On 4 September 2017, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) launched their study entitled “Options and Opportunities to Make Food Value Chains More Environmentally Sustainable and Resilient in Sub-Saharan Africa” (full English report and French executive summary) on the sidelines of the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

Agricultural food value chains (VCs) are gaining importance as part of broader efforts to achieve food security and improve nutrition, as well as transforming African agriculture and contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With an increased focus on inputs, markets, financing, agribusiness, and agro-industry, the prospects of commercialization for smallholder farmers will likely expand and involve all major food staples. While much has been done to understand and document good practices that generate global environmental benefits in production landscapes, such knowledge is limited or lacking for food VCs in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

A key finding of the UNDP-GEF study is that while ‘sustainability’ and ‘resilience’ are not yet core strategies in food VC development, practical courses of action that can be scaled up do already exist. Case studies from six VCs in 12 dryland countries in SSA demonstrate that there are multiple approaches and technical practices throughout the region to better harness VCs and reduce environmental impacts and externalities. Nevertheless, in order to make the transition to sustainable and resilient food systems, positive incentives are indispensable. In its widely applicable ‘Framework for Action’, the study proposes an operational tool with the four intervention areas of information, resources, policies and implementation support, which — utilizing an inclusive action-based, multi-stakeholder platform — can facilitate the collective action required to tackle negative externalities and foster a shift towards environmentally sustainable and resilient food VCs.

During the launch event, the importance of taking a holistic approach to food value chains was emphasized. This requires talking about food systems – which encompasses all stages from seeds in the soil to the food on the table – whereby all value chain elements are connected to each other; with a special focus on sustainability and resilience issues. The study producers announced that the ‘Framework for Action’ will be applied as an input to the training programme for the Regional Child Project of the GEF Integrated Approach Pilot (IAP) Food Security programme, where UNDP collaborates with AGRA in the implementation of scaling-up of integrated approaches and practices in 12 SSA countries. Following the study’s call to translate the findings into innovative programming, event participants expressed the need to start implementation of environmentally sustainable and resilient food value chain action in selected pilot projects.

Following the positive reception during the launch, the study’s ‘Framework for Action’ is expected to be taken up by a wide variety of food VC stakeholders at country, regional and continental levels: ranging from technical government staff to expert practitioners, the private sector, bilateral donors, United Nations bodies, researchers, non-governmental organization (NGO) personnel and academics. The findings of this study should help all these actors to make a compelling argument for integrated and innovative policy, management or investment choices that promote and advance environmentally sustainable and resilient food VCs — and thereby contribute to the attainment of the SDGs.


For more information on the study, please contact Tomas Sales, Regional Private Sector Special Advisor, UNDP (tomas.sales@undp.org) and Mohamed Imam Bakarr, Senior Environmental Specialist, GEF (mbakarr@thegef.org).