Global farming systems study: challenges and priorities to 2030

Global farming systems study: challenges and priorities to 2030

What can be done to help farmers to position themselves within the global economy?

For more than a decade, the proportion of internationally supported public investment directed at agriculture and the rural sector in developing countries has been declining. Moreover, this is occuring at a time in which the process of globalisation is changing patters of trade and investment, placing agricultural producers and communities under tremendous pressure to adapt in order to survive. Hunger is still prevalent. Within this context World Bank sought the assistance of Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) in order to evaluate how farming systems might change and adapt over the next thirty years. The study concentrates on: food security; poverty reduction; economic growth.

The study incorporates in depth reviews of regional rural and agricultural systems and livelihoods. At a global level however, the following challenges and priorities are outlined:

Achieving more sustainable and productive use of natural resources, including:

  • Greater focus on improvements in the sustainability of natural resource use
  • Requirement for recapitalisation of soil fertility
  • Improvement in water resources management
  • Increased capacity to respond to climate changes

Deploying science and technology for poverty reduction. A major challenge in the the coming decades will be to generate technologies that contribute to increases in agricultural production and improvements in livelihoods in those areas where the potential for agriculture is lower. Over the long term there must be suspicion of relying on intensive agriculture and technologies that have inherently limited sustainability.The study outlines various sustainable, pro-poor technologies. Science and technology may be deployed for poverty reduction by:

  • Developing focused technologies through participatory research and development
  • Increasing average crop yields in areas of high potential
  • Increased labour productivity in low potential and low population density areas
  • Biotechnology and safeguards. Biotechnology offers a great potential for the customisation of new varieties of cash and food crops to specific farm systems and problems. The customisation of varieties, particularly those that can cope with abiotic stresses prevalent in low potential areas, has the potential to benefit the poor, if adequate safety standards are applied
  • Focus by small farms on labour intensive or nich cash crops
      Exploiting globalisation and market development while protecting vulnerable farmers, including:
      • Focus by small farms on labour intensive or niche cash crops
      • Satisfaction of household food security needs during the transition
      • Support for the role of the private sector - particularly small enterprises
      • Enabling environment for market development

      Refocusing policies, institutions and public goods, including:

      • Equitable, secure, transferable and flexible resource user rights
      • Sustainable provision of infrastructure to poor farming systems
      • Irrigation management concentrated upon small-scale farmer managed schemes
      • Further agricultural policy reforms and stronger meso-level institutions
      • Targeted safety nets

      Enhancing agricultural information and human capital, including:

      • Wide availability of agricultural information, particularly to smallholders
      • Broad, systems-oriented, training of agricultural professionals and farmers


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