Capturing the Economic Potential of Food Systems for the Poor

1st April 2019
Author: Evert-jan Quak, Jim Woodhill

Food systems are changing and will continue to change in the near future, because of many transformative drivers, like population growth, globalisation, climate change, and pollution. This report provides an overview of the evidence of the economic potential of food systems for the poor for the next ten years. The review synthesises the literature from academic, policy, and institution sources on job creation in the food system. There is an abundance of literature and data on employment in agriculture; however, most literature and data on jobs in manufacturing and services in developing countries are not about the food sector. More recently, some literature on food systems and rural non-farm employment has been published. The literature shows that understanding employment opportunities in the food system requires an understanding of food market transitions. It indicates that the labour force in agriculture is unlikely to shrink significantly over the next decade in developing countries as young people seeking jobs will have no other place to go because the service and manufacturing sectors (including the segments within the food system) are not predicted to absorb the new entries to the labour market. However, as this report shows, there are emerging opportunities in non-farm employment in food systems in low- and middle-income countries that could benefit rural and urban livelihoods.

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Suggested Citation

Quak, E. & Woodhill, J. (2019). Capturing the economic potential of food systems for the poor (K4D Emerging Issues Report No. 22). Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies.


1st April 2019


Continent: Global