impacts of COVID-19 we must realise that nature’s recovery will also take many many months."

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MORE POLLINATORS, FEWER PANDEMICS - A FOOD SYSTEM FOR THE NEXT NORMAL

"Food is being increasingly perceived beyond providing us with physical sustenance: it is a livelihood for farmers, a reason to leave home and be with friends, a way to connect with our families and our traditions (albeit mostly virtually these days)."

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HEALTHY SOIL FOR A HEALTHY FUTURE.


"In the time it takes you to read this article, approximately 40 football pitches’ worth of soil will have eroded. According to the UN, every five seconds the most fertile layer of soil is lost from an area the size of a football pitch through water, wind and tillage."

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OPINION: GRASSLANDS AND SAVANNAS: THE OVERLOOKED SOLUTION TO CLIMATE CRISIS


"Through deforestation, conversion and unsustainable agriculture we have increased emissions and reduced the carbon sequestering abilities of our lands. Business as usual makes it impossible to achieve the climate goals of the Paris Agreement and threatens our food security."

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What YOU can do
  • Know where your food is from – ask grocers, butchers and fishmongers how they source their products
  • Support businesses who are transparent about their ingredients and where they are from
  • If a company refuses to use sustainable ingredients, think about buying a different brand!
  • If you’re eating fish or meat, try to understand what the animal was fed – you are what you eat!
  • Buy food which has been certified sustainable
  • Support small and local farmers – and make sure you’re paying a fair price