Guidance Note. Sustainable Commodities: ensuring smallholder benefits, better environmental management, and durable growth. A Guide for Practitioners Based on Country Experience

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agricultural practice
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

The UNDP Strategic Plan 2018-2021 recognizes the global importance of sustainable commodities to achieve the SDGs. This Guidance Note is designed to assist UNDP Country Offices in programming and policy support for national sustainable agricultural commodity projects. The Note is based on UNDP’s environmental, poverty, governance, finance and private sector work on sustainable commodities and their supply chains. It provides case study examples that illustrate the variety of initiatives that UNDP and partners support around the world. The Note focuses on UNDP’s experience addressing the environmental, social and economic aspects of sustainable commodities in different country contexts that have generated the interest of the public and private sectors. These include widely traded commodities such as palm oil, timber, coffee and soy, as well as commodities traded on a smaller scale, such as vanilla, nuts, pineapple and shea. The box below provides definitions of key terms used in the Note. The Note draws on lessons learned from global, regional and national programmes led by UNDP and partners. These include the UNDP Green Commodities Programme (GCP); the private sector work of the Regional Programme for Africa (formerly known as the African Facility for Inclusive Markets); the FAO-UNDP-UNEP UN-REDD programme; the FAO-UNDP Integrating Agriculture in National Adaptation Plans programme; the Inclusive Trade for Sustainable Growth Programme; the Sustainable Extractives Programme; UNDP-Global Environment Facility (GEF) programmes; the UNDP-UNEP-ILO-UNIDO-UNITAR Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE) and other green economy initiatives; the UNDP-UNEP Poverty-Environment Initiative (PEI) and its successor programme on Poverty-Environment Action for the Sustainable Development Goals (PEAS); the Alliance for Marine Biodiversity; and other country programmes on poverty reduction and inclusive growth.

This Guidance Note presents UNDP’s conceptual framework and key intervention areas in the sustainable commodities sector in line with its new Strategic Plan 2018-2021. UNDP work in this field is designed to address the linked topics of natural resource management and environmental protection, social well-being, and durable economic growth (hereafter referred together as ‘sustainability’) in the production, processing and trade of agricultural commodities. The Note provides case studies to illustrate non-prescriptive policy, programming and partnership options for adapting to country context, as well as successful results achieved in four intervention areas.

These are as follows:

1. Reforming policy, legislative and institutional frameworks for sustainable agricultural commodities;

2. Strengthening national and subnational capacities and systems to foster sustainable agricultural commodity production, processing and trade;

3. Improving access to finance and economic incentives for sustainable agricultural commodities (production, processing, trade); and

4. Promoting livelihood diversification and value-added agricultural commodities.

Each case study provides links to specific UNDP programmes. These websites offer more in-depth case studies, reports, lessons learned, tools and guidance on the facilitation of project design and implementation. This Note targets UNDP policy advisors, country programme officers, and other practitioners and partners working to support sustainable agricultural commodities.

Publication year: 
sustainable commodities
UNDP practical guidance
capacity development
multi-stakeholder engagement
livelihood diversification
access to finance