24 Feb 2017

FAO report warns: World’s future food security “in jeopardy” due to multiple challenges

24 February 2017 - The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) released a report analyzing 15 global trends influencing food security, poverty and food production. The report, titled ‘The Future of Food and Agriculture: Trends and Challenges,’ also discusses ten major challenges arising from these trends for agriculture and food systems.

Among other findings, the report concludes that while current food systems may be able to produce enough food, they require a “major overhaul” to do so sustainably in the face of rapid changes and transitions. The publication provides an in-depth analysis of 15 global trends driving the future of global food production, such as: population growth, urbanization and aging; unequal economic growth and agricultural investment; climate change; conflicts, crises and natural disasters; and increased migration.

In discussing each trend, the authors highlight interlinkages with other trends. For example, on agricultural productivity and innovation, the study shows that despite remarkable progress in agricultural technology, the rate of yield increases is declining because of climate change impacts. The current rate of growth may not be sufficient to meet the demands of a growing world population. Therefore, agricultural research and development must be combined with resource conservation and adaptation practices such as climate-smart agriculture.

Similarly, the report discusses how food waste not only affects the availability of food, but also significantly increases the impact of agriculture on climate change. It points out that the energy used to produce the food that is being wasted amounts to almost 10% of global energy consumption.

Based on the analysis of these and other trends, the report formulates ten challenges for sustainable food systems related to food stability and availability, food access and utilization, and systemic challenges. Challenges to food stability and availability include: sustainable intensification to meet increasing demand; ensuring a sustainable natural resource base; addressing climate change and intensification of natural hazards; and preventing transboundary threats to agriculture and food systems.

Challenges to food access and utilization include: eradicating extreme poverty and reducing inequality; ending hunger and all forms of malnutrition; improving income opportunities for rural smallholders and addressing causes of migration; and building resilience to protracted crises, disasters and conflicts. Systemic challenges relate to making food systems more inclusive and resilient, and improving coherent and effective national and international governance.

The authors conclude that these challenges underline the interdependence of countries in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and that achieving sustainable development requires “major changes in agricultural systems, rural economies and natural resource management to overcome multiple challenges and ensure a secure and healthy future for everyone and the environment.”

Trends and challenges

15 trends

- 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.

10 challenges

- 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

FAO Press Relase available at: http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/471169/icode/

Download PDF (6.74 MB) Full Report