Need for broad-based economic development

Photo: Ostrosky Photos

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.

Broad-based growth in income is essential to improving human well-being and delivering sustainable food security.

Families with more resources at their disposal are better able to cope with whatever uncertainties mother nature or human activities cause. Farming families with higher incomes are able to experiment with new technologies and management systems that might be costly up-front but offer big productivity and resilience payoffs in the future.

World prices are a useful indicator of the future of agriculture. Rising prices signal the existence of imbalances in supply and demand and growing resource scarcity, driven either by demand factors such as growing population and income, or by supply factors such as reduced productivity due to climate change. Unlike much of the 20th century, when real agricultural prices declined, our analysis suggests that real agricultural prices will likely increase between now and 2050, as the result of growing incomes and population as well as the negative productivity effects of climate change. The likely price increase ranges from 31.2 percent for rice (in the optimistic scenario) to 100.7 percent for maize (in the baseline scenario). With perfect mitigation, these price increases would be less: from 18.4 percent for rice in the optimistic scenario to 34.1 percent for maize in the pessimistic scenario. These still substantial increases reflect the relentless underlying pressures on the world food system, even in the unlikely event that perfect mitigation can be achieved (that is, all greenhouse gas emissions are halted and the inertia in the climate system can be overcome).

Domestic production combined with international trade flows determine domestic food availability; per capita income and domestic prices determine the ability of consumers to pay for that food. In our quantitative analysis, the average consumer in low-income developing countries today obtains only two-thirds of the calories available in the developed countries. With high per capita income growth and perfect climate mitigation, calorie availability reaches almost 85 percent of the developed countries by 2050. And in the optimistic scenario, because the poorest countries grow more rapidly between now and 2050, they catch up to today’s middle-income countries. With the pessimistic overall scenario, however, both calorie availability and general human well-being declines in all regions.

Calorie availability is an important component in our metric of human well-being—the number of malnourished children under the age of five. This number captures some, but certainly not all, of the human suffering that can result from the combination of slow economic growth and climate change, coupled with inappropriate government policies. Overall, in the optimistic scenario, the number of malnourished children in developing countries falls by over 45 percent between 2010 and 2050 (Table 15). With the pessimistic scenario, on the other hand, that number only decreases by about 2 percent.

The benefits of the optimistic scenario are greatest for the middle-income developing countries, which have the greatest share of world population. For these countries, the optimistic scenario results in a 50-percent decline in the number of malnourished children; in the pessimistic scenario, that number still declines, but by only 10 percent. Under the optimistic scenario, low income developing countries show a decline of 37 percent in the number of malnourished children—but the pessimistic scenario is devastating: the number of malnourished children increases by more 18 percent.

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