Background notes on sustainable, productive and resilient agro-food systems: value chains, human capital, and the 2030 Agenda

A report prepared for the G20 Presidency of Japan and the G20 Agriculture Deputies
Agriculture Value creation food production Sustainable development economic growth Human capital Farmers

Agricultural production more than tripled between 1960 and 2015, owing in part to productivity-enhancing technologies and a significant expansion in the use of land, water, and other natural resources for agricultural purposes. The same period witnessed a remarkable process of industrialization and globalization of food and agriculture. Food value chains have lengthened dramatically both in terms of physical distance from farm to plate, the incorporation of value added from different sectors and countries, but also in terms of more links being progressively characterized by stringent food safety and quality requirements. The consumption of processed, packaged and prepared foods has increased in all but the most isolated rural communities.

Today, more than ever, agriculture faces multiple and complex challenges. It has to provide sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to meet boosting demand by a growing and progressively more prosperous population, and ensure food security for all. It will need to do so while managing natural resources sustainably. Despite undeniable progress, after a prolonged decline, new evidence continues to signal a rise in world hunger for a third consecutive year. In 2017 the number of undernourished people was estimated to have increased to 821 million – around one out of every nine people in the world. A range of health-related issues is coming to the fore, including other forms of malnutrition such as obesity and overweight, animal and plant disease risks, and antimicrobial resistance.

The agricultural and food sector has to generate jobs and incomes and contribute to poverty eradication, rural economic growth, and transformation. The sector, today, is a significant employer in a number of countries. Yet rural people make up four-fifths of the global poor. In developing countries, agriculture and food systems are central to promoting inclusive economic growth and reducing poverty. In developed economies, investments in agriculture and food systems can contribute to vibrant rural economies.

At the same time, climate change is jeopardizing crop and livestock production. Higher average temperatures and the likelihood of increased frequency of extreme weather events can affect agriculture in both the long- and the short-term. The evidence suggests that climate change will affect world regions unevenly, increasing inequalities and further widening the gap between developed and developing countries. The sector has to adapt to changing temperatures, precipitation patterns, and more frequent extreme weather events, mitigate its impact on the environment, and address the provision of ecosystem services.

Disruptive technologies have the potential to transform how businesses, people, and governments work and also to revolutionize agriculture and the food sector in the way food is produced, processed, and distributed. At the same time, the digital economy may pose risks in terms of skills mismatches and rising inequality both within and across countries, especially in rural areas.

Broad G20 actions to foster faster economic growth are mutually reinforcing with efforts to promote agricultural development and improve global food security and nutrition.

Addressing tomorrow’s challenges in food and agriculture will require coordination and coherence of actions and policies across countries.

The G20 represents a large share of global gross agricultural production value typically in the range of 80 percent. What G20 countries produce, how they produce it, what stocks they keep, and what they import and export have a global impact, including on the most vulnerable. The Group has unique strengths as a coordinating forum, involving emerging and advanced countries at the highest level to focus on the most pressing issues in the world economy.

This draft includes three notes responding to the request by the G20 Presidency of Japan to provide background material and information to support discussions in the G20 Agriculture Ministers meeting in May 2019. Each note focuses on one of three interlinked issues: (i) the policy challenges for strengthening the participation of farmers into modern value chains and promoting value addition, inclusion, sustainability and rural economic growth; (ii) the need for a transformation in the skillset of agricultural workers and a renewed focus on human capital development in agriculture in order to be able to implement technological and economic change, consumers’ preferences and concerns, better natural resources management, as well as addressing global trends such as climate change and globalization; and (iii) the contribution of agriculture to the realization of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – ending poverty, hunger and malnutrition, and responding to climate change while achieving inclusive growth, building resilient communities and sustainably managing our natural resources.

FAO and OECD undertook the preparation of these three notes with inputs from ERIA, IFAD, IFPRI, and the WTO. The international organisations are honoured to provide the G20 Presidency of Japan with the results of this joint effort and look forward to continuing to collaborate within the G20 framework.

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