The indicators of development in the world have consistently improved over the past 25 years; globally, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty has decreased from 37.1 percent in 1990 to 12.7 percent in 2012. Despite this, multiple indicators remain alarmingly high, for instance, the percentage of child malnutrition/stunting currently stands at 23.8 percent.

The World Bank recently released the 2016 World Development Indicators (WDI) Report. The report focuses on the progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, as it did with the Millennium Development Goals. The report includes a range of indicators that are designed to measure the 169 targets of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The report is the result of a collaborative partnership of international agencies and the statistical offices of more than 200 countries. This report is especially relevant understanding the state of food security as most of the SDGs are related to agriculture and nutrition.

Regarding SDG 1 (end poverty in all its forms everywhere), the report highlights that if growth rates continue on recent trends, extreme poverty will only fall to 4 percent by 2030, missing the SDG target. The report suggests that social protection programs have a significant role to play in overcoming poverty and hunger, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Currently, only one out of five people receives one or more types of social benefit in low-income countries.

In reference to SDG 2 (end hunger, achieve food security, and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture), the report highlights that the share of the world’s population suffering from hunger has fallen from 19 percent to 11 percent over the past 25 years, but at current trends, the 2030 targets will not be met. The report emphasizes that improving the agricultural productivity of poor households will be central to ending hunger by 2030 as changes in poverty and undernourishment are closely related to changes in agricultural productivity, particularly changes in cereal yields. In periods of stagnant agricultural productivity growth, as experienced by low-income countries from 1990 to 1999, poor people saw little improvement in wealth and nutritional health. In contrast, between 2000 and 2012, the average annual growth rate of cereal yields in low-income countries was 2.6 percent while poverty and undernourishment fell 2.7 percent a year over the same period. A similar directional pattern exists for lower and upper middle-income countries, though the proportional impacts vary. By 2030, population growth, and hence food demand, is projected to increase the most in the poorest parts of the world. These are also the regions where agricultural productivity is lowest and where vulnerability to climate change is high, therefore it is essential that significant increases in agricultural productivity are supported and achieved in these countries.

SDG 6 (ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all) is directly relevant for nutrition and the agricultural sector as the agriculture sector accounts for over 70 percent of global freshwater use and there is increased competition for water. Currently, the Middle East and North Africa and South Asia are classified as water-stressed regions, with less than 1,700 cubic meters of water available per year per person. The report predicts that by 2050, feeding a planet of 9 billion people will require a 15 percent increase in water withdrawals for agriculture. These statistics illustrate the necessity for increased efforts to use water efficiently.

SDGs 12, 13 and 15 are directly focused on adapting and mitigating climate change and are directly relevant to food security. Globally, 2015 was the hottest year on record; changes in temperature and precipitation, which are already occurring, pose substantial risks for agriculture, water supplies, food and ecosystems and are likely to hit low and middle income countries the hardest. SDG 13 calls for stronger resilience and capacity to adapt to climate-related hazards and natural disasters, integration of climate change measures into national planning, improved education, capacity building, and mobilization of sustained resources to address the needs of low- and middle-income countries.

Regarding climate finance, climate financing from public and private sources from high to low income countries, some of which is used for agricultural adaptation and mitigation projects increased from approximately $52.2 billion in 2013 to $61.8 billion in 2014.
In reference to SDG 12 (ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns), the report suggests that changing consumption patterns also have an important role to play in mitigating climate change. For instance, the report estimates that a third of all food that is produced is lost or wasted, an amount that would be sufficient to end hunger. Although the extent of food loss varies greatly by income group and region, minimizing food waste in all countries can contribute to ending hunger and reducing the impacts of climate change. In Africa south of the Sahara, the equivalent of 414 calories per person per day is lost, mostly during the process of production, handling, and storage.

SDG 15 (protect, restore, and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss) is interlinked with the agricultural sector as the health of ecosystems is linked to agricultural productivity. The loss of potential and existing agricultural land to drought, floods, and land degradation affects many of the world’s poor, many of whom depend on agriculture for their livelihoods and nourishment. The report estimates that soil degradation affects 52 percent of agricultural land, and arable land is being lost at 30–35 times its historical rate. Drought and desertification lead to annual losses of 12 million hectares of arable land, on which 20 million tons of grain could be grown. Broadly, the report calls for implementation of sustainable and integrated land and water management practices.

The report also covers a number of crosscutting issues, namely: statistical capacity, financial inclusion and fragility, conflict and violence. Regarding statistical capacity, the report highlights that the capacity to measure development progress have improved consistently and will help to design and implement interventions that will help achieve the SDGs. Regarding financial inclusion, the report highlights that between 2011 and 2014 the share of adults with an account at a financial institution increased from 51 percent to 61 percent. This is significant as it improves the capacity of farmers and small agri-businesses to make productive investments.

Regarding conflict and violence, the report emphasizes that around a fifth of the world’s population lives in fragile, conflict, or violent situations and argues that progress toward each SDG will be severely impacted in regions affected by fragility, conflict, and violence. The food security of people living in these areas are threatened as fragility and conflict can rapidly dismantle development achievements (such as increases to agricultural productivity) and the ability to access basic necessities.

Access the WDI Database and read analysis of the WDI report as it relates to Africa south of the Sahara.

The Sustainable Development Goals data dashboard provides an interactive presentation of the indicators in the WDI database that are related to each goal.

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