Global Food Security

Challenges for the Food and Agricultural System

image of Global Food Security

This study examines how changes to the functioning of the world’s food and agriculture system can contribute to reduced hunger and the attainment of global food security. The challenge is wide ranging and multi-faceted. While food production will respond to the demands of a rising and more affluent world population, effective government policies can stimulate productivity and contain upward pressure on food prices. They can also help ensure that land and water resources are used more sustainably, and that farmers have the capacity to manage risk and adapt to climate change. Trade will have an important role to play in ensuring that resources are used efficiently and sustainably, and in getting food from surplus to deficit regions. At the same time, multilateral reforms are needed to ensure that the world trading system functions more smoothly and fairly than it has done in the past.

Approximately two-thirds of the world’s poor live in rural areas, where farming is the principal economic activity. This study considers how government policies can raise the incomes of agricultural and rural households, and thereby improve poor peoples’ access to food. Yet while income growth is essential for long-term food security, it is not sufficient. Complementary policies, for example to improve health and sanitation, are required to ensure improvements in peoples’ nutrition. Action is thus required on many fronts. The purpose of this study is to help policymakers establish priorities at global, regional and national levels.

English Also available in: French

Executive summary

The challenge of eliminating global hunger is more about raising the incomes of the poor than an issue of food prices.

Eliminating hunger and malnutrition, and achieving global food security more widely, is among the most intractable problems humanity faces. While many once poor countries are now developing rapidly, the world as a whole is unlikely to meet the First Millennium Development Goal target of halving, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of the world’s population who suffer from hunger. According to FAO figures, the total number of undernourished people in developing countries has fallen from just under a billion in 1990-92 to around 852 million in 2010-12. However, the pace of reduction has slowed and the absolute numbers remain stubbornly high.

English Also available in: French

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