The Food Systems, Land Use, and Restoration (FOLUR) Impact Program, which aims to align landowners and governments with the private sector to transform the global food system, announced a plan to launch projects across 27 countries at COP 26 on Saturday.
“Food systems may be the biggest challenge in terms of climate change,” said Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, CEO and chair of the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The ambitious program “will give us the base for these efforts so we can be able to bring into this sector the resources, the learned lessons, and the technologies that can help us overcome one of the biggest challenges in the global agenda.”
FOLUR will receive US$345 million from GEF, with expected additional co-financing of more than $2.7 billion, for projects aimed at restoring degraded landscapes and intensifying sustainable land management practices. The program’s strategy focuses on eight commodities—including corn, coffee, palm oil, and rice.
The program’s integrated approach will go beyond “business as usual” investing for sustainability, which often focuses on isolated stakeholders or steps along the value chain, said William Sutton, global lead for climate-smart agriculture at the World Bank.
“Each foundational investment creates a significant amount of leverage for more meaningful and larger impact, and this additional financing includes commitments from government, private sector, and CSOs,” he said. FOLUR’s Ghana project, for example, “consolidates financing from the GEF grant, a World Bank loan, the PROGREEN Trust Fund, the Extractives Global Programmatic Support Trust Fund and a government contribution.”
This integrated approach aims to modify supply chains and sustainably intensify production, which in turn will help countries meet growing demands for food without further degrading the land, the GEF writes. By making production more efficient, landowners engaged with FOLUR will be able to avoid practices that lead to deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, loss of genetic diversity, and overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
By approaching food system issues in this way, the program aims to help participating countries confront interwoven environmental and economic issues, said Musdhalifah Machmud, Indonesia’s deputy minister for food and agribusiness.
“Financing the production of commodities to meet the market demand, and at the same time safeguarding the environmental resources through policies and law enforcement, has been quite a challenging task,” she says.
She explained that the small farmers who produce many of the commodities in Indonesia face substantial challenges that are compounded by problems like weak regulatory policies and limited capacity to support best agricultural practices. She said FOLUR could help her country develop comprehensive strategies with multiple stakeholders and work collectively on cross-cutting issues.
FOLUR also acknowledges that sustainable agriculture investments have historically faced barriers in many countries.
“FOLUR projects will empower communities, farmers, and other land managers directly through technical assistance, training, and access to finance and new technologies,” Sutton said, with capacity-building efforts that vary by regional context and may enhance existing extension services, Sutton said. The initiative is also “developing a specific track of work on gender in landscapes, which includes engaging financiers on inclusive and gender-targeted investments.”
Rodriguez said FOLUR’s integrated strategy is important for tackling the many drivers of unsustainable land use and degradation. “To make a dent in the climate crisis, we need to work together to address the significant environmental strains from today’s global food systems and land use patterns,” he said.