The future needs an agricultural system that produces about 50 percent more food to feed the world's 9 billion people by 2050; that provides adequate nutrition; that substantially raises the levels and resilience of incomes and employment for most of the world's poor, 75 percent of whom live in rural areas and most of whom rely on agriculture for their livelihoods; that provides environmental services such as absorbing carbon, managing watersheds, and preserving biodiversity; and that uses finite land and water resources more efficiently. It can be done with more and better investment in the sector, with more attention to reducing gender inequality in access to resources and opportunities, and to addressing cross-sectoral linkages between agricultural actions and outcomes for economic growth, livelihoods, the environment, nutrition, and public health. Such linkages were addressed in depth in the World Development Report (WDR) 2008, Agriculture for Development.
More recently, the already-urgent need for action in agriculture has been amplified by recurrent spikes in global food prices, their lasting impact on poverty and nutrition, and the associated risk of social and political tensions. And for each degree Celsius of global warming, the potential grain crop yield loss is about 5 percent. Investment returns in the sector can be high. Income gains in agriculture are no more costly to achieve than income gains in other sectors, and the associated growth originating from agriculture has been two to four times more effective at reducing poverty than growth originating from other sectors.