David Faustino Fuentes is using new technologies, such as an irrigation system, to increase production earn more income. | Credit: Alexander Hernández

Advancing Low-Emissions Agriculture and Food Systems (Part 1)

How USAID is Championing Food Security and Climate Action
By Caitlin Corner-Dolloff, Alyxandra Ruzevich

At last year’s 28th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP28), the U.S. was one of 159 countries to sign the Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action declaration, a global recognition that climate and food security goals go hand-in-hand. 

USAID has mirrored this movement internally by integrating climate change, agriculture, and food systems under the recently formed Bureau for Resilience, Environment, and Food Security (REFS). Additionally, USAID's 2022-2030 Climate Strategy explicitly calls for transforming food systems to feed more people, bolster resilience, reduce waste, minimize environmental destruction, and contribute to climate change mitigation. 

Indeed, truly transformative changes are needed to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius while lifting hundreds of millions of people out of food insecurity and avoiding the devastating impacts of malnutrition on children and their mothers. Analyses from West Africa predict that a 2 degrees Celsius increase in temperature will result in a 7.4 percent increase in stunting crop yields and an additional 590 million people undernourished globally by 2050, reversing hard-won nutrition gains. 

The U.S. Government Global Food Security Strategy also elevates the interaction between the climate crisis and food security, emphasizing climate adaptation and mitigation in its results framework. USAID is investing in programs, especially under Feed the Future, that help tackle the climate and food security crises together. 

For example, the Agency supports farmers with tools to build their resilience, such as drought-resistant seeds to help farmers grow more in the face of a changing climate, better crop and soil management practices to enhance water conservation, and improved forecasting capabilities to strengthen farmers’ and local governments’ planning and decision making. In cases where climate shocks overwhelm communities’ ability to prepare for crises, USAID supports early warning systems to tackle emergency food insecurity.

At the same time, agriculture and food systems account for roughly one-third of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, presenting a significant opportunity for mitigation gains. Sources of emissions vary dramatically by type of ecosystem or agriculture system. In geographies and value chains with high emissions, it is critical to take urgent mitigation actions to decrease emissions. In other countries or regions, where current emissions are low, the optimal strategy may be to reduce future emissions intensity (i.e., emissions per unit of product) by increasing productivity.

USAID’s approach to Low Emissions Agriculture and Food Systems (LEAFS) serves to substantially reduce GHG emissions compared to business-as-usual scenarios and/or emissions intensity. LEAFS focuses on targeted emissions reductions as well as supporting adaptation efforts with mitigation co-benefits through multiple funding streams, including agriculture, climate, biodiversity, water, and governance. Sustainable landscapes programming has been especially successful in working at the intersection of mitigation and food systems; this work will be further detailed in forthcoming blogs. 

Low Emissions Agriculture and Food Systems Development: Opportunities in Support of Food Security and Climate Action details context-driven solutions for mitigation in agriculture and food systems, including:

  • Agricultural productivity paired with effective land governance
  • Improved livestock and crop management
  • Sustainable supply chains and consumer demand management
  • Systems approaches to achieve impact at scale.

USAID assessed how several agriculture programs influenced GHG emissions and outlined how high-impact practices contribute to low-emissions agricultural development. USAID has also produced Feed the Future activity design guidance for Climate-Smart Agriculture and Food Systems and Integrated Natural Resource Management programs to support safeguarding productivity gains and livelihoods in light of a changing climate and achieving emissions reduction co-benefits.

USAID is committed to working with partners around the world on policy and programming efforts to make meaningful strides towards a more resilient, low-emissions, and food-secure future.


This blog is the first in a four-part series outlining USAID’s approach and efforts towards achieving low-emissions agriculture and food systems. 

Strategic Objective
Adaptation, Integration, Mitigation
Adaptation, Agriculture, Climate-Resilient Agriculture, Emissions, Climate Change Integration, Climate Strategy, Food Security, Mitigation, Resilience

Caitlin Corner-Dolloff


Caitlin Corner-Dolloff is the Senior Policy Advisor for Climate and Agriculture in REFS and the Co-Chair of USAID’s Low Emissions Agriculture and Food Systems (LEAFS) Advisory Group.

Alyxandra Ruzevich

Alyxandra Ruzevich is a Climate Mitigation and Agriculture Specialist in REFS and a Co-Chair of USAID’s Low Emissions Agriculture and Food Systems (LEAFS) Advisory Group

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The following blogs highlight some of the ways USAID is working at the intersection of climate and agriculture and food systems.
Picture in April 2023, shows a rice farm in Majin Gari, Lavun Local Government Area of Niger State (Long: 6.113753, Lat: 9.07204), Nigeria, by Salihu Idris (in the plot), was fertilized solely with biochar and compost, and no synthetic fertilizers, yielded 4.5 tons/ha, without any release of carbon emissions from the farming activity. The farmer, Salisu, is one of the participants of the USAID Feed the Future Nigeria Agricultural Extension and Advisory Services Activity implemented by Winrock International.