The rural world which is home to about three-quarters of the world’s poorest people faces profound challenges in terms of its limited resources such as water, land, and its younger people. Agriculture can help reduce poverty, raise incomes and improve food security for a majority of poor who lives in rural areas. The decline in the share of agriculture in total production and employment is causing serious challenge across region even though much agricultural investments and technological innovations are boosting its productivity. This paper discuss about the trends and challenges to the future of food and agriculture sector. The trends includes the population growth, deforestation, climate changes, agricultural innovation, transboundary pests and diseases, poverty, changes in food system, conflicts and natural disasters. The challenges of the food and agriculture sectors facing mainly includes spread of transboundary pests and diseases of plants and animals, degradation of natural resources, migration from rural areas and changes in nutrient content of foods.
Key words: poverty, deforestation, nutrient content
The agricultural and food industry is facing huge challenges. It has to feed a rapidly growing world population while at the same time ensuring the best-possible conservation of our scarce natural resources. Increasingly extreme weather conditions such as droughts and flooding, limited arable land and changing dietary habits make this task even more demanding. The majority of extremely poor people lives in marginal areas and relies on small-scale agriculture. While the world currently produces enough food to feed everyone, at least one billion people remain food insecure.
The migrations to metropolitan cities from rural areas are at their highest levels due to industrialization. Much of humanity’s progress has come at a considerable cost to the environment. The impacts of climate change are already being felt and it will intensify considerably in the years ahead. Globally integrated production processes have brought many benefits. The purpose of this report is to increase understanding of the challenges that food and agriculture sector are facing now and hereafter. It analysis most of the major global trends and challenges to achieve food security and nutrition for all and making agriculture sustainable.
2. Trends in food and agriculture sector:
The following section mainly concentrates seven important trends that will shape the future of food and the livelihoods of those depending on food and agricultural systems. Most of the trends are strongly inter-connected.
2.1 Population growth, Urbanization and Conflicts:
Global population growth is slowing, but Africa and Asia will still see a large population expansion. By 2050, the world’s population will have grown to nearly 10 billion. The Two-thirds of these people will live in cities. The projected growth in the world’s population is likely to be concentrated in Africa and South Asia and in the world’s cities. It could seriously risk the overall development prospects of these regions, as they rely on agriculture for employment and income generation. More over the agriculture cannot expand due to stressed land and water resources.
The one of the major factor for food insecurity and malnutrition is a surge in the number of conflicts especially in last decade. About half of the world’s poor live in states characterized by fragility and conflict. The highest levels of malnourishment noticed in the countries those affected by violent conflict. Conflicts entail the physical destruction and plundering of crops, livestock and food reserves, while recruitment into fighting forces drains key sources of labour. They have become a global issue with the displacement of people and migration, such as in the case of the ongoing civil war in the Syrian Arab Republic.
2.2 Global economic growth and food prices:
The economic growth could accelerate dietary transitions and drive up agricultural demand. Economic growth has been sizeable in the last decades due to developments in low- and middle income countries. The rapid income growth in developing countries has given rise to a global middle class. This growth enables acceleration in dietary transitions. The more demand for food is changing towards higher consumption of meat and dairy products and other more resource-intensive food items. This carries serious implications for the sustainable use of natural resources. The economic growth in emerging countries has serious impact on future levels of food prices.
2.3 Natural Resources:
The expansion of agricultural land continues to be the main cause of deforestation. Almost half of the forests that once covered the planet are now gone. Groundwater sources are being rapidly depleted. Biodiversity has been severely eroded. Every year, the burning of fossil fuels emits billions of tones of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The result is global warming and climate change.
The most of the countries planning to use bioenergy as an alternate to fossil fuels cause the maximum utilization of natural resources for energy. The consumption of cereals, oilseeds and sugarcane for the production of biofuels has increased due to use of biomass as a substitute for petrochemicals. The greater competition between food and non-food uses of biomass has strengthened the interdependence between food, feed and energy markets. For example, around two-thirds of the bioenergy used worldwide involves the traditional burning of wood and other biomass for cooking and heating. The huge demand from agriculture, industry and cities has led to water scarcity. The Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that over 40 percent of the world’s rural population lives in river basins that are classified as water scarce.
2.4 Climate Change:
The food production, food security and nutrition will be affected by climate change. The less reliable supplies of water and high temperatures will also create severe hardships for small-scale livestock producers. The increasing variability of precipitation and frequency of droughts and floods are likely to reduce the crop yields. The number and intensity of natural disasters has risen over the past 30 years. The climate change’s impact not only restricted to food supply but also to food quality, access and utilization and the stability of food security.
