FAO REPORT: Tracking progress on food and agriculture-related SDG indicators 2022

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The report titled, ‘Tracking Progress on Food and Agriculture-related SDG Indicators 2022,’ was launched in the margins of the 77th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA). It offers detailed analyses and trends on selected indicators for which FAO is a custodian or contributing agency or which have key implications for food and agriculture across eight SDGs: 1 (no poverty), 2 (zero hunger), 5 (gender equality), 6 (clean water and sanitation), 10 (reduced inequalities), 12 (responsible consumption and production), 14 (life below water), and 15 (life on land). The report highlights areas of progress and areas where further effort is needed. The report is FAO’s fourth assessment of this kind, based on the latest data and estimates available. 

Some of the report’s highlights include:  

  • Comparing progress achieved in 2022 to the previous year, only three indicators (the conservation of plant genetic resources, instruments to promote small-scale fisheries, and water use efficiency) register a notable improvement. By contrast, investment in agriculture has stalled, whereas indicators related to food security, fish stock sustainability, forest cover, and the value added of sustainable fisheries, are deteriorating. 
  • The latest forecasts estimate that rising inflation and the impacts of the war in Ukraine could push an additional 75 million to 95 million people into extreme poverty in 2022, compared to pre-pandemic projections.   
  • Despite hopes that the world would recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and food security would begin to improve, world hunger rose further in 2021. After remaining relatively unchanged since 2015, the prevalence of undernourishment jumped from 8.0 to 9.3% from 2019 to 2020 and rose at a slower pace in 2021 to 9.8%. 
  • Globally, food loss estimates have remained fairly steady, showing no progress towards the target, while substantial variations across regions and subregions have been recorded. 
  • The agricultural sector has borne the brunt of economic losses due to frequent natural disasters. Direct economic losses attributed to disasters amounted to USD 15.4 billion in 2020, of which USD 6.8 billion was recorded in the agricultural sector. 
  • Small-scale food producers continue to be disadvantaged compared to larger farmers, both in terms of productivity and income. In half of the countries with available data, female-headed small-scale food production units earned 30 to 50% less than those headed by men. 
  • Food price volatility rose sharply from 16 to 47% in 2020, exacerbated by the constraints placed by the COVID-19 pandemic, associated lockdowns, and market uncertainties, and, more recently, by the broader impact of the war in Ukraine. 
  • Progress remains weak in maintaining plant and animal genetic diversity for food and agriculture: 72% of assessed local livestock breeds remain at risk of extinction. 
  • Gender inequalities persist in ownership and secure tenure rights over agricultural land. In 29 out of the 36 countries with available data, the share of women with ownership and/or secure tenure rights over agricultural land is significantly lower than that of men, even though women represent about half of the total agriculture labor force in most countries.   
  • Although it remained at a safe level of 18.6% in 2019 globally, water stress continued to rise in already critically affected regions, threatening progress towards sustainable development.  
  • Good progress has been achieved in combating illegal fishing, but the sustainability of global fishery resources continues to decline, although at a reduced rate in recent years (from 90% in 1974 to 66.6% in 2015, and 64.6% in 2019). 
  • Significant progress has been reached globally towards sustainable forest management (SFM), but forest loss remains high, with a decline of 100 million ha over the course of the past two decades.  
  • Positive developments towards reducing agricultural export subsidies have emerged in recent years: total notified annual outlays fell from their peak of USD 3.84 billion in 2003 to USD 58 million in 2019. 
  • Duty-free access for developing and Least Developed Countries’ (LDCs) exports to international markets has improved in recent years, particularly for agricultural products, while the overall growth of exports from LDCs remains worryingly low – less than 1% in 2019 – a figure that has remained virtually stagnant for a decade.  

Call for action 

Echoing the UN Secretary-General António Guterres’s call for “an urgent rescue effort for the SDGs,” the report identifies areas that require urgent actions to put the world back on track to reach the SDGs related to food and agriculture. It emphasizes the need for national governments and the international community to: build a more resilient agricultural sector; prevent the increase in world hunger and improve the productivity of small-scale farmers; preserve the diversity of plant and animal genetic resources; and bolster the resilience of food systems.  

Furthermore, the report calls for collective action to: save water and increase water-use efficiency in the regions most affected by high water stress; facilitate international trade of agricultural products through the redesign and implementation of non-tariff measures; formulate policies that are geared specifically towards the reduction of food losses; support small-scale fishery communities and ensure the sustainable management of oceans; protect terrestrial ecosystems, including by maintaining momentum in halting deforestation and forest degradation; and restoring damaged ecosystems.  

