Visualizing the History of
Decreasing World Hunger and Improving Food Provision

All visualisations - and many more - can be found on my website 'Our World in Data'

Over the course of the last 3 centuries food availability improved - this is shown here for 3 countries

Click on the chart to see the underlying interactive graph where you can visualise data for other countries. Check_OurWorldinData

This chart shows averages - to understand how bad the food supply was in the past we look at the huge inequality of food consumption on the next slide.

The social historian Robert Fogel - who compiled the data visualised below - notes: 'Individuals in the bottom 20 percent of the caloric distributions of France and England near the end of the eighteenth century lacked the energy for sustained work and were effectively excluded from the labor force.'


The following chart shows food prices started to fall with the onset of modernity - thereby making food available for larger and larger parts of society.


One of the many beneficial consequences of decreasing world poverty...

Check_OurWorldinData that food provision is now improving around the world.


We will look at this on a world map...

Just a quick heads up: All of the visualisations in this presentation are from my website 'Our World in Data' and by clicking on any of them you'll be referred to the interactive visualisation.


This is daily food supply (in kcal) per capita in 1961

Click on the world map to see the interactive version.

And this is daily food supply (in kcal) per capita in 2009

Click on the world map to see the interactive version.

As food provision is improving, the share - and number - of undernourished
in the world are falling.

This is the share of undernourished people in 1990-92 (top) and 2010-12 (below).


A major change for the world is that famines have become very rare.

Click on the chart to find the list of famines between 1850 and today on which chart is based.


One of the many reasons for declining food crises is increasing food trade - shocks to local food markets (due to weather or plant diseases) are thereby absorbed.

As these shocks to food markets will be reflected in price changes (volatility) one can study the increasing resilience by looking at the decreasing volatility over time.

Year-to-Year Variation in the Price of Wheat in Pisa, (1351-1799) - chart from Cormac O Grada (click on chart for full source) Check_OurWorldinData

Improving food provision and food security are major drivers for improving health around the world.

Life Expectancy in 1800 Check_OurWorldinData

And this is how health has improved over the last 200 years.

Life Expectancy in 2011 Check_OurWorldinData

As a consequence of improving health and food provision the world population rose from less than 1 billion in 1800 to 7 billion today.


Click on the chart to access the interactive version if you want to study the data in more detail.

The fact that the world population skyrocketed and food provision did
improve at the same time
make this accomplishment even more impressive.

This could only be accomplished by modernizing agriculture around the world.

And this is what we will look at now...

With the help of fertilizer and improved seeds we increased yields (crops per area) massively.

Farm grain yields (national averages) of wheat throughout the century in 21 countries (since 1900) - Calderini & Slafer (full source by clicking on the chart)

This meant that we produced much more food without increasing the agricultural land - whereby we reduced the impact on the environment.


These productivity increases are reducing the agriculutural land per person and will continue to save our environment.

Arable land per capita (ha in use per person) (1961-2050) - Jelle Bruinsma (2009)

This means that the agricultural land use did not increase much and is projected to shrink over the next decades. Even though the world population is still increasing!

Extent of global arable land and permanent crops 1961-2009 and projection for 2010-2060 - Ausubel, Wernick, & Waggoner (full sources by clicking on image)

The documented productivity increases also made it possible that fewer and fewer people are working in agriculture.

In Europe...


...and around the world modernisation leads to a shift away from the agricultural sector.


And by freeing the labour force for manufacturing and service jobs, the agricultural modernisations reinforces the reduction of world poverty in a positive feedback loop.


Here is my presentation on the global decline of poverty.

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This presentation is part of a 4-part series:

  1. The Visual History of Improving Health around the World
  2. The Visual History of the Rise of Political Freedom and Decrease in Violence
  3. Increasing Prosperity, Declining Poverty, and Decreasing World Income Inequality
  4. The Visual History of Decreasing World Hunger and Improving Food Provision

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Go to the next presentation in this series:

The Visual History of Global Health

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