Foreword by the Director-General of FAO

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This report updates, amplifies and extends to the year 2010, the FAO global study "World Agriculture: Toward 2000", last issued in 1987. It assesses the prospects, worldwide, for food and agriculture, including fisheries and forestry, over the years to 2010.

The two most important underlying themes of the study, which are also at the very heart of FAO's activities, concern the prospects for enhanced food security and nutrition and for improved sustainability of agricultural and rural development. These themes were also the focus of the two major international conferences held in 1992: the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development and the FAO/WHO International Conference on Nutrition. Both conferences provided important signposts for the preparation of the present study, as did the Den Bosch Conference on Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development held in 1991.

In assessing the prospects for progress towards improved food security and sustainability, it was necessary to analyse in detail many contributory issues. These range from the factors affecting rural poverty and the development of human resources, to those pertaining to the overall economic and international trading conditions, to the status and future of agricultural resources and technology. Among the many issues analysed, it is found that the development of local food production in the low-income countries with high dependence on agriculture for employment and income is the one factor that dominates all others in determining progress or failure in improving their food security. To facilitate the analyses conducted for the study, FAO's experience and expertise in all of the relevant disciplines, from the broad socio-economic to the very specialized and technical ones, have been brought to bear, together with its extensive knowledge of local, national and international situations and policies.

The findings of the study aim to describe the future as it is likely to be, not as it ought to be, and do not aim to wish away problems and challenges. As such they should not be construed to represent goals of an FAO strategy. It is therefore hoped that the findings will contribute to increased awareness of what needs to be done to cope with the problems likely to persist and new ones that may emerge, to guide policies at both national and international levels, and to set priorities for the years ahead.


The world as a whole has been making progress towards improved food security and nutrition. This is clear from the substantial increases in per caput food supplies achieved globally and for a large proportion of the population of the developing world. But, as the 1987 study had warned, progress has been slow and uneven. Indeed, many countries and population groups have failed to make significant progress and some of them have even suffered setbacks in their already fragile food security and nutrition situation. Humanity is thus still faced with the stark reality of chronic undernutrition affecting some 800 million people, 20 percent of the population of the developing countries, as many as 37 percent in sub-Saharan Africa and still more in some individual countries. The notion that the world would by now be on a firm path towards eliminating the scourge of hunger and undernutrition by the end of this century has so far proven overly optimistic.

The present study predicts that this uneven path of progress is, unfortunately, likely to prevail also beyond the end of this century. But it also indicates some significant enhancement of food security and nutrition by the year 2010, mainly resulting from increased domestic production but also from some additional growth in food imports. Food exporting countries should face no major problem in supplying the envisaged additional imports, particularly if, as predicted, the former centrally-planned developed countries become much smaller net food importers than was the case until quite recently, or perhaps modest net exporters. However, a number of developing importing countries are likely to continue to face serious foreign exchange constraints and some major logistical problems.

By the year 2010 per caput food supplies will have increased and the incidence of undernutrition will have been further reduced in most developing regions. However, parts of South Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean may still be in a difficult position and much of sub-Saharan Africa would probably not be significantly better off than at present in the absence of concerted action by all concerned. Therefore, the world must brace itself for continuing interventions to cope with the consequences of local food crises and for action to remove permanently their root causes. Nothing short of a significant upgrading of the overall development performance of the lagging countries, with emphasis on poverty reduction, will free the world of the most pressing food insecurity problems. Making progress towards this goal depends on many factors. However, experience amply demonstrates the crucial role of agriculture in the process of overall development, particularly where a large part of the population depends on the sector for employment and income.


On the issue of sustainability, the study brings together the most recent evaluation of data on the developing countries' agricultural resources, how they are used now and what may be available for meeting future needs. It does the same for the forestry and the fisheries sectors. The study also provides an assessment of the possible extent and intensity of use of resource over the years to 2010. It concludes that pressure on resources, including those that are associated with degradation, will continue to build up.

The main pressures threatening sustainability are likely to be those emanating from rural poverty, as more and more people attempt to extract a living out of dwindling resources. When these processes occur in an environment of poor and limited resources and when the circumstances for introducing sustainable technologies and practices are not propitious, the risk grows that a vicious circle of poverty and resource degradation will set in. Poverty-related environmental pressures are, however, only par' of the story. Agricultural practices, consumption patterns and policies on the part of the rich also contribute to the problem. Responding to environmental pressures from this origin depends on changes in policies to remove incentives for environmentally damaging practices and indeed to introduce disincentives for controlling them, a process already initiated.

However the poverty-related part of environmental degradation is unlikely to be eased before poverty-reducing development has advanced sufficiently to the stage when people and countries become significantly less dependent on the exploitation of agricultural resources. The key concern, therefore, will be how to ensure transition from a world of rapidly growing population and many people chronically undernourished to one of slow or very low demographic growth free from chronic undernutrition, with the least possible adverse effects on resources and the environment. There is considerable scope for improvements in this direction and the study explores a range of technological and other policy options. Provided such improvements are put in place, the prospects are for an easing of pressures on world agricultural resources in the longer term and for minimal further build-up of pressures on the environment caused by agriculture.

I conclude by reiterating the importance of developing local food production in the low-income countries with high dependence on agriculture for employment and income as a key. and often indeed the major. component of any strategy to improve their food security. It is for this reason that this objective is given enhanced priority in the reorientation of FAO's programmes currently under way.

Jacques Diouf

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