2.5 Agriculture productivity and innovation:
Thanks to green revolution technologies and significant expansion in the use of land, water and other natural resources the agricultural production increased more than tripled between 1960 and 2015. To meet demand, agriculture in 2050 will need to produce almost 50 percent more food, feed and biofuel than now. The agriculture yield are decreases despite overall improvement in agricultural efficiency due to climate change. Hence maintaining the historic pace of production increases may be difficult. Resource-conserving practices are certainly helping to increase agricultural productivity, such as conservation agriculture and climate smart agriculture. It is encouraging that after a period of stagnation there is resurgence in agricultural research and development, with the help of increase in private investments. Agricultural policies play an important role in pro-poor growth and it could support increases in productivity and profitability in a number of ways.
2.6 Transboundary pests and diseases:
Transboundary pests and diseases are increasing while antimicrobial resistance poses a threat to human health due to impact of globalization. There has been an alarming increase in the number of outbreaks of transboundary pests and diseases of plants and animals, which threat to the food security of the affected areas and have broader economic, social and environmental impacts. A study analysing trends in the occurrence of plant pests and diseases found that the degree of saturation for each pest has reached almost 10% in Africa, 20% in Asia, and as much as 60 % in North America. The effect of destructive disease on banana plant leafs are shown in figure 4.
2.7 Food loses and waste:
A further indication of the inefficiency of current food systems is that around one-third of all food produced is either lost or wasted somewhere along the food chain. This can happen both in primary production and in processing and consumption. In low-income countries, significant levels of food losses occur due to poor infrastructure, low levels of technology, a limited knowledge base and lack of investment in production. Uncertainty about weather and market conditions and weak institutional frameworks also contribute to losses. Food waste and food co-products waste create huge environmental, economic and social problems. The Wasted food leads to over utilization of water and fossil fuels and to increasing greenhouse gas emissions due to degradation of food in dumping ground. A number of prevention and reduction measures, proposed by various countries, have been already put in place to reduce food waste. The food loss and waste percentage of various food types with region wise comparisons are listed in table 1.
3. Challenges facing food and agriculture:
The above mentioned seven major trends pose a series challenges to food and agriculture sector. Based on the analysis of global and regional trends, this paper outlines a potential challenges that are the more relevant to eradicate hunger and malnutrition, achieve food security for all, improve rural livelihoods, and make agriculture, fisheries and forestry and their natural resource base more resilient, productive and sustainable
3.1 Food stability and availability:
The progress required in agricultural productivity to meet increasing demand. The considerable improvements in overall efficiency and resource conservation will be needed to achieve the projected increase of food demand by 50 percent.
(i) Ensure a sustainable natural resource base: Due to recent and continuous expansion of residential areas, agricultural land is constrained and water is becoming scarce. Hence any increases in agricultural production will need to come mainly from conservation and the efficient use of natural resources.
(ii) Address climate change and intensification of natural hazards: Maintaining the capacity of the planet’s natural resource base to feed the growing world population, while reducing agriculture’s environmental and climate footprint, are critical to ensuring the welfare of current and future generations.
(iii) Prevent transboundary pests and diseases: Transboundary pests and diseases which is a major factor in maximizing plant and animal production and food safety to be controlled. It will require international coordination and support to understand the risks and then to control, prevent and eventually eradicate all such pests and diseases.
3.2 Food access and utilization:
Most of the world’s poor and hungry are lives in rural areas with limited earning from agriculture, fisheries and forestry. Hence reduce inequality by introducing pro poor growth oriented policies. The root causes of migration should be addressed by improving income in rural areas with more investment in agriculture sectors. The inclusive and fair development processes will be essential to prevent increasing conflicts around the world.
4. Systematic Challenges:
The food systems should be more efficient, inclusive and resilient. Changes in food systems are creating new concerns and challenges regarding the nutrient content of foods, the ecological footprint of food value-chains and the participation of smallholders in these chains.
The needs for coherent and effective national and international governance should be satisfied. The challenges facing food and agriculture are largely interconnected, as highlighted in the 2030 agenda for sustainable development and related global agreements. The well integrated national and international approaches required to address all these challengers. It will also require avoiding past deficiencies in global and national governance mechanisms, regulatory systems, and monitoring and accountability frameworks.
Several key conclusions can be drawn from the preceding review and analysis of the global trends that are influencing food security, poverty and hunger, and the sustainability of agriculture and food systems. Problems of extreme poverty, hunger, food insecurity and undernourishment will persist, along with increases in overweight, obesity and diet-related chronic diseases. At the same time, transboundary plant pests and diseases and other emerging threats continue to provoke crises in agricultural and food systems and impact productivity and human health. The economic and social consequences due to continuation of conflict around the world will have impacts on agricultural production systems, employment, nutrition and migration.
Rapid changes and transitions in food systems increasingly call for effective national and international governance systems, and result oriented policy responses. More investment in agriculture and agrifood systems, including increased spending on research and development, is needed to enhance agricultural productivity and promote innovation for sustainable agriculture, rural prosperity and food security.
Sustainable development is a universal challenge and the collective responsibility lies with all countries. This requires fundamental changes in the way all societies produce and consume. ‘Business as usual’ is no longer an option. Major changes are required 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.
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