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FAO Global Perspectives Studies

Global Perspectives Studies, Economic and Social Development Department, FAO

The future of food and agriculture – Alternative pathways to 2050

This database contains projections used for the preparation of the report "The future of food and agriculture – Alternative pathways to 2050".

This report explores three different scenarios for the future of food and agriculture, based on alternative trends for key drivers, including income growth and distribution, population growth, technical progress and climate change.


Building on the report The future of food and agriculture – Trends and challenges, this publication forms part of FAO’s efforts to support evidence-based decision-making processes. It provides solid qualitative and quantitative analysis and sheds light on possible strategic options to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of eradicating hunger, improving nutrition and ensuring economic, social and environmental sustainability of food and agricultural systems. 

Required citation for all data and figures:

FAO. 2018. The future of food and agriculture – Alternative pathways to 2050. Rome ( ).

The designations employed and the presentation of material in this information product do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) concerning the legal or development status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. The mention of specific companies or products of manufacturers, whether or not these have been patented, does not imply that these have been endorsed or recommended by FAO in preference to others of a similar nature that are not mentioned. The views expressed in this information product are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of FAO. ISBN 978-92-5-130158-6 © FAO, 2018

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Reference scenario - Business as usual

This global future develops according to socio-economic, technological and environmental patterns that fail to address many challenges for food access and utilization, as well as for sustainable food stability and availability, despite efforts to achieve and maintain SDG targets. 


Economic growth (per capita) is moderate, ranging globally around 1.5 percent per year, but uneven across countries. Long-term cross-country convergence of economic systems is doubtful due to varying investment patterns, technological disparities in all sectors and diverging demographic dynamics. Foreign investment continues along the north-south axis, following historical trends in each country and with current levels of impact on economies and societies. Domestic savings rates continue under current trends. Bilateral trade agreements are in place, with non-tariff border policies gaining importance.Fiscal policies continue to provide some within-country redistribution, but incentives to move towards sustainability are limited. Credit policies have no particular interest in innovative, sustainable enterprises, and public investment remains modest as per current trends. The diverse modalities of economic transformation, the different role and size of fiscal systems, as well as the varying effectiveness of social protection mechanisms across countries lead to differentiated results in terms of reducing poverty and achieving food and nutrition security.

The goals of promoting just, peaceful and inclusive societies, and significantly reducing illicit financial and arms flows as well as bribery and corruption, are only partially achieved due to limited effectiveness of institutions at all levels to set up and enforce standards and regulations. Official Development Assistance (ODA) stagnates around current levels while other forms of cross-country cooperation, such as joint research, technological transfers, etc., are limited in bridging country gaps. LMIC foreign debt levels remain stable.International institutions often fail to solve local conflicts or broader international instability, and implicit confrontation therefore prevails. Ongoing demand for fossil fuel energy mostly remains unabated and due to institutional weaknesses, energy- and other resource-related national and international conflicts continue to afflict the planet. Current trends in defence expenditure leave little room for funds to be devoted to economic transformation policies.

Countries are barely able to provide quality education. Access to health services is an ongoing challenge, and low-income countries (LIC) are sometimes unable to maintain their populations’ well-being. Access to clean water and sanitation become widely available in LIC, but it is a struggle to maintain these systems. Many forms of discrimination against women and girls are brought to a permanent end, but labour-market discrimination persists in many countries.

Fossil fuels are the main energy source for decades, with renewable sources slowly emerging. Oil extraction rates remain relatively unchanged. The potential for GHG sequestration is limited, as uncertainty regarding future economic incentives limits R&D and the adoption of suitable practices. The adoption of conservation practices stagnates, as do investments in R&D for agriculture in LMIC. Expanding agricultural and economy-wide GHG emissions contribute to exacerbating climate change and increasing the world’s average temperature, which may rise by 3–4 °C by 2100.

