Food Security Futures conference ‘2013: two Discussion Papers released

WordCloud Foresight 10The  IFPRI/FAO/PIM Discussion Papers “Public-sector agricultural research priorities for sustainable food security” by Nelson and van der Mensbrugghe and “How does climate change alter agricultural strategies to support food security?” by Thornton and Lipper, released in April, are the first two of a series of four papers originally prepared for the Food Security Futures conference organized by PIM and FAO in April 2013. The Discussion Papers incorporate comments and recommendations received by the authors at and after the conference.


Gerald C. Nelson, Dominique van der Mensbrugghe

There is widespread agreement that our ability to deliver sustainable food security for all will be challenged in three dimensions—population growth, constrained natural resources, and climate change. The latest Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) report, The State of Food Insecurity in the World (FAO 2012), estimates the number of undernourished in the world at around 850 million persons (averaged for 2010–2012). The period of relatively steady decline since 1990 was interrupted after 2007 when food prices spiked, and the numbers have remained substantially unchanged since then.

It is clear that substantial resources and cooperation between various research organizations are needed to assess and model the coming food security challenges. This paper highlights three types of joint activities—cooperative quantitative modeling, cooperative use of institutional and outside substantive expertise, and sustained cooperation with model intercomparison efforts.

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Philip Thornton, Leslie Lipper

The negative effects of climate change are projected to affect the populations with the least capacity to adjust, but with the greatest need for improved agricultural performance to achieve food security and reduce poverty. The purpose of the paper is to identify how climate change affects how we should approach the process of transforming agricultural systems (including crops, livestock, fisheries and forestry) to support global food security and poverty reduction in a sustainable way. We also identify implications for FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) and CGIAR priorities.

To achieve this goal, we identify and discuss five major categories of responses within agricultural transitions that can be taken to respond to climate change: 1) increasing the resilience of production systems, 2) diversification, 3) expanding the use of no regrets technologies and planning, 4) better use of information for risk management, and 5) utilizing the co-benefits from mitigation. The urgency of reducing food insecurity together with the need for immediate responses to climate change impels us to define mechanisms, actions and approaches to stimulate desired transitions.

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PIM’s work in the area of foresight modeling develops under Flagship 1 (led by Keith Wiebe) of the Program’s research portfolio. The objective of this work is to generate scenarios that will indicate which new agricultural tech­nologies and practices will do most to reduce poverty and hunger in the future. In 2013, the PIM modeling team nearly completed characterization of 20 priority technologies, and progress was achieved in developing new methods to assess management practices and systemic interactions. The foresight work is generating strong interest from country governments, multilateral development banks, donors, and CGIAR. New CGIAR Centers have joined the effort (WorldFish, CIMMYT, and ICARDA in 2013, IWMI and IRRI in 2014), and links with other CRPs (e.g., CCAFS, RTB, Dryland Systems, Dryland Cereals, Grain Legumes, Maize, Wheat, WLE) are growing. The work is used to inform FARA’s leadership in development of the Science Agenda for African Agriculture.

Stay tuned for an upcoming announcement of the 2014 foresight conference!