GFFA for New Perspectives on the Planet’s Soils

Agricultural land continues to be under pressure all around the world. Thus, the 2022 Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) worked on new strategies for soil protection, sustainable soil management and fair access to arable land.

A scene at a dried out area of Lake Chad. The world loses about 24 million tons arable soil annually. © GIZ/Andy Spyra 2022

Jan Rübel

Jan Rübel is author at Zeitenspiegel Reportagen, a columnist at Yahoo and writes for national newspapers and magazines. He studied History and Middle Eastern Studies.

‘Without soil, the only thing that can grow is hunger.’ These were Ophelia Nick’s opening words to mark the beginning of the 14th Global Forum for Food and Agriculture. ‘More than 90 per cent of the global food production depend on it’, the Parliamentary State Secretary of the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture continued. The international community is at a crossroads. While the United Nations still maintain ‘zero hunger’ by 2030 as one of its Sustainable Development Goals, hunger and poverty have been on the rise for years as climate change, environmental pollution and armed conflicts continue to unleash a torrent of global problems. The GFFA has responded to these developments by focusing on soil as an essential resource: this year’s conference was titled ‘Sustainable Soil Use: Food Security Starts in the Soil’. The event took place in Berlin in the last week of January; like in 2021, it was held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic.

 

‘At least the digital format allows us to reach an even greater audience’, Ms Nick commented. The conference comprised 20 events in five days, attended by more than 2200 international guests who listened to around 120 speakers from a wide range of backgrounds in politics, business, academia and civil society. Around 10,000 people accessed the livestream. Three specific insights emerged as a common theme across all panels: green agriculture continues to gain traction – as it should. Access to arable land must become fairer. Smallholders must remain at the focus of efforts in this field.

 

The GFFA has been an established and important international conference for many years, dealing with questions about the future of nutrition and agriculture.

 

All participants agreed that soils need protection, yet there was plenty of scope for discussion about concrete measures and how to implement them.

 

Rattan Lal’s response, for instance, sounded somewhat disillusioned. The professor and Director of the CFAES Rattan Lal Center for Carbon Management and Sequestration at Ohio State University merely said: ‘research must be turned into practice. Christiane Lambert, on the other hand, spoke out against excessive regulation. ‘We would prefer a tailored solution to a top-down approach’, the President of the European farmers’ union federation COPA commented.

 

Ich bin ein Alternativtext
Climate change affects harvests and fisheries greatly at Lake Chad. Regional nomads as well as local farmers face deliberate food insecurity. © GIZ/Andy Spyra 2022

Focus on Sustainable Soil Management

The annual GFFA monitor and document developments in the global discussion on food security. The first high-level panel, jointly organised with the European Commission, was dedicated to the quintessential question of how to make soils more sustainable. Joe Swinnen, Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), called for a holistic approach:

 

Global and local measures must be connected.

 

'All players along the value chain must be included in the process – not just farmers but consumers, too.’ María Emilia Undurraga highlighted the need for soil to absorb more carbon. ‘We must remember to decommission land in order to strike a balance and protect biodiversity’, the Chilean Minister of Agriculture said. Across all panels, participants saw a clear need to take action: the limited amount of land that is available worldwide must be managed sustainably. Speakers, audience members and participants in the live chat all emphasised the importance of biodiversity for soil. One resolution ran through the conference like a silver thread: climate protection and climate change adaptation need to be advanced further. In his summary, EU Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski emphasised the EU’s influence on consumers all over the world.  ‘We heavily focus on satisfying demand in a sustainable, socially responsible way.’ He announced that sustainable cultivation would become standard. ‘The Commission will enshrine these practices in its strategy.’