Current moderate trends of extreme poverty reduction are maintained, and moderate food security improvements occur. Nevertheless, “zero hunger” and “no malnutrition” are not achieved by either 2030 or 2050. In terms of diets, current trends of moderate convergence towards the consumption of more nutritious food are maintained, though consumers exhibit limited willingness to pay for environmental services. Food losses and waste globally are mostly unabated and only partially reduced through specific programmes in selected LMIC and consumer campaigns in HIC.

Arable land (the physical area under temporary and permanent agricultural crops) expands at faster annual rates than in the last decades and land degradation is only partially addressed. Land intensity, which is to say the quantity of land per unit of output, decreases as crop and animal yields increase, but these achievements require the progressive use of chemicals. Deforestation and unsustainable raw material extraction both continue, while water efficiency improves but the lack of major changes in technology leads to the emergence of more water-stressed countries. 

Innovation is generated through high investments in research following historical trends, with a reduced role of the public sector. However, family farmers do not necessarily benefit due to costly input packages that have dubious effectiveness or environmental sustainability. The level of input use continues to evolve along historical levels, as do current consumer protection regulations. Agricultural yields increase but are variably affected by climate change, depending on latitude and crop. High value-added small farms and processors of high-quality food compete with large-scale, high-input producers. Current trends towards more processed foods in LIC and more fresh food in HIC continue. Agricultural prices globally show limited increases, which reflect pressure on demand and limited resources. 

The main scenario “drivers” in the reference scenario (Business as usual )

The main scenario “drivers” (growth of population and income per capita, the degree of climate change and effects on crop yields and land availability, among others) are specific for each country and region. 


Macro indicators

Population increases over the last century led to a substantial rise in food demand. The United Nations projects that the world’s population will be 9.7 billion by 2050, 10.8 billion by 2080, and 11.2 billion by 2100. Compared to approximately 7.3 billion people in 2015, the population will increase by around 32 percent, 47 percent and 53 percent in those three future periods, respectively. While these projections actually suggest a slowdown in the overall global population growth, significant and persistent increases are expected in Africa and South Asia: by 2100, these two regions may well be home to a total population of 9 billion of the projected 11 billion people on the planet. Driven by these important demographic forces, the demand for food is expected to significantly increase, particularly in Africa and South Asia.

Agricultural investment scenarios with climate changes


Reference secenario (business as usual)


Alternative scenarios

Stratified societies (SSS) & Towards sustainability (TSS)


High increase in R&D investment across the CGIAR portfolio plus increased research efficiency


Regionally-focused high increase in CGIAR R&D investments Targets the highest increases to South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa with medium levels of increase in Latin America and East Asia

Comparison analysis across agricultural investment scenarios

This section provides an overview of results of IMAPCT models across several agricultural investment scenarios. The important part of this result is about ...



temporal changes on yield, production, and total area
regional change on yield, production, and total area
World prices
Food Security
Map view on food security indicators
temporal change on the household demands
Regional change on the household demands
Deep dives on each scenario

Run the model


    Percentage Change On Supply, Demand, Area, And Food Security


    Value Indexed To 2010 On Supply, Demand, Area, And Food Security


    Map View On Demands, Agricultural Yields, Production, Harvested Areas, And Food Security

Quantitative Foresight Modeling to Inform the CGIAR Research Portfolio


This report provides a quantitative assessment of the impacts of alternative investment options on the CGIAR’s SLOs (relating to poverty – SLO1, food and nutrition security – SLO2, and natural resources and ecosystem services – SLO3) in the context of changes in population, income, technology, and climate to 2050 as well as for key SDGs of importance to the developing world. The report serves as a source of information and evidence of the impact of CGIAR efforts in agricultural R&D as well as the role of complementary investments. It is intended to help the CGIAR Centers, CG Research Programs (CRP), system management, and donors to complement other efforts to assess the overall impact and benefits of investing in international and national agricultural research programs.

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Global Perspectives Studies, Economic and Social Development Department, FAO

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