How can we feed the world in 2050 without destroying it?

Just out 7 July 2019
As a recent UN report warned that hunger worldwide is on the rise again, the World Resources Institute (WRI) launched the final version of its report Creating a Sustainable Food Future on 17 July. The 550-page report, produced in association with CIRAD, the World Bank, UNEP and UNDP and INRA, suggests ways of feeding the world in 2050 without destroying it. Its recommendations were drawn up using the GlobAgri platform designed by CIRAD and INRA and used for the Agrimonde-Terra foresight study.
Agroforestry is one of the innovative farming methods that could cut GHG emissions © C. Dangléant, CIRAD
Agroforestry is one of the innovative farming methods that could cut GHG emissions © C. Dangléant, CIRAD

Agroforestry is one of the innovative farming methods that could cut GHG emissions © C. Dangléant, CIRAD

The World Resources report: Creating a Sustainable Food Future, of which the WRI presented the full version* on 17 July, reveals that feeding 10 billion people in 2050 without destroying the planet will mean:

  • producing 56% more food than in 2010,
  • avoiding a "land gap" (between the global agricultural land area in 2010 and that forecast for 2050) of nearly 600 million hectares,
  • reducing expected GHG emissions by 11 gigatonnes, in line with the Paris Agreement.

To tackle this challenge, the report offers a "five-course menu":

  1. Reduce growth in demand by cutting food loss and waste, eating healthier diets, and more;
  2. Increase food production without expanding agricultural land area via yield gains for both crops and livestock;
  3. Protect and restore natural ecosystems by reducing deforestation, restoring peatlands, and linking yield gains with ecosystem conservation;
  4. Increase fish supply by improving aquaculture systems and better managing wild fisheries; and
  5. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural production through innovative technologies and farming methods.

"At every level, the food system must be linked to climate strategies as well as ecosystem protections and economic prosperity", said Andrew Steer, President and CEO of the World Resources Institute.

The report Creating a Sustainable Food Future also identifies a set of policy frameworks, innovations and incentives for use in rolling out these solutions on a large scale.

"Feeding the world in a sustainable way will required strong, concerted action on the objectives set, in a time span that has been shortened by climate change, by a range of players, and particularly increased collaboration between producers and agrifood firms, civil society and governments", CIRAD President Managing Director Michel Eddi points out. "Strong, ambitious public policies are needed to boost the diversity and nutrition value of our diet; encourage agroecological practices in every type of farming, to reduce GHG emissions and environmental degradation; and enable sustainable development on a territory scale, to foster job creation in rural areas."

As Laura Tuck, Vice President for Sustainable Development at the World Bank , said at the report launch, "public funding should be examined and if need be, redesigned, to support more sustainable use of natural resources and better align food production with countries’ Sustainable Development Goals».

*A summary of the conclusions of the report was presented at COP 24 in Poland in December 2018.

The GlobAgri-WRR model

Many of the report’s findings use the new GlobAgri-WRR model, which quantifies how far each “menu item” can help to increase the availability of food, avoid deforestation, and reduce GHG emissions. "GlobAgri is a quantitative platform developed by CIRAD and INRA and used for the Agrimonde-Terra foresight study. It was used in drafting this World Resources Report" , says Patrice Dumas, a modelling specialist with CIRAD who was involved in developing GlobAgri. During the Agrimonde-Terra foresight study, the GlobAgri model was used to simulate land use changes and food availability in fourteen regions worldwide.