1 August 2019
FAO Indicator Report: World is Off Track on Most SDG Targets Relevant for Food and Agriculture
UN Photo/JC McIlwaine
story highlights

Progress on achieving zero hunger (SDG 2) has stalled and efforts to conserve genetic resources for food and agriculture are insufficient.

Water use efficiency is increasing too slowly and action to reduce water stress is insufficient.

Global fisheries and global forest cover continue to decline.

Only sustainable fisheries in SIDS and sustainable management of forests are on track.

18 July 2019: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) has released a report assessing progress on 18 indicators relevant to agriculture and food security across four SDGs. The report shows that the world is off track on most of the targets assessed.

Achieving zero hunger (SDG 2) depends on progress on targets under SDG 2 as well as under several other Goals including SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), SDG 14 (life below water), and SDG 15 (life on earth). Because of these linkages, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) acts as the custodian organization for tracking a total of 21 global indicators across these SDGs. FAO has released a digital report that assesses progress on 18 of these agriculture-related indicators for which data are currently available at the global level.

The state of global agriculture and food security and many linked SDGs looks “grim.”

Overall, the report “paints a grim picture” on the state of global agriculture and hunger and food security, according to an FAO press release. The release further notes that the prevalence of regression rather than progress on these targets raises concerns for other SDGs because of the many linkages between agriculture, food security and nutrition and other SDGs.

SDG 2: Progress in reducing hunger has stalled, efforts to conserve genetic resources for food and agriculture are insufficient

Regarding SDG 2, seven of the nine indicators used to track progress towards zero hunger and related targets show that progress is off track, while it is too early to assess the two remaining indicators.

On target 2.1 (ending hunger), the prevalence of undernourishment (Indicator 2.1.1) shows that the number of undernourished people has slowly increased for the last three years, reaching 820 million in 2018, while the prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity (Indicator 2.1.2) shows that about 2 billion people experience some form of food insecurity.

On target 2.5 (maintaining the genetic diversity of cultivated plants and farmed and domesticated animals), the number of plant genetic resources conserved (Indicator 2.5.1A) shows that conservation is advancing slowly but continues to be insufficient. Similarly, less than one percent of local livestock breeds have enough genetic material stored to be reconstituted in case of extinction (Indicator 2.5.1B). Furthermore, 60% of local livestock breeds are at risk of extinction in 70 countries (Indicator 2.5.2), while the risk status of two thirds of local livestock breeds is unknown.

On means of implementation, the Agriculture Orientation Index (Indicator 2.A.1.) shows that, on average, government support to agriculture is declining even though the sector’s contribution to global GDP is increasing. In several regions including Africa and Western Asia, people face challenges due to increasing food price anomalies (Indicator 2.C.1), affecting especially poor people and other vulnerable populations. The global indicators on the incomes and productivity of small-scale food producers (Indicators 2.3.1 and 2.3.2) are too new to determine a trend.

SDG 6: Countries must do more to increase water use efficiency and reduce water stress

The two indicators on SDG 6 for which FAO is the custodian, changes in water use efficiency (Indicator 6.4.1.) and freshwater withdrawals as a proportion of available freshwater resources (Indicator 6.4.2), are also relatively new at the global level. While no trends can be established yet, the data show that many countries could do more to improve water use efficiency.

Water stress is a widespread phenomenon affecting countries in all regions of the world. The highest rate of countries suffering from water stress can be found in Northern Africa, Western Asia and Central and Southern Asia.

SDG 14: Sustainable fisheries in SIDS are on track as global fisheries continue to decline

On SDG 14, FAO manages indicators relating to fisheries. With one third of the world’s fish stocks currently overfished, the indicator used to measure progress towards restoring the world’s fish stocks (Indicator 14.4.1) is clearly off track. Only the contribution of sustainable fisheries to the GDP in small island developing States (SIDS) is on track towards target 14.7.1 to increase economic benefits from the sustainable use of marine resources to SIDS.

While it is too early to make a call on the implementation of international instruments to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU, Indicator 14.6.1) and legal, regulatory or policy frameworks to recognize and protect small-scale fisheries (Indicator 14.B.1), the report notes that activities are ongoing in many countries but more will be needed.

SDG 15: Global forest area continues to decline, but sustainable management of forests is on track

Indicators managed by FAO to track progress on SDG 15 provide a mixed picture. While forest area as a proportion of total land area (Indicator 15.1.1) continues to decline, more forest area is being managed sustainably so that progress towards sustainable forest management (Indicator 15.2.1) is one of the few indicators that are currently on track. It is too early to establish trends in the proportion of global mountain area covered in green vegetation (Indicator 15.4.2). Another positive trend is the steady increase in the number of countries that have adopted legislative, administrative and policy frameworks to ensure fair and equitable sharing of benefits (Indicator 15.6.1).

In its press release announcing the report, FAO calls on all countries to: increase spending on agriculture; promote productivity growth and resilience of small-scale food producers; support efficient markets to reduce food price anomalies; improve water productivity; and implement transformative changes in fishery management and governance. [FAO Press Release] [Publication: Tracking Progress on Food and Agriculture-related SDG Indicators]

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