Finding sustainable ways to feed a fast-growing population is one of the most pressing development challenges facing the world today.

​​​​​​​Why demand for food is rising

The world population is projected to grow from around 7 billion in 2012 to around 9.6 billion by 2050 – and with this will come an increase in demand for food. Meeting this demand at the same time as protecting and strengthening rural economies, reducing emissions and preventing further damage to fragile ecosystems is a major challenge; and one that is made more difficult by a range of external circumstances.

These include the fact that food prices are at a record high, inflated by factors including growing demand – and increased purchasing power – in middle income countries. At the same time, more than half the population growth projected by 2050 is set to occur in sub-Saharan Africa, where more than a quarter of the population is already undernourished and security of food supply is a major challenge.

Finding a solution

There is no one solution that can create a sustainable food future. Closing the food gap requires a range of strategies, involving governments, businesses and a broad spectrum of other stakeholders. The food and drink industry has a significant part to play, including by:

  • Making food production more efficient: Currently, agriculture is the source of nearly a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions and uses 70% of all freshwater taken from rivers, lakes and aquifers. Techniques such as crop rotation and mulching, and growing crops on degraded land, can help reduce environmental impact.
  • Supporting farmers: Closing the food gap depends on enhancing the productivity and livelihoods of smallholder farmers, and building sustainable rural economies.
  • Cutting food loss and waste: Around a quarter of food calories produced for human consumption are lost or wasted. Halving this rate could close the food gap by around 20% by 2050.

The way ahead

There is no simple solution. But many of the developing countries that are working to meet the hunger reduction target in the UN Sustainable Development Goals​ have taken steps to address inequalities, including by improving access to nutrition, healthcare and education. By building capacity among the poorer members of society – including in particular smallholder farmers – they increase resilience and ensure that everyone can share the benefits of economic growth.