Thegef: How can we feed the world and keep the planet healthy? We start by making smallholder farming more sustainable



People are already consuming at a rate faster than the planet can replenish. Yet the world’s population is expected to grow from 7 billion to 9 billion by 2050. This will considerably increase demand for energy, transport, buildings and food.



Agricultural production will need to increase to meet the growing demand for food — projected to increase by 70 percent by mid-century. But agriculture already leaves a large harmful footprint on the environment. The global challenge, then, is to find sustainable ways to feed a growing population. This will be a particularly critical need in Sub-Saharan Africa, where more than 200 million people are hungry or malnourished.



The last decade has witnessed a growing momentum around transforming the way smallholder farmers manage land in Sub-Saharan Africa. To help improve smallholder farming, governments and development partners are working to create the policies, financial mechanisms, technological innovations and market opportunities.



While these efforts are crucial for improving productivity, they do not address the long-term sustainability and resilience of the smallholder production systems. This is particularly the case in the drylands, where the threat of land and soil degradation, water scarcity, and loss of biodiversity looms large.  



This was the underlying rationale for the Global Environment Facility (GEF) program on Fostering Sustainability and Resilience for Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa. The program supports 12 countries in the dryland regions to integrate environmental management in the transformation of smallholder agriculture. The program, led by the International Fund for Agricultural Research (IFAD), focuses on safeguarding the natural resources — land, water, soils, trees and genetic resources — that underpin food and nutrition security.



In May 2018, project teams from all 12 countries, together with representatives from six GEF agencies and several technical institutions gathered for a regional workshop at the Headquarters of the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) in Nairobi, Kenya. This was a unique opportunity for knowledge exchange and peer learning by all actors involved in implementation of the program. 



The three of us attended the workshop to represent the GEF, and met more than 100 professionals from 13 other countries in the region: Angola, Cote d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, Sudan, and Zimbabwe.



The workshop presented an opportunity to:


  •  discuss ways for connecting the GEF Food Security program with the larger Africa regional agendas, highlighting its contributions to the rural development of smallholders as envisioned by plans like the Agenda 2063, the 2014 Malabo Declaration and NEPAD’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), and the Sustainable Development Goals;



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