Need for targeted agricultural investments

Food Security CASE Maps: Interactive Climate, Agriculture, and Socio-Economic Maps is based on analysis in IFPRI’s December 2010 report: Food Security, Farming, and Climate Change to 2050: Scenarios, Results Policy Options. One of the report's four main messages is highlighted here.

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Properly targeted agricultural productivity investments can mitigate the impacts of climate change and enhance sustainable food security.

Increases in agricultural production are essential to meeting the demand growth from population and income. While area expansion is still possible in some parts of the world, the possibility of negative environmental effects is substantial. Agricultural productivity investments make it possible to meet that increased demand from existing agricultural land resources, while reducing some of the environmental threats from increased production. We looked at five different types of productivity enhancements: an overall increase in crop productivity in developing countries of 40 percent relative to our baseline assumptions; an increase in commercial maize productivity; improvements in wheat and cassava productivity (analyzed separately) in selected countries in the developing world; and an increase in irrigation efficiency (Table 16).

The overall productivity increase had the greatest effect on human well-being, reducing the number of malnourished children in 2050 by 16.2 percent (or 19.1 million children under 5) relative to the baseline result (Table 19). Some in the commercial maize industry suggest that commercial maize yields can increase by an annual average of 2.5 percent through at least 2030, so we simulated a 2 percent increase through 2050. This productivity change would affect about 80 percent of world production in 2010. The effects on world maize prices are dramatic: prices increase only 12 percent, instead of 101 percent, between 2010 and 2050. The effect on malnourished children is also not insignificant, with a 3.2 percent decline relative to the baseline in 2050. The effect is larger in the low-income developing countries (a decline of 4.8 percent) because maize consumption is relatively more important in this group of countries.

The wheat productivity experiment increases productivity to 2 percent in selected developing countries that together account for about 40 percent of world production in 2010. Because less production is affected than in the maize simulation, the outcomes for human well-being are less dramatic, with only a 2.2 percent reduction in the number of malnourished children in developing countries in 2050. The middle-income developing countries fare better (a 2.5 percent reduction) than the low-income developing countries (1.6 percent reduction), because India and China are both major wheat producers and consumers and are included in the group of middle-income developing countries.

Cassava is a particularly important crop for consumers in some low-income developing countries. It is the fourth most important source of calories for this group of countries and provides about 8 percent of average daily consumption. The simulation increases productivity to 2 percent annually for the six top producing countries (Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Nigeria, Indonesia, and Thailand) that collectively accounted for over 60 percent of world production in 2000. While the effect on the number of malnourished children is only a 1.1 decline in 2050 for all developing countries, it is concentrated in the low-income developing countries, where the decline is 2.2 percent (Table 25).

Finally, we looked at the effects of a 15 percent increase in irrigation efficiency in developing countries. The world’s irrigated area is concentrated in South and East Asia. In East Asia, increased precipitation from climate change (in most scenarios), along with changing consumer preferences away from rice, reduce the need for irrigated area between 2010 and 2050.

Therefore, any irrigation efficiency improvements there have relatively small effects on food production (although they are critical for freeing up water for industrial and urban use). In South Asia, however, the benefits of more efficient irrigation are substantial. And for middle income countries as a whole, increased irrigation efficiency reduces the number of malnourished children in 2050 by 0.3 percent, or about 0.3 million children (Table 34). In lowincome developing countries, however, because the share of irrigated area is low, the efficiency effect is small, reducing the number of malnourished children by only 0.2 percent (0.1 million children).

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