Today is World Food Day, a chance for people all over the world to focus on approaches to end global hunger. Celebrated each year to commemorate the founding of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), this day provides us with an opportunity to assess where the world is today in regard to food security – and what we’ll all have to do in the future to achieve it.
How Do You Feed 9 Billion People by 2050?
For much of the planet, food security isn’t a concern on just one day of the year—it’s a daily struggle. According to the FAO, 870 million of the world’s poor are already undernourished, and yet global human population is projected to increase from 7 billion to more than 9 billion by 2050. To sufficiently feed these people, worldwide food availability will need to increase by at least 52 percent from 2007 levels.
Yet agriculture is already having huge impacts on the world’s environment and resources. For instance, agriculture is the direct driver of about 80 percent of tropical deforestation. Agriculture is responsible for up to 85 percent of the world’s consumption of freshwater, and nutrient runoff is a major cause of water quality degradation globally. And according to WRI’s Climate Analysis Indicators Tool (CAIT), food production accounts for up to 27 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions per year due to deforestation, livestock, energy consumption on farms, and fertilizer use.
These environmental impacts, in turn, could hamper food production. For instance, climate change will have profound implications due to changing precipitation patterns and other factors that are critical to agriculture. Freshwater availability will become the limiting factor for growing food in some areas.
The convergence of these trends poses one of the paramount challenges―a sort of “great balancing act”―for the next 40 years: How can the world adequately feed more than 9 billion people by 2050 in a manner that advances economic development while reducing pressure on climate, ecosystems, and freshwater?
The World Resources Report: Sustainable Food Futures
To help answer this question, WRI is dedicating its next World Resources Report (WRR) to the topic of Sustainable Food Futures.
We will propose a menu of strategies, each of which can contribute to feeding the world in a manner that advances economic development while sustainably stewarding the climate, ecosystems, and freshwater resources. No single solution will solve the challenge of the great balancing act–it takes a menu. And which strategies are most relevant will vary between countries and food chains.
Although many previous editions of the WRR came in the form of an authoritative “big book,” the next WRR will be different. It will consist of a series of strategic, solution-focused installments released on a rolling basis. The first installment will pose the overarching challenge of the great balancing act and frame the structure for the rest of the series. Each subsequent installment will delve into a separate item on the sustainable food menu. Each installment will be written by a group of global experts with on-the-ground, firsthand experience of how these strategies can be achieved.