With the right investments and resources, agriculture can provide adequate, affordable, safe and nutritious food to everyone, everywhere, every day.  But despite significant progress, the world continues to bear a triple burden of malnutrition.  According to 2016 data, around 800 million people world-wide -- one in four people in Sub-Saharan Africa and one in six people in South Asia -- still did not consume their minimum dietary energy needs. Less progress has been achieved in tackling other forms of malnutrition. More than 2 billion people lack the micronutrients needed for growth, development and disease prevention. Over 2 billion people suffer from the adverse health effects of being overweight or obese.

Contaminated food is also a widespread problem, impacting the health of 1 in 10 people globally each year and negatively affecting the incomes of farmers, food businesses and trade.

Malnutrition and food-borne illnesses impose large current and future human, economic, social and fiscal costs on countries. Reducing these costs requires multi-sectoral approaches: There is great potential for effective interventions through agriculture and the food system overall.


The World Bank Group works with clients and with development partners to promote more "nutrition-sensitive agriculture," to improve food safety, and to otherwise promote higher food quality from farm to fork.  Multiple approaches are used, including:

  • Promoting smallholder farming systems that produce more diverse foods, crops and livestock to increase incomes, as well as the availability and affordability of nutrient-dense foods;
  • Integrating nutrition and food safety into agricultural research, training and other support services, and supporting women in utilizing available knowledge and assets to improve household nutrition;
  • Supporting investments in technology, infrastructure and management systems which enable food fortification or increasing the content of essential micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals in food. Supporting biofortification, which involves improving the nutritional quality of food crops. Reducing post-harvest food losses and improving hygiene in food distribution channels;
  • Collaborating with leading food and beverage multinationals, intergovernmental organizations, government agencies, global industry organizations, universities and other knowledge experts to advance food safety capacity building in developing and middle-income countries via the Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP)
  • Strengthening regulatory systems for food safety oversight and improving the knowledge and capacity of farmers and other private operators to manage food safety hazards;
  • Advocating for policies which promote a more diversified agriculture, the consumption of a more balanced and high quality diet, and minimizing food waste.


As of 2015, more than 15 million people in 30 developing countries were growing and eating biofortified foods. Most biofortified crops have been developed through a Bank-supported CGIAR program. The Bank continues to support this cost-effective malnutrition intervention through support for research and seed development and by including biofortified crops in national nutrition programs.

In 2016, a livestock project in Vietnam helped 105,000 people raise healthier livestock. About 11,000 livestock producer households adopted safer animal husbandry practices leading to a significant decrease in pig and poultry mortality rates (25%). In addition, 240 slaughterhouses and 381 wet markets have been upgraded and their operators trained, providing more hygienic pork and poultry meat to hundreds of thousands of consumers.

A food safety laboratory training workshop, conducted by the GFSP in 2015, helped change the behavior of Chinese food safety laboratory technicians and establish a knowledge network for sharing best practices. 95% of trainee's labs achieved good results in proficiency tests.

Last Updated: Apr 18, 2017