World’s future food security “in jeopardy” due to multiple challenges FAO’s report warns
Press release, FAO
February 27, 2017
The FAO has just published a new alarming report on the future of food and agriculture1. By 2050, the world will contain nearly 10 billion people and the demand for agricultural produce will increase by 50%. So how will agriculture and food systems meet these needs? How will we deal with the pressures on our environment, both in terms of resource management and climate?
In the press release outlining the main teachings of this report2, the UN agency presents the trends and challenges of global food security. Simply increasing production will not be enough. The FAO calls for “major transformations in agricultural systems, rural economies and management of natural resources”. More agricultural investment, research and development in agriculture and food systems, but also “coherent and effective governance at the national and international levels” will be essential in order to reach the objective of eradicating hunger by 2030.
Though the FAO is finally looking beyond the current attitude of “business as usual”, it is also essential not to be limited simply to the findings and challenges related to food security, but to push for further reflection. Today, we are seeing the failure of rules advocated by international organizations such as the WTO, embodied by the failure of the Doha Round, and based on the belief in the absolute virtues of unimpeded liberalization in agricultural trade.
In face of this, the challenge today is to be able to restore the foundations of a mutual trust in the international community’s capacity for rebuilding agricultural cooperation. Taking into account the structural instability of international agricultural markets and the need to maintain and strengthen public policies in both developing and industrialized countries, this would be one of the challenges to be taken into account if we really want to win the fight against food insecurity.
Momagri Editorial Board
Mankind's future ability to feed itself is in jeopardy due to intensifying pressures on natural resources, mounting inequality, and the fallout from a changing climate, warns a new FAO report out today.
Though very real and significant progress in reducing global hunger has been achieved over the past 30 years, "expanding food production and economic growth have often come at a heavy cost to the natural environment," says The Future of Food and Agriculture: Trends and Challenges.
"Almost one half of the forests that once covered the Earth are now gone. Groundwater sources are being depleted rapidly. Biodiversity has been deeply eroded," it notes.
As a result, "planetary boundaries may well be surpassed, if current trends continue," cautions FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva in his introduction to the report.
By 2050 humanity's ranks will likely have grown to nearly 10 billion people. In a scenario with moderate economic growth, this population increase will push up global demand for agricultural products by 50 percent over present levels projects The Future of Food and Agriculture, intensifying pressures on already-strained natural resources.
At the same time, greater numbers of people will be eating fewer cereals and larger amounts of meat, fruits, vegetables and processed food — a result of an ongoing global dietary transition that will further add to those pressures, driving more deforestation, land degradation, and greenhouse gas emissions.
Alongside these trends, the planet's changing climate will throw up additional hurdles. "Climate change will affect every aspect of food production," the report says. These include greater variability of precipitation and increases in the frequency of droughts and floods.
To reach zero hunger, we need to step up our efforts
The core question raised by today's FAO publication is whether, looking ahead, the world's agriculture and food systems are capable of sustainably meeting the needs of a burgeoning global population.
The short answer? Yes, the planet's food systems are capable of producing enough food to do so, and in a sustainable way, but unlocking that potential — and ensuring that all of humanity benefits — will require "major transformations."
Without a push to invest in and retool food systems, far too many people will still be hungry in 2030 — the year by which the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda has targeted the eradication of chronic food insecurity and malnutrition, the report warns.
"Without additional efforts to promote pro-poor development, reduce inequalities and protect vulnerable people, more than 600 million people would still be undernourished in 2030," it says. In fact, the current rate of progress would not even be enough to eradicate hunger by 2050.
Where will our food come from?
Given the limited scope for expanding agriculture's use of more land and water resources, the production increases needed to meet rising food demand will have to come mainly from improvements in productivity and resource-use efficiency.
However there are worrying signs that yield growth is levelling off for major crops. Since the 1990s, average increases in the yields of maize, rice, and wheat at the global level generally run just over 1 percent per annum, the report notes.
To tackle these and the other challenges outlined in the report, "business-as-usual" is not an option, The Future of Food and Agriculture argues.
"Major transformations in agricultural systems, rural economies and natural resource management will be needed if we are to meet the multiple challenges before us and realize the full potential of food and agriculture to ensure a secure and healthy future for all people and the entire planet," it says.
"High-input, resource-intensive farming systems, which have caused massive deforestation, water scarcities, soil depletion and high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, cannot deliver sustainable food and agricultural production," adds the report.
More with less
The core challenge is to produce more with less, while preserving and enhancing the livelihoods of small-scale and family farmers, and ensuring access to food by the most vulnerable. For this, a twin-track approach is needed which combines investment in social protection, to immediately tackle undernourishment, and pro-poor investments in productive activities — especially agriculture and in rural economies — to sustainably increase income-earning opportunities of the poor.
The world will need to shift to more sustainable food systems which make more efficient use of land, water and other inputs and sharply reduce their use of fossil fuels, leading to a drastic cut of agricultural green-house gas emissions, greater conservation of biodiversity, and a reduction of waste. This will necessitate more investment in agriculture and agrifood systems, as well as greater spending on research and development, the report says, to promote innovation, support sustainable production increases, and find better ways to cope with issues like water scarcity and climate change.
Along with boosting production and resilience, equally critical will be creating food supply chains that better connect farmers in low- and middle-income countries to urban markets — along with measures which ensure access for consumers to nutritious and safe food at affordable prices, such as such as pricing policies and social protection programs, it says.
Trends and challenges
Today's report identifies 15 trends and 10 challenges affecting the world's food systems:
- A rapidly increasing world population marked by growth "hot spots," urbanization, and aging
- Diverse trends in economic growth, family incomes, agricultural investment, and economic inequality
- Greatly increased competition for natural resources
- Climate change
- Plateauing agricultural productivity
- Transboundary diseases
- Increased conflicts, crises and natural disasters
- Persistent poverty, inequality and food insecurity
- Dietary transitions affecting nutrition and health
- Structural changes in economic systems and employment implications
- Increased migration
- Changing food systems and resulting impacts on farmers livelihoods
- Persisting food losses and waste
- New international governance mechanisms for responding to food and nutrition security issues
- Changes in international financing for development.
- Sustainably improving agricultural productivity to meet increasing demand
- Ensuring a sustainable natural resource base
- Addressing climate change and intensification of natural hazards
- Eradicating extreme poverty and reducing inequality
- Ending hunger and all forms of malnutrition
- Making food systems more efficient, inclusive and resilient
- Improving income earning opportunities in rural areas and addressing the root causes of migration
- Building resilience to protracted crises, disasters and conflicts
- Preventing transboundary and emerging agriculture and food system threats
- Addressing the need for coherent and effective national and international governance
1 Lien vers le résumé du rapport http://www.fao.org/3/a-i6881f.pdf