 

Ich bin ein Alternativtext
Scene in the village of Bare, Nigeria. Concluding the GFFA, the European Commissioner underlines future generations' right to live from our lands. © GIZ/Andy Spyra 2022

The Question of Soil Exploitation is Fraught with Controversy

But how do people organise soil management among themselves? Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure (VGGT), adopted ten years ago, offer an answer to this question. During the second high-level panel, Gabriel Ferrero de Loma-Osorio, Chairman of the Committee on World Food Security, argued for the use of this global framework by governments and all other players. ‘We have many innovative approaches’, he said as he demanded that the food systems be viewed from a different angle. Maximo Torero voiced a similar sentiment. The Chief Economist at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) argued that following the adoption of the VGGT, the focus was on building awareness. ‘There were some successes, but we need to upscale now.’ In other words: fair and rights-based access to arable land must be guaranteed. All panelists agreed on this.

 

At the subsequently held Summit of Agriculture Ministers, Cem Özdemir welcomed 67 participants virtually. When the final communiqué was being presented, European Commissioner Wojciechowski recited a proverb:

 

Humankind owes its existence to a fifteen-centimetre layer of ground.

 

The adopted paper listed soil protection, strengthened biodiversity, climate protection and climate change adaptation as its most important demands. It also included the following sentence: ‘Investment, cultivation, research, innovation and digital transformation will be an important part of the solution that is needed to use soils sustainably.’ The GFFA has set the direction for global agriculture: more than just a buzzword, sustainability is a concrete programme now.

 

Möhring formuliert ihren Ansatz aus der Opposition heraus genereller und schärfer: „Um Staaten nachhaltig und langfristig darin zu unterstützen, ihre eigene Bevölkerung zu versorgen, müssen sowohl Freihandelsabkommen, die es Staaten verunmöglichen eine eigene Wirtschaft aufzubauen, ausgesetzt werden, als auch die Landwirtschaft selbst zu einer nachhaltigen Produktionsweise umgebaut werden, beispielswiese durch eine Förderung der Agrarökologie. Der Einfluss großer Agrarkonzerne muss zurückgedrängt werden.“

 

In gegensätzlicher Richtung ist Frohnmaier von der AfD unterwegs. „Ich trete für einen grundsätzlichen Richtungswechsel in der Entwicklungshilfepolitik ein“, schreibt er. „Die Entwicklungshilfe muss sich kohärent mit der Außen- und Außenwirtschaftspolitik Deutschland an strikt an den deutschen Interessen ausrichten. Im Fokus stehen vor diesem Hintergrund die Abwehr unerwünschter und illegaler Migration und damit einhergehend der Abbau fehlerhafter Anreize, die Rückführung illegaler Migranten, die Verbesserung der wirtschaftlichen Kooperation Deutschlands mit Entwicklungs- und Schwellenländern, die Erschließung von Märkten und Ressourcen.“

 

Aus vergangenen Fehlern lernen, Ungerechtigkeiten ins Visier nehmen und ein Fokus auf Klimaschutz und Ökologie: Das sind die sich herauskristallisierenden Punkte, auf welche die befragten Bundestagsfraktionen setzen – durchaus zuweilen eine gemeinsame Schnittmenge.

 

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(c) Christoph Pueschner/Zeitenspiegel

Can this end world hunger?

A report by Stig Tanzmann

Time to dig deeper: We can only benefit from technical progress if we have a solid legal framework for everybody. But so far, none is in sight - in many countries. Instead, international corporations grow ever more powerful.

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"Without peace, there will be no development"

Interview with Karina Mroß (DIE)

What contribution does development cooperation make to conflict prevention? What can it do for sustainable peace? Political scientist Karina Mroß talks to Raphael Thelen about post-conflict societies and their chances for peaceful development.

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(c) Privat

The 'Grey Gold'

A contribution by Maria Schmidt (GIZ)

The Cashew Council is the first international organisation for a raw material stemming from Africa. The industry promises to make progress in processing and refining cashew nuts - and answers to climate change

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(c) Privat

Small Farms, big money

A contribution by Agnes Kalibata

Agnes Kalibata, AGRA president since 2014 and former minister of agriculture and wildlife in Rwanda, is convinced that Africa's economy will only grow sustainably if small-scale agriculture is also seen as an opportunity.

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The fight against illegal fishing

A Report

The oceans are important for our food supply, but they are overfished. To halt this trend the global community is now taking action against illegal fishing. Journalist Jan Rübel spoke with Francesco Marí, a specialist for world food, agricultural trade and maritime policy at "Brot für die Welt," and others.

