Africa’s population is young and ready to take its destiny into its own hands. Agriculture offers amazing opportunities in this regard. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation wants to support the next generation in this way.
As the world's largest private foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation works to fight injustice. The foundation focuses primarily on promoting the health of children and young people. The largest supported project is the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
No matter to which African country you travel – be it Zambia, Ghana or Nigeria – what is striking is that everywhere you look, you see the people are much younger than those in Germany. This is more than just an impression: Close to 60 percent of all Africans are under the age of 25 years. In Germany, they account for less than one-fourth of the population. At the same time, the population is growing more dramatically than anywhere else in the world. To ensure that this population dynamism does not turn into a threat but to ensure that it is an opportunity for Africa and the world. These young people must be given the tools needed to fully fulfil their potential. How does this work? It works when meeting basic human needs, above all nutrition, is no longer the main concern of the population.
The agricultural sector in sub-Saharan Africa is, in fact, perfectly capable of feeding all its people and to make an important contribution to meeting the Sustainable Development Goal 2: ending global hunger. Moreover, agriculture can even become an important engine for economic growth and a future opportunity for Africa’s young people.
To make this work, however, existing challenges need to be overcome. Productivity is low at the moment. Droughts, flooding, and pests put crop yields at risk. The ever more severe climate conditions are bringing about ever new threats. At the same time, farmers require access to markets in order to be able to sell their products.
Agriculture can become an important economic engine and a future opportunity for African youth.
Consultation services or resources such as seeds, fertilisers, and high-quality animal medicine are not available either throughout the entire region. The political framework for all of this is also essential to the process. The agriculture sector and the entire system of food products in many African countries are not sufficiently equipped to allow for a balanced diet. Add to that, that a large number of products are only available during certain seasons due to the lack of adequate storage capacities.
Research and development are key
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is taking a variety of approaches to tackle the challenges mentioned. A key aspect of this involves adapting to climate change which will have severe consequences for small farmers in the poorest regions.
In order to raise political awareness for this issue, we have been active in the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA) since 2018. The initiative, lead by former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Bill Gates as well as World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva, collects best practices and coordinates new measures in order to mitigate the effects of climate change. The objective of this is to demonstrate that adapting to climate change is not only necessary, but it also contributes to sustainable economic development and security.
Another key aspect of our work is supporting the life and work of small farmers through research and development. In order to promote agricultural changes, even today a large number of products and tools are being developed, such as vaccines for animals and innovative plant breeding. This, for example, includes a newly-cultivated type of rice, nicknamed “Scuba” rice. “Scuba” is the English name for the diving sport, and it reveals a special feature of this new type of rice: These plants can dive. In rice-growing areas in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, catastrophic floods keep destroying entire harvests. This is why the Gates Foundation has been supporting the “Stress Tolerant Rice for Africa and Asia” project. In the framework of this project, researchers at the “International Rice Research Institute” and the “Africa Rice Center” have succeeded in developing a new type of rice through conventional methods of cultivation. This new type of rice can make better use the oxygen that it has stored. Simply put, this allows the plants to hold their breath underwater until the flood is over. The researchers have predicted that up to 20 million farmers in South Asia and Africa will be cultivating this new type of rice.
Technological innovation can also make a huge difference. With the help of digital technologies in agriculture, small farmers can, for example, increase their earnings or they can make certain tasks more efficient, such as checking soil health and plant development. In addition to this, farmers gain easier access to financial services and new markets via digital applications. A great example for this is the “2Kuze” project in which a digital platform was used that connects the farmers in East Africa directly with the buyers of their products. This way, the farmers can access markets via their mobile phones and without the services of a broker.
Not only small-scale planning needs to be good, but the macro level is no less important
The role of women in agriculture is a challenge that is frequently overlooked. Around 50 percent of farmers in Africa are female. However, their turnover is 20 to 30 percent less than that of men. It goes without saying that this is not because men make better farmers. It takes a lot of things to succeed in agriculture: good soil, the right seed, healthy animals, tools, time, expert knowledge. Women do not have the same level of access to any of these things as men. In some countries, for example, there are laws preventing women from buying land. Women can also less frequently make decisions regarding the household budget, which makes it harder for them to invest in the necessary supplies. In short: If the situation of women is improved, a considerable increase in agricultural productivity can be expected.
The Gates Foundation supports the agricultural strategy of individual countries at a macro level. In this, we work together with all the partners involved: with the state, the private sector, and additional individual actors. In Ethiopia, the Gates Foundation has been active since around 2006, and has founded in 2010 the “Agricultural Transformation Agency” together with the Ethiopian government. The agency provides government ministries with evidence-based solutions aimed at improving productivity in agriculture across the whole country by supporting research and development in the agricultural sector, and giving women better access to markets. This approach is already showing signs of success: Ethiopia has successfully started its transformation of the agriculture sector, and the country is playing a leading role among all countries south of the Saharan desert. The private sector has supported this through massive contributions such as investing in new products and services. This is how productivity could be increased sustainably.
