Ruth Delzeit, Kacana Sipangule and Rainer Thiele - Kiel Institute for the World Economy - Kiel, Germany


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Despite some undeniable successes over the last decades, progress towards achieving food security and eradicating hunger in developing countries has not lived up to expectations. In large parts of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, the two regions with the highest incidence of undernutrition, the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of cutting hunger by half will not be met. Our authors Ruth Delzeit, Kacana Sipangule and Rainer Thiele (f.l.t.r.) from the Kiel Institute for the World Economy argue for a particular focus on food security in the current G7 agenda.

In 2012-2014, about 805 million people in the world, or one in nine, were suffering from chronic undernourishment (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, 2014). To meet the future demand of a growing world population with rapidly changing consumption patterns, it is estimated that agricultural production needs to be increased by 70–110 per cent until 2050. Some of this will be achieved through the expansion of croplands, but in order to save ecologically fragile and valuable areas such as tropical forests, most will have to come from productivity gains on existing cropland. Land productivity has indeed improved considerably over the last six decades, but although food production has doubled, agricultural land use has increased by only 10 per cent.

Also, progress has been very uneven, and in several regions, agricultural yields and production stability are now additionally threatened by a changing climate. The regional variation in agricultural production potentials is illustrated in the Figure below. It shows a large gap between current yields and maximum attainable yields (in tons per hectare) for developing countries, most notably sub-Saharan Africa (AFR), whereas industrialised regions such as Germany (GER) or the United Kingdom (UK) are already close to realising their maximum potential yield. Sub-Saharan Africa is also expected to be seriously hit by climate change.

As shown below, the highest absolute net decline in areas suitable for agricultural production is found in sub-Saharan Africa, even though some areas close to the equator benefit from a changing climate (see green coloured pixels), as do regions in the northern hemisphere such as Canada and Russia.

Climate change not only alters the suitability of land for agricultural production; agricultural yields are also affected by larger variations in temperature and precipitation. On average, global potential yields on existing cropland are expected to decline by about three per cent under climate change by 2030.

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