Mission and Goals


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The Resilient Food Systems programme targets four geographies in sub-Saharan Africa that are seriously affected by environmental degradation and loss of ecosystem services, resulting in persistently low crop and livestock productivity, as well as increased food insecurity. Through activities in 12 countries, coordinated by a regional hub, we aim to put the management of natural capital as a priority in ongoing efforts to transform the agricultural sector and ensure sustainable food production in sub-Saharan Africa.

Working together in some of the most challenging areas of the continent, we link farming communities, governments, private sector entities, research and development partners in promoting sustainable land management to strengthen food security while generating global environmental benefits. Throughout all this work, we give particular attention to gender and social inclusion considerations and inequities.

Food insecurity in Africa is likely to intensify in the coming decades. Demand for food will increase sharply as the population is set to double by 2050 in a region that already struggles with a chronic food deficit, where one-quarter of the population is undernourished. - PRB World Data Sheet 2016

Resilient Food Systems is one of three 'Integrated Approach Programmes' piloted by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), which provides core funding. With overall implementation led by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), this initiative is committed to contributing to a paradigm shift in African agriculture: one which puts emphasis on the importance of natural capital and ecosystem services to enhance agricultural productivity.



Resilient Food Systems targets four geographies in sub-Saharan Africa that are seriously affected by environmental degradation and loss of ecosystem services, resulting in persistently low crop and livestock productivity, and increased food insecurity.


SAHEL Africa

The Sahel is dominated by agro-pastoral and cereal-root crop mixed farming systems. Cereal yields are low and stagnant and the prevalence of food inadequacy (where the population is not consuming enough calories for normal activity) is more than 30 percent in countries such as Burkina Faso and Senegal. There is a need to reduce the vulnerability of the population to food insecurity by stabilizing yields and reducing risk through water harvesting, adjusting the timing of planting, and better integration of crop, trees, and livestock.



Eastern Africa

The East African Highlands cover a diverse range of ecosystems due to the diversity of elevations, climatic conditions, and soil types. Population densities are very high, and plot sizes tend to be very small – below one hectare on average, and population pressure is causing high levels of deforestation and unsustainable management of natural resources, such as soil on farm plots. Prevalence of food inadequacy is very high and ranges from 36 percent in Kenya up to almost 77 percent in Burundi due to stagnating yields and high population growth. To increase yields, smallholders need better access to inputs, such as improved varieties of maize, wheat, teff and barley that can increase yields up to three times compared to traditional seeds. However, their availability and cost remain significant obstacles, as well as access to extension services and information. In order to reduce the vulnerability of the population to risks of crop failure, farming systems also need to become more diverse and resilient to changing and unpredictable rainfall patterns.


Horn Africa

The Horn of Africa is covered by arid, pastoral and agro-pastoral systems. This is often described as the most food-insecure region in the world due to recurring droughts and armed conflict. Prevalence of food inadequacy is thus very high – 44 percent in Ethiopia. In order to reduce vulnerability and risks and improve food security, there is potential for diversification of the agro-pastoral systems and to improve market access for smallholders. Management of grazing is critical throughout this area.




Southern Africa

The Southern Africa target geography is a high-potential zone for agricultural growth and poverty reduction with the maize-mixed system being a priority, as it represents an important share of the agricultural sector in several countries in the region. This is dominated by smallholders, but in several countries there is also a well-established large commercial farming sector with access to improved seeds, fertilizer and pesticides, and better road access to markets than in many other parts of sub-saharan Africa. This is reflected in much higher crop yields per hectare than in the other target geographies. Food inadequacy is over 40 percent in most of the rest of the region, and close to 50 percent in countries such as Malawi and Zambia. Maize production is becoming increasingly vulnerable to heat and water stress, conditions linked to climate change. The introduction of drought-tolerant crops, scaling up of soil and water management and diversification are priorities in this region coupled with improved market access for smallholders.



The programme directly engages 12 countries in the integration of natural capital management and ecosystem services through investments that aim to improve smallholder farming and food security. We are working towards a common understanding of ecological sustainability and resilience, as the basis for achieving economic sustainability and resilience of the production sectors themselves.

Showing the direct linkages between healthy landscapes, and resilience and food security in a manner that is understandable to decision-makers, land users and farmers, countries are better placed to deliver multiple environment and development benefits while managing trade-offs.

The multidimensional nature of agriculture and food insecurity in the African drylands is inherently complex. Resilient Food Systems is helping to facilitate dialogue among these competing and conflicting players and narratives, promoting cooperation among them to foster collective action at scale.

Dry Landscape



Resilient Food Systems is aligned to existing global priorities as part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals 1, 2, 15 and 17, as well as commitments emerging from the three Rio Conventions on Biological Diversity (CBD), Combating Desertification (UNCCD), and Climate Change (UNFCCC).





Programme Brochure

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