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Demand for food will greatly increase in the coming decades due to rising incomes and an additional two or three billion people to feed. Agriculture needs to change to meet this demand in a sustainable manner, as called for by SDG 2. Investing in agriculture is also one of the most effective strategies for achieving the SDGs related to poverty and hunger, nutrition and health, education, economic and social growth, peace and security, and preserving the world’s environment.

This Thematic Network believes that it is possible to eradicate extreme poverty, hunger and undernourishment by 2030 and sustain food security without irreversibly damaging the world’s natural resources, even in a time of climatic changes and extremes. To achieve that, rising food yields must be decoupled from unsustainable utilization of water, energy, fertilizers, chemicals, and land. We call for a multi-faceted agro-ecological intensification of food production to:

  • Increase productivity by at least 70% on existing crop and pasture land;
  • Make farming an attractive economic development opportunity for people living in rural areas, particularly smallholder farmers, small to medium entrepreneurs, and youth;
  • Preserve the environment through ultimately stopping the expansion of agriculture into sensitive ecosystems, lowering resource intensity (land, water, energy, etc.), and sound use of inputs; and
  • Reduce food waste.

The required solutions currently exist, or could (with wise investments) become available in the next 10-20 years. Early action is important, but we also need political will and better mechanisms for long-term thinking and action, particularly more support for public R&D and human resources development to foster innovation and behavior change. The Thematic Network is hosted by Rothamsted Research. 

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Other Thematic Networks

The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) has established 12 Thematic Networks comprising leading scientists, engineers, academics and practitioners from business and civil society to promote solutions to key challenges of sustainable development. The Thematic Networks are solution oriented rather than research oriented and aim to identify practical solutions to the challenges of sustainable development.

  • 1: The World in 2050

    This network seeks to chart an integrated pathway for sustainable development through to 2050 that includes achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as interim milestones by 2030. Drawing on the best available modeling frameworks for the full range of SDGs, the network will also develop a business-as-usual pathway to identify the cost of inaction.

  • 2: Humanitarian-Development Linkages

    This thematic network looks at how to accelerate progress in the most fragile regions and how to ensure coherence between the development and humanitarian agendas. The work of this network relates in particular to SDG 16 and cuts across all goals areas.

  • 3: Gender, Human Rights, and Social Inclusion

    This network focuses on human rights and works towards a world where the equal dignity and worth of every individual is respected and valued. It focuses in particular on the realization of SDGs 5, 10, and 16, and its work cuts across all goals areas.

  • 4: Education, Quality and Learning for All (EQUAL)

    This network takes a comprehensive, lifelong and multigenerational approach to learning to maximize the world’s potential for sustainable development. The network aims to support the fulfillment of SDG 4 in particular.

  • 5: Health for All

    As articulated in SDG 3, health is crucial for sustainable development, as it sits at the nexus of the social, environmental, economic, and governance issues. While the MDGs brought new vigor to specific global health challenges, this network seeks to expand the global agenda, with a focus on Universal Health Coverage.

  • 6: Deep Decarbonization Pathways

    The network comprises the members of the Deep Decarbonization Pathway Project (DDPP), an initiative that prepares national, long-term low-emission development pathways that are consistent with the 2°C target, working with 16 country research teams. The work of the DDPP supports the achievement of SDG 13 on climate action.

  • 7: Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems

    This network explores how to provide healthy diets to a growing world population while reducing the environmental impact of agriculture. It also looks at how the three pillars of sustainable development can be realized in rural areas. The network’s activities explicitly aim to support the fulfillment of SDG 2.

  • 8: Forests, Oceans, Biodiversity, and Ecosystem Services

    This network seeks integrative solutions for securing biodiversity and improving the management of ecosystem services, from fisheries and timber to forest carbon sinks. Moving forward the work will be separated into a network focusing on oceans and one addressing forests in particular. Together they will support the achievement of SDGs 14 and 15.

  • 9: Sustainable Cities: Inclusive, Resilient, and Connected

    Today, 50% of the world’s 7 billion people live in cities, and, by 2050, this will rise to 70%. This thematic network seeks to identify practical solutions for improving urban management and achieving sustainable cities and human settlements (SDG 11). The work will build on the Campaign for an Urban Sustainable Development Goal, which now aims to support SDG 11 and the achievement of all the SDGs at subnational levels.

  • 10: Good Governance of Extractive and Land Resources

    Extractive industries are critical drivers of many economies, but often place a great burden on environmental systems, or affect societies in areas of extraction. This network looks at how to better use resource endowments, including land, for sustainable development. Much of the work of this group touches upon good resource management, linked to SDG 12, as well as accountability and building strong institutions, as per the objectives of SDG 16.

  • 12: Data for Sustainable Development

    This thematic network seeks to identify new and innovative information and monitoring systems necessary to guide the SDGs, as well as existing approaches to data collection, compilation, analysis, and dissemination that might help data users to overcome gaps and limitations. The network members are actively engaged in Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data launched in September 2015.