Although many countries have taken legislative action to address gender inequalities, the report warns that substantial progress is still needed to realize women’s land rights in countries’ legal frameworks and in practice. Similarly, despite significant achievements, an intensification of efforts is required to ensure that illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing no longer represents a threat to the sustainability of fisheries worldwide. 

To continue to gather and report on the most reliable and up-to-date information, the report also highlights the need to improve the statistical capacity of countries to monitor the SDGs. While considerable progress has been made towards building stronger data and statistical systems, significant SDG data gaps still exist. Greater investments to improve data collection tools and strengthen data infrastructure and capabilities are also crucial to trigger earlier responses to crises, anticipate future needs, and implement the urgent actions needed to realize the 2030 Agenda. 

To find out more, read the publication, watch a video about the report, or visit the FAO and the SDG Indicators Portal.




As the world enters the third year of the COVID-19 crisis, it is evident that after years of progress, development has been halted or even reversed across several domains. While the world was off track from meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) even prior to 2020, the pandemic has compounded that trend, taking a devastating toll on people’s lives and livelihoods and on global efforts to realize the SDGs. Contrary to early expectations, the COVID-19 pandemic kept its grip on the world economy well into 2021, further exacerbating an already alarming situation in terms of hunger and food insecurity, while continuing to make data collection and statistical assessments more difficult.

The latest estimates1 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) put the global hunger figure for 2021 between 702 and 828 million people (with a point estimate of 768 million) (FAO et al., 2022). These estimates imply that, since 2015, the increase in the number of undernourished people in the world has practically eroded all progress that had been made during the preceding decade, bringing the world back to hunger levels that prevailed in 2005. Furthermore, severe food insecurity has increased significantly from 10.9 percent of the global population in 2020 to 11.7 percent in 2021, pushing millions of those at moderate levels of food insecurity into severe food insecurity and – possibly – hunger.

While food prices were relatively stable from 2016 until 2019, the share of countries afflicted by high food prices rose sharply from 16 percent in 2019 to 47 percent in 2020. International prices of food items soared in the second half of 2020; they are expected to continue rising as a result of the war in Ukraine, which has had an adverse impact on several food-importing countries.

The world is still far from maintaining the genetic diversity of farmed and domesticated animals, either in the field or in gene banks.

In most countries with available data, both the average annual income and the average productivity of small-scale food producers lag behind those of their large-scale counterparts. Within the group of small-scale food producers, women’s incomes are systematically and significantly lower than those of men in half of the countries with data. In 30 out of 36 countries, less than 50 percent of women have ownership and/or secure tenure rights over agricultural land. Data from 52 countries for the period from 2019 to 2021 reveal that only 29 percent of reporting countries include sufficient provisions in their legal frameworks to adequately protect women’s rights to land.

The global water stress level remained at a safe level of 18.6 percent in 2019, though this figure hides large regional variations. Southern Asia and Central Asia registered high levels of water stress at over 75 percent, whereas Northern Africa registered a critical water stress level of over 100 percent. Since 2015, water stress levels have increased significantly in Western Asia and Northern Africa. Water use efficiency rose to 19.4 USD/m3 in 2019 worldwide, a 12 percent increase since 2015.

The percentage of food lost after harvesting on farms and at transport, storage, wholesale and processing levels is estimated at 13.3 percent globally, compared to 13 percent in 2016. These percentages mask improvements and deteriorations on regional and subregional levels, as estimates vary greatly across (sub)regions.

Between 2018 and 2022, the average degree of implementation of international instruments to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing has improved across the world. In 2022, nearly 75 percent of countries scored highly in their degree of implementation of relevant international instruments, compared to 70 percent in 2018.

The world’s forest area continues to decrease, although at a slightly slower rate compared to previous decades. The proportion of forest area fell from 31.9 percent of total land area in 2000 to 31.2 percent in 2020. Despite the overall loss of forests, the world continues to progress towards sustainable forest management. Between 2010 and 2020, the share of forests under certification schemes, the proportion of forest within protected areas and the proportion of forests under a long-term management plan increased globally.

Vegetation coverage of the world’s mountains has remained roughly stable at approximately 73 percent since 2015. Disaggregated data by mountain class show that green cover tends to decrease with mountain elevation, evidencing the strong role played by the climate in mountain green cover patterns.

To ensure progress across all the areas discussed above, it is essential to improve data capabilities. While considerable progress has been made towards building stronger data and statistical systems for SDG monitoring, significant data gaps still exist. It difficult to effectively measure the pace of progress across different regions and socioeconomic groups in the absence of data with comprehensive disaggregation levels. Greater investments to improve data collection and strengthen data capabilities are also crucial to trigger earlier responses to crises, anticipate future needs and design the urgent actions needed to realize the 2030 Agenda.


Pietro Gennari, Chief Statistician

Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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