Half World Linked to Agrifood System

An increased farmer Suicide in India

Almost half of the world’s population live in households linked to agrifood systems,with the largest population found in Asia, according to a new research by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).  

The new figures, the first systematic and documented global estimate of its kind, derive from a range of sources and incorporate the widespread use of part-time or seasonal employment in the sector. The figures also refer to agrifood systems rather than agricultural sectors, reflecting the increasing importance of off-farm activities in feeding the world’s population, currently 8 billion and growing, the FAO said.


In the analysisEstimating Global and Country Level Employment in Agrifood Systems”, the FAO said that around 1.23 billion people were employed in the world’s agrifood systems in 2019. However, more than three times that figure, or almost half the world’s population were linked to agrifoodsystems. The FAO said that of these 1.23 billion people, 857 million worked in primary agricultural production, while 375 million worked in the off-farm segments of agrifood systems.

The study “was published as a Working Paper by FAO’s Statistics Division. In addition to a team from FAO, other authors include Kate Schneider, from the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University,  RamyaAmbikapathi, from the Department of Global Development at Cornell University, and Paul Winters, from the Keough School of Global Affairs, University of Notre Dame.

“Policy and practical agendas on the national and global level must and are addressing the challenges facing agrifood systems in an integrated way, and to keep up, data must move beyond silo-based notions such as farm employment and include the whole process from food production through processing and transport to the consumer -everything that goes into what we eat,” said Ben Davis, Director of FAO’s Inclusive Rural Transformation and Gender Equality Division and lead author of the report.

“Making sure that agrifood systems are sustainable requires factoring in nutrition, health and climate change,” he added.


  • The largest number of people employed in agrifood systems, 793 million, is in Asia, followed by almost 290 million in Africa.
  • The majority of the economically active population in low-income countries, particularly in Africa, had at least one job or activity in agrifood systems.
  • Including relevant trade and transportation activities, 62 percent of employment in Africa is in agrifood systems, compared to 40 percent in Asia and 23 percent in the Americas.
  • The share of agrifood system employment out of total employment that is not directly in the agricultural sectors ranges from 8 percent in Europe to 14 percent in Africa.
  • In most of the countries for which data from RuLIS is available, youth, defined as people aged 15 to 35 years old, make up around half of all agrifood system workers, and their share is usually higher in food processing and services.
  • Of the 3.83 billion people reliant on agrifood systems for their livelihoods, 2.36 billion live in Asia and 940 million in Africa.
  • The first year of the COVID-19 pandemic led to a 6.8 percent reduction in the number of employed in agrifood systems. The impact of COVID-19 was highest in Latin America, where  employment dropped 18.8 percent.


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