Welcome to Sustainable Food Systems Month on Agrilinks!
This post is written by Emily Weeks, Senior Policy Advisor, USAID/RFS/PAE.
Crafting sustainable food systems (SFS) that nourish people and the planet is THE imperative of our time. This month, we present a wealth of resources, ideas and opportunities to reflect on how we can advance SFSs through the mainstreaming of natural resource management (NRM) at all scales of food systems.
We encourage your active engagement in this effort:
- Submit a blog or resource on this topic (contact Michael Saltz — [email protected] — for details);
- Participate in our webinar May 24th, 9:30–11 a.m. EST featuring keynote speaker Dr. Ravi Prabhu, Director General of the World Agroforestry Center, mission colleagues from Peru and Mozambique, and Dr. Selena Ahmed, an Indigenous food systems expert. Registration link coming soon; and
- Stay tuned to Agrilinks for more announcements.
Why Is Mainstreaming NRM Imperative?
Agriculture and food systems are essential to human survival and are severely threatened by climate change, natural resource degradation and loss of biological diversity. Concurrently, agricultural extensification and unsustainable farming practices accelerate climate change and threaten the ecosystems and many of the natural resources upon which food security depends.
Every aspect of these linked problems involves management of natural resources. Sound NRM, mainstreamed and monitored from farm plot to landscape scale, is central to addressing these challenges and meeting USAID’s ambitious food security and climate objectives.
The USAID 2022–2026 Global Food Security Strategy (GFSS) foregrounds the climate and water crises (pages 14–16) and adds new Cross-Cutting Intermediate Results (CC-IRs) for enhanced climate change mitigation and adaptation (CC-IR 4), improved NRM (CC-IR 5), and improved water resource management (WRM) (CC-IR 6). Resilience is woven throughout the strategy.
The GFSS is complemented by a bold Climate Strategy 2022–2030, an Agency Environmental and Natural Resource Management (ENRM) Framework (2020) and fresh approaches to integrated programming, such as the Global Development Alliance (GDA) Health, Ecosystems, and Agriculture for Resilient, Thriving Societies (HEARTH).
USAID’s Bureau for Resilience and Food Security (RFS) commissioned a review of these policies focusing on gaps and potential for integration.
RFS also commissioned a comprehensive Portfolio Review of programming in 17 priority countries and interviews with key stakeholders in the Agency. This review highlighted integrated projects and provided recommendations to further NRM mainstreaming and reduce barriers to integration.
Some excerpts from this review to whet your appetite:
The Review identified multiple examples of RFS programming that aimed to improve some aspects of NRM and water resource management (WRM) at ecosystem scales, including support for climate and land policies to shift food systems to be more sustainable.
These included cases of:
- Integrated agriculture and food security programming around biodiverse Protected Areas (PAs) and conservation zones that protect ecosystem services to the agro-economy (e.g., water quality and quantity cycles, nutrient cycles) and where Sustainable Intensification (SI) approaches are being deployed to reduce pressure on ecosystems (DR Congo, Mozambique);
- Watershed management to ensure water sustainability (Guatemala, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Nepal);
- Fisheries management incorporating protection of marine and/or freshwater habitats as a key food security concern (Bangladesh, Cambodia, Senegal, Malawi);
- Pasture management and regeneration (Ethiopia, Kenya); and
- Studying the value of agro-ecosystem services and costs of their restoration (Ghana).
- Increase forms of funding for agriculture and food security that can be programmed (or co-programmed) for resilience, climate change adaptation, land tenure and resource governance, watershed management/restoration, and rangelands/pasture management;
- Synchronize watershed work across Mission offices (e.g., Feed the Future, economic growth, health, water, conflict, biodiversity, democracy and governance, humanitarian assistance);
- Synergize NRM actions across Implementing Partners working in one zone; and
- Consider how NRM approaches can reduce food loss and waste and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Definitions of Natural Resource Management and Water Resources Management
NRM comprises a potential multitude of interconnected resources, depending on a locale’s geology, biology, climate, culture and context. Many NRM practitioners consider water (lakes, rivers and streams, groundwater, estuaries, coastal and marine) to be THE most important natural resource. Nutrients and soil fertility often come next, then forests/trees and rangeland/pastures, including all their watershed functions, and estuaries and mangroves, which serve as nurseries for fisheries and for climate mitigation.
According to the USAID Environmental and Natural Resources Framework, NRM is the management of natural resources such as land, water, soil, plants and animals to sustain nature’s productivity, with a focus on how management affects the quality of life for present and future generations.
To enrich this definition, the RFS NRM review team incorporated principles of governance, economics and ecosystem services from USAID’s Nature, Wealth, and Power framework for rural development (USAID 2002 and 2013), and the UN’s Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005).
NRM is shaped by rules, rights, policies, processes, and institutions engaging multiple stakeholders with differing access to power and influence, to govern resources and people’s uses of them, as well as economic markets. Agricultural productivity and food security also depend on the provision of ecosystem services such as water cycling, availability and quality; climate, flood and pest/disease regulation; nutrient cycling; pollination; soil formation/fertility, fuel and bio/genetic diversity.
WRM is the process of planning, developing and managing water resources, in terms of water quantity and quality, within and across water uses for the benefit of humans and ecosystem functions. WRM includes the institutions, infrastructure, incentives and information systems that support and guide water management and uses. Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) is a process that promotes the coordinated development and management of all water, land and related resources. (from WRM Technical Brief, page 13.)
Note that the Reviews cited above the following were considered NRM: