Five Questions for Dirk Meyer

Combatting global hunger and poverty continue to be a priority area of political intervention under the new leadership of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The new director of ‘Division 1 for Global Health, Economy, Trade and Rural Development’, Dirk Meyer, spells out the cornerstones and overarching goals.

Rice paddies in Indonesia. Rice farming accounts for 2.5 percent of anthropogenic green-house gas emissions – as much as international aviation. More climate-friendly farming methods are being developed. © Unsplash/Ines Alvaréz Fdez 2022

Dirk Meyer

Dirk Meyer is the Head of Directorate‐General 1 'Global health, employment, transformation of the economy, digital technologies, food and nutrition security' at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development

GIZ

1. You passed the first 100 days in your new role as director of division at the BMZ. What is your position on the current state of affairs?

 

The crisis in Ukraine has brought food security even more into focus. A shortfall in food supplies from the two major production countries Russia and Ukraine is looming. The already rising price developments in this sector will affect many countries, especially in Africa. To make matters worse, the coronavirus pandemic isn’t behind us either – quite opposite. This crisis continues to spawn so many other crises whose impact on education, health and poverty, among others, are not yet foreseeable. For example, students in Uganda have only recently returned to school – after two years.

 

We could lose an entire generation in terms of education and vocational training.

 

There is a great risk that poverty in existing areas will increase even further due to the coronavirus pandemic. Climate change also continues to progress and is already hitting the Global South very hard, which has caused the least amount of the climate crisis and yet suffers the most already.

 

2. What does this mean for the future direction of development governance?

 

Within the context of the 2030 Agenda, SDG2 has a key role to play in addressing these multi-crises. The multifunctional nature of sustainable agriculture must not only ensure global food security, but also contribute to poverty reduction as well as income, employment and ecosystem services in rural areas. We address all these facets in the BMZ Strategy on Sustainable Agri-Food Systems. We aim to make structural changes and transform these systems.

 

Food security and the fight against hunger are part of BMZ’s DNA, and the pursuit for human right to food continues to serve as our compass..

 

The Federal Government wishes to continue playing a very active role in this area in the future, both in the European and the multilateral context. The BMZ is already actively intervening in immediate crisis situations in coordination with other departments. However, the importance of food security also goes beyond the crisis context and must therefore be approached in a much more long-term and holistic manner.

 

At the same time, in light of such multiple crises, we want to promote resilience in all key areas of German development cooperation. With our own vaccine production in African countries, for instance, we target the health sector. Furthermore, we aim to further reinforce social welfare. Resilience must also be considered in the fight against hunger and poverty. Achieving sustainable transformation is about building resilient agricultural and food systems with a holistic and sustainable approach. In the spirit of good governance, we must never lose sight of this approach, if we want to be able to quickly balance out unilateral dependencies in times of crises.

 

3. What are the goals of the new BMZ lead?

 

Our goal is to make the sustainable transformation of agricultural and food systems equitable, adding it especially in partner countries to the multilateral agenda. Within the scope of German development cooperation, we will especially support the establishment of climate and development partnerships with partner countries.

 

Climate protection, biodiversity conservation and food security must be seen as a nexus.

 

Women’s rights and equality are another key aspect in the fight against hunger and poverty. They play a central role in agricultural and food systems and can significantly contribute to their transformation. If women have access to education and health, the development of society as a whole benefits. It improves the situation of families and positively impacts local communities. Our federal development minister Svenja Schulze coined the term feminist development cooperation. We will try to support girls and women even more and promote them in a targeted manner.

 

4. You mentioned the nexus concept – why is this so important?

 

Climate protection, biodiversity conservation and food security are interdependent, which means it is not possible to solve these challenges in isolation. Therefore, we need to correlate the international climate debate more closely with the current discussion on sustainable agri-food systems. In this regard, significant progress has already been achieved at COP26. Moreover, there are considerations to add a Food Day at COP27 this year in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt. Agriculture has often been presented as a problem factor in the debate on climate mitigation, as its proportional contribution in CO2 emissions is undisputed. This is precisely why we will also invest more in climate adaptation measures, facilitating the discovery of solutions for climate protection and biodiversity conservation with sustainable agricultural practice. In turn, they have a positive impact on soil quality and thus the cultivation of food.

 

5. So, what is next?

 

To ensure successful transformation processes, we need to change fundamental rules in this world.

 

We need to work on the systems and global structures, and then redirect. Of course, this also applies to sustainable agri-food systems. The agenda of the UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) included the global transformation of agri-food systems. However, the question of how to govern such systems could not sufficiently be clarified. Therefore, we need additional discussions on the international level within the setting of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), and the UNFSS must continue viable existing concepts. But it is equally important to support our partners in improving governance at the regional, national and sub-national levels – in other words, down to the levels that directly impact food production and distribution.

 

Since Germany is taking over the G7 Presidency in 2022, it has a special responsibility this year. During the last German G7 Presidency, we agreed with our G7 partners to commit to the Elmau target aiming to lift 500 million people in developing countries out of hunger and malnutrition by 2030. We will not lose sight of achieving this goal and will discuss it with our partners within the setting of the G7 Food Security Working Group.

 

At the same time, the G7 group will think ahead about what needs to be promoted ‘beyond Elmau’.

 

Here, reinforcing the monitoring of price and supply developments as well as improving subsidy effects may be starting points. An essential prerequisite for shaping the longer-term, complex transformation process is to further broaden discussion platforms for cooperative solutions outside traditional silos. On equal footing with our partners, we rely on strong multilateral approaches. Thus, we will be even more involved in multilateral forums in the future and contribute to global agenda-setting.

 

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Small fish with a big potential

A contribution by Paul van Zwieten

African inland fisheries are increasingly reliant on the capture of small fish species that are sundried and traded over long distances. They make an important contribution in alleviating “hidden hunger”: consumed whole, small fish are an important source of micronutrients. Only that, unfortunately, politicians haven’t yet realised this.

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Building our food systems back better

A contribution by Jes Weigelt and Alexander Müller

What is required to make food systems provide sufficient, healthy food while not harming the planet? How should food security be maintained given the threat posed by climate change? Our authors look at some aspects of tomorrow’s food systems against the backdrop of the corona crisis.

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Do we have to dare a new food system?

A contribution by Dr. Felix zu Löwenstein (BÖLW)

Lack of seasonal workers and virus explosion in slaughterhouses, rising vegetable prices, climate crisis – all this demonstrates: Our food system is highly productive and (at least for the rich inhabitants of planet earth) guarantees an unprecedented rich and steady food supply - but it is not resilient.

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Video diaries in the days of Corona: Voices from the ground

A contribution by Sarah D´haen & Alexander Müller, Louisa Nelle, Bruno St. Jaques, Sarah Kirangu-Wissler and Matteo Lattanzi (TMG)

Young farmers’ insights on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on food systems in Sub-Saharan Africa @CovidFoodFuture and video diaries from Nairobi’s informal settlements.

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(c) Klara Palatova/WFP

A global signpost: What way is the market, please?

A contribution by the World Food Programme

There is a clear global task: We need to feed nine billion people by 2050. We, the people of Earth, must produce more food and waste less. That is the top priority of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), too - the description of a challenge.

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Frank Schultze / Agentur_ZS

Visions in agriculture

Video by Frank Schultze and Jan Rübel

At the beginning of December 2018, AGRA's board of directors met in Berlin. The "Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa" ​​panel discussed the next steps in their policy of modernizing agriculture. How to go on in the next ten years? One question - many answers from experts.

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The state of food security in Cape Town and St. Helena Bay

A study by Markus Hanisch, Agustina Malvido, Johanna Hansmann, Alexander Mewes, Moritz Reigl, Nicole Paganini (SLE)

Post-Covid-19 lockdown: How food governance processes could include marginalised communities - an extract of the results of an SLE study applying digital and participatory methods.

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Karel Prinsloo/Arete/Rockefeller Foundation/AGRA

"Nutrition is a human right"

Interview with Joe DeVries (AGRA)

Joe DeVries is a breeder – and Vice President of AGRA (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa). What are the chances and risks of a ’green revolution‘ in Africa? A discourse between Jan Rübel and him about productivity, needs, and paternalism.

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(c) Gudrun Barenbrock/GIZ

Edible bugs - the new beef?

A contribution by Marwa Shumo

Insect farming is economical and environmentally sustainable, they are high in protein and they live on agricultural waste. Marwa Abdel Hamid Shumo thinks: They are the best weapon to combat hunger

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(c) Thomas Lohnes / Brot für die Welt

The hype about urban gardening: farmers or hobby gardeners?

A contribution by Stig Tanzmann

Urban gardening is becoming increasingly popular in northern metropoles. People who consider themselves part of a green movement are establishing productive gardens in the city, for example on rooftops or in vacant lots. In severely impoverished regions of the global South, urban agriculture is a component of the food strategy.

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How the self-help approach empowers smallholder women

A report by INEF and Kindernothilfe

Supporting groups of smallholding women substantially contributes to strengthen rural operations economically. The organisation and associated group activities can help to reduce extreme poverty and improve the food situation.

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Global responsibility: Tackling hunger is the only way forward

A contribution by Lisa Hücking (WHH)

Chancellor Merkel has begun an ambitious European political programme: Striving for compromise in budget negotiations, an orderly Brexit as well as an appropriate response to the corona crisis. Unfortunately, one of her positions that she previously held is nowhere to be found: Africa's prosperity is in the interest of Europe. 

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Success story allotment garden: Food supply and women's empowerment

A contribution by Nadine Babatounde and Anne Floquet (MISEREOR)

To prevent malnutrition among young children and strengthen the role of women in their communities, Misereor, together with the local non-governmental organisation CEBEDES, is implementing a programme on integrated home gardens in Benin - a series of pictures.

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(c) Michael Bruentrup/DIE

News from the starting block: Changeover

A contribution by Michael Brüntrup (DIE)

The region of Sub-Saharan Africa is on the decisive verge of a great development boost in farming: it could skip entire generations of technological development. But how? About possible roles and potentials of digital services.

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An investment in Africa's future

A contritbution by Essa Chanie Mussa (University of Gondar)

Rural youth need viable livelihood opportunities to escape out of poverty and realize their aspirations. How could they be helped to fully unleash their potential? This is an aloud call that needs novel strategies among governments, policy makers, and international development partners and donors.

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JOERG BOETHLING / GIZ

Continent in an uptrend

A report by Dr. Agnes Kalibata (AGRA)

Partnering for Africa’s Century: Innovation and Leadership as Drivers of Growth and Productivity in Rural Areas

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Land Rights, Gender and Soil Fertility in Benin

A contribution by Dr. Karin Gaesing and Prof. Dr. Frank Bliss (INEF)

Especially in densely populated areas, land pressure leads to overexploitation of available land and a lack of conservation measures. The West African country of Benin, with heavily depleted soils in many places, is no exception.

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Mr. Marí, what happened at the alternative summit?

An Interview with Francisco Marí (Brot für die Welt)

Brot für die Welt (Bread for the World) did not attend the UNFSS pre-summit. Instead, the organisation took part in a counter-summit that took place at the same time. A conversation with Francisco Marí about the reasons, the process - and an outlook for the future

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What is wrong with our nutrition in Germany, Mr. Plagge ?

An interview with Jan Plagge (Bioland)

Vitamin-poor nutrition must become more expensive, in-vitro meat is not a panacea, and agricultural systems should be more decentralised. Bioland President Jan Plagge in an interview about the challenge of (future) world nutrition.

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Food System Transformation Starts and Ends with Diversity

A Contribution by Emile Frison and Nick Jacobs (IPES-Food)

While having failed to solve the hunger problem, industrial agriculture appears to be causing additional ones both in environmental and health terms. Emile Frison and Nick Jacobs call for a transformation.

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(c) GIZ

Sustainable Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture in Rural Areas

Fish is important for combating malnutrition and undernourishment. But it is not only notable for its nutritional value, but also secures the livelihoods and employment for 600 million people worldwide.

A Project of GIZ

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City, Country, Sea: 6 Innovations in the Fight Against Climate Change

A listicle for climate-neutral agriculture

Vertically growing plants, magnetic cotton. Hairy leftovers fertilizing fields, tractors running on algae? These six innovations could lead agriculture’s next Green Revolution!

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Engaging the Community to Solve the Bushmeat Crisis

A Contribution by the Forestry Research Institute Nigeria

The 'Domestication of Small Monogastric and Ruminant Animals' (DSMR) project led by a Nigerian research institute works with local communities to solve the bushmeat crisis.

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How the War against Ukraine Destabilizes Global Grain Markets

A Contribution by GIZ

Since early February 2022, two of the biggest grain and oilseed exporters have been at war. An overview, which countries are affected most severely by the destabilized grain markets, and what comes next.

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The Black Sea Breadbasket in Crisis: Facts and Figures

An infographic by ONEWORLD no Hunger

Rising food and gas prices, physical destruction and supply chain disruptions: Why the Black Sea region matters and how the war in Ukraine affects global food security.

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‘Invite yourself’ – Farmers organisations as key stakeholders of food systems

A Contribution by Andreas-Hermes-Akademie

The Andreas Hermes Academy (AHA) discusses the transformation of food systems with 30 representatives of farmers organisations.

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The lessons learned from the last food crisis - A solution?

A Contribution by Agnes Kalibata

Inadequacy and fragility of food systems becomes more apparent with every food crisis. The question we must answer is “Where do we go from here?”

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From shared conviction to global response

A Contribution by Jan Rübel

The G7 is responding to the worsening global hunger crisis by mobilizing an additional $4.5 billion for this year alone. A key milestone for this in the run-up was the international conference on global food security "Uniting for Global Food Security".

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‘Preserving and restoring fertile soils is a global responsibility.’

An Interview with Jochen Flasbarth (BMZ)

Healthy, productive soils are a prerequisite for global food security – one of the priorities of German development cooperation. State Secretary Jochen Flasbarth on Germany’s efforts to support sustainable land management and why the VGGT are more important than ever today.

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Scaling up Food Security

An Artikel by Jan Rübel

How can we reach more people with successful approaches to food security? In Berlin, an international conference organized by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationaler Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) addressed this issue.

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Five tips to reduce food waste

A listicle against food waste

Whether it's banana bread made from brown bananas, conscious shopping plans or foodsharing, we give you five tips on how to reduce your everyday food waste.

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