Rome — 16 countries will benefit from projects designed to conserve biodiversity, enhance ecosystem services, combat land degradation, and preserve natural resources on land and water
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has welcomed the recent decision by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Council to approve 13 FAO-led projects in 16 countries, totaling some $78.5 million dollars. The decision came during the 59th GEF Council Meeting and will build upon its June 2020 decision to approve $176 million for FAO-led projects.
The projects address global environmental crises that impact the productivity and sustainability of agricultural systems on land and water across five continents. They will be implemented in partnership with and co-financed by the governments of the countries involved: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Benin, Brazil, Chile, Fiji, Indonesia, Madagascar, Mexico, Nicaragua, Pakistan, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands, Tajikistan, Vanuatu, and Venezuela.
The approved projects provide pathways for countries to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic while building the long-term resilience against future shocks caused by increasing climate risk and environmental degradation. The projects will assist countries and communities to adopt more sustainable and climate-resilient practices, enact stronger policies to conserve biodiversity and natural resources on land and water, and foster policy coherence and transboundary cooperation.
"There is an urgent need to create pathways for building back better and greener, and the partnership between FAO and the GEF is creating opportunities for countries and communities to build more inclusive, resilient and sustainable agri-food systems for better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life," said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu.
The approved projects will directly benefit 480,000 people, restore over 340,000 hectares of degraded land, improve the management of nearly 7.4 million hectares of landscapes and 5.2 million hectares of terrestrial and marine protected areas, and mitigate 12.4 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
This builds on the results of the FAO-GEF partnership to date, which has benefitted nearly 5 million people, created 350,000 jobs in rural communities, safeguarded biodiversity in close to 200 vulnerable marine ecosystems, and saved some 1,000 crop varieties, animal species and breeds from extinction.
An example of the latest FAO-led projects to be approved by the GEF Council is the GreenMex project which will mainstream biodiversity conservation, integrated landscape management and ecosystem connectivity into Sembrando Vida, a rural social protection program in Mexico. It will use biodiversity conservation as an enabler for more sustainable livelihoods, economic development and healthier diets.
The approved project in Venezuela will create new green job opportunities through an agro-ecological approach in the coffee and cocoa sectors, while the project in the Philippines will reduce pressures on ecosystems caused by loss in tourism revenues by training vulnerable communities to market and sell sustainably produced goods instead of resorting to illegal fishing and unsustainable land use.
The work program also includes regional projects that will assist countries manage shared natural resources more sustainably. The approved project for the Panj River Basin will develop effective transboundary water management between Tajikistan and Afghanistan to restore degraded lands and improve the management of protected areas and surrounding areas to better conserve biodiversity in both countries. The project in Fiji, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu will increase climate resilience and enhance water and food security across all three Pacific island states by relieving pressure on over-exploited coastal aquifers through sound groundwater governance frameworks.