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How can the private sector prevent food loss and waste?

An interview with David Brand (GIZ)

From a circular food system in Rwanda to functioning cooled transports in Kenya: The lab of tomorrow addresses development challenges such as preventing food loss and waste

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From lost products to safe food - Innovations from Zambia

A contribution by GIZ

In Zambia, innovative approaches are used to address the problem of post-harvest losses in the groundnut value chain. GIZ's Rapid Loss Appraisal Tool (RLAT) can help to develop more such approaches.

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The Future of Development Politics: Voices from the Parliamentary Groups

A Contribution by Journalist Jan Rübel

Representatives of the six parliamentary groups offer their views on the future of German development cooperation.

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How to Combat Hunger in Times of Climate Crisis?

An Interview with Martin Frick (WFP)

The climate crisis fuels world hunger. What needs to change in the global fight against hunger, and which role plays humanitarian aid in international development cooperation?

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ICTforAg 2022: Conference

An Initiative by GIZ Fond i4Ag

In March 2022, the virtual conference ICTforAg summons leading actors in the agrartechnology and food sector from low- and middle-income countries to exchange ideas advancing resilience, nutrition and agriculture-led growth.

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Cooperation and Effective Incentives for Sustainable Land Use

A Contribution by GIZ

The second GFFA expert panel highlights the need for governance action to reverse global trends of land degradation.

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Soil Restoration Starts with the People

A Contribution by TMG Think Tank for Sustainability

Highlighting how secure tenure rights are key to achieving land degradation neutrality and soil restoration targets..

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Together towards Sustainable Development: Private Sector Cooperation

A Multimedia-Toolbox by GIZ

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals through responsible investments in the agri-food sector of emerging countries.

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World Soil Conference ends with resolutions on drought management and land restoration

A contribution by GIZ

At the UNCCD COP15, the nearly 200 Parties met in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. A key goal is to halt the loss of fertile soils by 2030.

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(c) Nina Schroeder/World Food Programme

Policy against disasters

Interview with Thomas Loster

Insurance companies could provide protection during droughts in Africa. How exactly this could be done is what the industry is currently trying to figure out. First experiences are available. An interview with the Managing Director of the Munich Re Foundation, Thomas Loster

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„You must be multisectoral in your thinking”

Interview with Adriano Campolina (FAO)

For years, place-based approaches to development have been considered important features in development cooperation, at the BMZ and in FAO. Both organisations are aiming at advancing these approaches: an interview with Adriano Campolina from the FAO on territorial and landscape perspectives.

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Is the international community still on track in the fight against hunger?

Interview with Miriam Wiemers (Welthungerhilfe)

The Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2020 shows that the world is not on track to meet the international goal of “zero hunger by 2030”. If we continue at our current speed, around 37 countries will not even have reached a low hunger level by 2030.

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Controversy: Do supply chains need liability rules?

Discussion about the potential supply chain law

The German government is struggling to pass a supply chain law. It is intended to address violations of human rights, social and environmental standards. What would the consequences be for business? A double interview with Veselina Vasileva from GEPA and economics professor Andreas Freytag.

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(c) GIZ

COST-BENEFIT ANALYSES FOR MORE SOIL CONSERVATION

With the help of sustainable farming methods, soils can be preserved and made fertile again. The investment required is also worthwhile from a financial perspective.

A project of GIZ

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More than just a seat at the table

A contribution by Welthungerhilfe

Africa is home to the world’s youngest and fastest growing population. For many young people, agriculture could offer a job perspective. But to improve the living conditions and job prospects of young people in rural areas, political reforms and investments are desperately needed, as these people will be at the centre of agriculture and agricultural development in the future.

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Pesticides – a blessing or a curse?

A debate between Lena Luig and Ludger Weß

What are the consequences of using synthetic pesticides in agriculture? Where do they help, where do they harm? Lena Luig, expert for the development policy organization INKOTA, and science journalist Ludger Weß discuss this controversial topic of international scope.

