Food security

FAO projections indicate that by 2050 a 60 percent increase in food production over 2005-2007 levels will be necessary to meet the growing demand for food. And that this will largely come from increases in productivity. Furthermore, as populations expand and economies grow, the global demand for energy and water is also expected to increase by 40 percent. If the world is to fulfill its commitments to halving hunger and poverty by 2015 and helping low-income countries meet their basic energy needs by 2030, these food, water and energy challenges must be overcome.

• Globally, the agrifood chain consumes 30 percent of the world’s available energy – with more than 70 percent consumed beyond the farm gate.
• About one third of the energy used in the agrifood chain is lost with food wastage.

Agrifood systems not only require energy, they can also produce energy. For this reason, agrifood systems have a unique role to play in alleviating ‘energy poverty’.

• Almost 3 billion people have limited access to modern energy services for heating and cooking, and 1.4 billion have zero or limited access to electricity.

Today there is a large gap between energy demand and access, and demand will certainly increase as countries develop. Average per capita energy use in low-income countries is a third of that of middle-income countries, which is in turn almost a fifth of per capita energy demand in high-income countries.

From a rural development perspective, access to energy is fundamental for the provision of goods and services that can improve agricultural productivity and bring new opportunities for generating income. Increasing energy services in rural areas has the potential to spur agricultural development by increasing productivity, for example through irrigation, and improving crop processing and storage.

Bioenergy and food security

To date, the rush to develop bioenergy alternatives to fossil fuels has tended to take place in the absence of a proper understanding of the full costs and benefits of bioenergy. The impacts of bioenergy, and specifically biofuels, on food prices, economic growth, energy security, deforestation, land use and climate change are complex and multi-faceted. These impacts will vary widely depending on the feedstocks, the production methods and the location. In addition, consumers and producers will be affected differently by these impacts.

The FAO Bioenergy and Food Security (BEFS) Approach supports countries in developing evidence based policies derived from country level information and cross institutional dialogue involving relevant stakeholders, in order to ensure that bioenergy development fosters both food and energy security, and that it contributes to agricultural and rural development in a climate-smart way.

FAO has significantly contributed to the development of the GBEP indicators related to bioenergy and food security.  These indicators will permit an evaluation of the impacts of bioenergy on food security at the national, regional and household levels.

last updated:  Thursday, February 7, 2013