16 January 2015
Berlin, Germany

GFFA 2015 World Bank working meeting on resilient supply chains

The issues raised at the 7th Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) World Bank Working Meeting on Building Resilient Supply Chains in Food and Agriculture: Growing the Bioeconomy from the Bottom Up have to do with producing at least 50% more food to feed 9 billion people by 2050.

ESM's Michael Obersteiner will make a keynote presentation on Friday January 16 at 14:00 entitled "Food System Resilience: Adaptation or Transformation? 

Below is an overview of what will be discussed at the meeting.

Global production systems for food and other raw materials are facing a formidable challenge with many dimensions. We need to feed 9 billion people by mid-century and satisfy an ever-growing demand for renewable raw materials. This over-arching challenge must be met:

  • while ensuring the availability of nutritious food for all
  • while avoiding expansion onto new lands and maintaining an already over-stretched natural resource base where soil erosion, water and nutrient over-usage are common
  • while satisfying increasingly sophisticated consumers demanding traceability, highest standards of food safety, uninterrupted availability etc.
  • while reducing agriculture’s unsustainable green house gas emissions levels, that, if left unchecked, could one day come to dominate the world’s emission budget
  • in spite of market volatility that tightly matched supply and demand will cause  – and the political instability that often accompanies it
  • in spite of climate change and the dramatically deteriorating conditions for agriculture already manifest around the world

Companies around the world are already finding themselves looking for alternatives to their traditional ways of managing supply chains and sourcing raw materials. In the past, alternative suppliers were readily available and excess capacity in the bioeconomy allowed supply to smooth out demand fluctuations. Companies did not need to think much about where they were sourcing from and how those products were produced. Today, whole clusters of suppliers frequently succumb to disruptions of a previously unknown scale. Often, alternatives are unavailable even at global level. Traditional models are evidently failing.

To enable rural areas to take advantage of opportunities to grow rural enterprises and to create jobs, building new resilient supply chains is key. In doing so, one member of the chain stands out: Farmers in developing and emerging market countries. There is no way that we can hope to overcome the challenges without the help of the most critical yet often weakest member of the supply chain. Farmers hold the key to our common future because they offer the greatest untapped potential: Decades of neglect have left them producing far below their potential and far more vulnerable then necessary. Building resilient supply chains starts at the root.

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Last edited: 27 August 2015


Michael Obersteiner

Senior Research Scholar

Ecosystems Services and Management

T +43(0) 2236 807 460

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International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
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