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KLAUS WOHLMANN / GIZ

Wanted: German investment in African agriculture

Interview with Stefan Liebing

Stefan Liebing is chairman of the Africa Association of German Business. The manager calls for a better structure of African farms. Jan Rübel asked him about small farmers, the opportunities for German start-ups and a new fund.

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Africa's face of agriculture is female

A contribution by Beatrice Gakuba (AWAN-AFRIKA)

Africa has a huge opportunity to make agriculture its economic driver. However, the potential for this is far from being made exhaustive use of, one reason being that women face considerable difficulties in their economic activities. The organisation AWAN Afrika seeks to change this state of affairs.

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Joerg Boethling/GIZ

"The Green Revolution reaches its limits"

Interview with Stig Tanzmann (BfdW)

Stig Tanzmann is a farmer and adviser on agricultural issues at ‘Bread for the World’. Jan Rübel interviewed him about his reservations about AGRA's strategy.

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Frank Schultze / Agentur_ZS

The communicator

A contribution by Jan Rübel

What do electrical engineering, telecommunications and agriculture have in common? They arouse the passion of Strive Masiyiwa: Thirty years ago, he started an electrical installation company with $75, later riding the telecommunications wave as a pioneer. Today he is committed to transforming African agriculture.

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MarkIrungu /AGRA

Spiritual mortar for the young generation

A contribution by Jan Rübel

Fred Swaniker is working building a new era of leaders. And what about agriculture? ‘It needs to be more sexy!’

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Biodiversity and agriculture – rivalry or a new friendship?

A contribution by Irene Hoffmann (FAO)

In this article, the author describes what we know about interlinkages, what role agriculture has to play in the sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity, and what the necessary changes in agricultural systems might look like, both on small and large-scale farms.

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How much do we actually waste, Mr. McFeely?

An interview with Peter McFeely (WWF)

The WWF has published a sensational study on food waste. The focus: farm-stage food waste. Peter McFeely, Global head of communications and strategic planning at WWF, explains what needs to be done.

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Innovation Challenge 2021

Competition for ideas by BMZ

Out of 40 consortia that applied from all over the world, 14 were invited to present their innovative concept on agroecological approaches in the form of an online pitch and to face the questions of an international jury of experts. Find out which six semi-finalists were selected by the jury and what happens next in this article.

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(c) Simon Veith

The future is rural

A contribution by "World Without Hunger"

The future is rural. Young African entrepreneurs gave their generation a vocie during the G-20 conference in Berlin. "World Without Hunger" asked six of them, how more jobs can be created in rural areas.

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Nine Harvests Left until 2030: How Will the BMZ Organise Itself in the Future?

An Interview with Dirk Schattschneider (BMZ)

"One World no Hunger" (SEWOH) becomes one of the five core themes of the BMZ. Dirk Schattschneider, SEWOH Commissioner about previous approaches, future areas of action, and the political will to end hunger.

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'The Doors are Open - We Farmers are Ready'

An Interview with Shamika Mone (INOFO) and Elizabeth Nsimadala (EAFF)

At the UN Food Systems Summit, farmers organizations have been represented on the international stage for the first time ever. Two representatives talk about bridging personal aspirations with the representation of regional needs and international negotiations.

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Strenghtening Farmers' Rights with Soft Laws

A Contribution by Welthungerhilfe

How the UN Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT) contribute to fairer and more secure land access.

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What Needs to Change for Africa’s Youth, Ms Kah Walla?

An Interview with Kah Walla

A conversation with the activist and entrepreneur Kah Walla about what needs to change for young people in rural Africa.

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How to Enhance Soil Organic Carbon – Uniting Traditional and Innovative Practices

A Contribution by GIZ

Indian farmers restore precious soil material combining traditional with innovative approaches. A case example how governance, agriculture and development cooperation can work together to combat climate change.

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Digitalization: The Driving Force in the Future of Agriculture?

A Contribution by GIZ

At the ICTforAg conference in March 2022, the digital agriculture community exchanged on the challenges and opportunities associated with the next green revolution.

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