Germany is also doing its part for Africa’s development
The Gates Foundation works closely with states like Germany. The Federal Republic of Germany has long recognised that progress in agriculture improves the future prospects of the African continent and, above all, of its young population. It was as early as 1971 that Germany was one of the co-founders of the consultative group for international agricultural research “CGIAR” (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research). This organisation is looking to improve the management of natural resources in agriculture and in cultivating tropical forests. And the most recent example is the “Global Agriculture and Food Security Program” (GAFSP), an international fund for agriculture and food security. Germany as well as the Gates Foundation are funding the program that is looking to further implement the approach outlined above.
The Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development is making a major contribution to improving agriculture and nutrition with its special initiative “EINEWELT ohne Hunger” (ONEWORLD without hunger). In addition to this, Germany has announced an SDG2 moment for the coming year. In this context, the GAFSP and CGIAR should also be strengthened further.
In other words: The dedication of Germany and the international community should not subside, given that the agricultural transformation in sub-Saharan Africa holds future opportunities for the entire continent.
Where in the Ethiopian Tigray just a few years ago only parched soil and sand could be seen, grass is growing again. Previously, the inhabitants fled from famines. Today farmers use the valley for the cultivation of grain or vegetables - and have new prospects.
Every child in Germany knows Ritter Sport – but most of the children harvesting cocoa on western African plantations have never even eaten chocolate. Can a chocolate manufacturer change the world? Conversation with Alfred Ritter about the power and powerlessness of a businessman.
As President of the IABM cooperative in Muhanga, Alphonsine Mukankusi is not simply focused on the figures. She has learned how to deal with people and how to take on responsibility. At the same time, her work helps her to come to terms with the past
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
Land rights are no longer governed by the law of the strongest. That is what the international community has agreed to. Governments and private companies have a duty to respect human rights and avoid corruption.
In western Africa a new middle class is emerging. Their consumer behaviour is determining the demand for products – home-produced and imported goods, on the internet or at the village market. The people of Ivory Coast in particular are looking to the future with optimism.
How can agriculture modernise Africa? And does the road to the cities really lead out of poverty? Dr. Reiner Klingholz from the Berlin Institute for Population and Development in conversation with Jan Rübel .
Later on you want to become a farmer yourself, or would you prefer to take up another profession? Two young people from Burkina-Faso talked to representatives of the Dreyer Foundation about their parents' farms, the profession of farmer and their own plans for the future.
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.
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.
From the lab to the masses: Maria Andrade bred varieties of biofortified sweet potatoes which are now widely used all over the continent. She sets her hope on the transformation of African agriculture.
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.
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.
Joe DeVries is a breeder – and Vice President of AGRA. What are the chances and risks of a ’green revolution‘ in Africa? A discourse between Jan Rübel and him about productivity, needs, and paternalism.
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.
As the climate changes, the population of Africa is growing and fertile land and jobs are becoming scarcer. New ways are currently leading to urbanisation of agriculture and a new mid-sized sector in the countryside
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
What Africa is experiencing in the course of digitisation is a disruption. Here three steps are taken in one, there you remain. In any case, the changes are enormous and bring some surprises. A graphic walk.
Does Africa's youth want to live in the city or in the country? Which career path seems particularly attractive? And how optimistic are the young people about the future? Young adults from rural areas answered these questions by SMS.
It is 2080. We are on a farm somewhere in Africa. Everything is digital. The blockchain is an omnipotent point of reference, and the farm is flourishing. But then, everything goes wrong. A dystopian short story, written exclusively for SEWOH.
Jehiel Oliver was a successful consultant. One day, he quit his job in investment banking to become a social entrepreneur. His mission: tractors for Africa. Rental tractors. What gave him that idea? Find out in his interview with Jan Rübel.
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.
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.
Small holders around the world are often forced to sell their harvests below market value due to a lack of market and pricing information. A new app by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) is going to change this.
XtraPay wants to make international supply chains more transparent and establish a direct connection between producer and consumer. The bonus payment system was successfully piloted on 16 August in ten Edeka supermarkets in Braunschweig.
The spread of monocultures is globally harmful to the environment and violates human rights; it makes for more losers than winners. But there are ways out, here one example: Smallholders in Parguay are fighting back.
What happens when young people leave the rural areas? How can the region achieve what is referred to as the demographic bonus – and how can it reap the benefits of the demographic dividend? A look at demography shows the following: What is most important is promoting women’s rights and education.
‘Fair’ and ‘sustainable’ are key words in Germany’s EU Council Presidency. At the same time, Germany pursues ‘modernization’ of the WTO and ‘rapid progress’ on free trade agreements. Are these goals really compatible? Can we be concerned about fairness and sustainability while continuing with ‘business as usual’?
Even though COVID-19 poses a threat to the health of humanity, the reaction to the pandemic must not cause more suffering than the disease itself. This is particularly relevant for poor developing countries, where the impact of the corona crisis on food security is even more severe!
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.
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.
A quick and cost-effective method calculates living wages and incomes for many different countries. The GIZ together with Fairtrade International and Richard and Martha Anker have developed a tool that companies can use to easily analyse income and wage gaps.
Oxfam’s supermarket scorecard, which is in its third year, shows one thing in particular - it works! Supermarkets can change their business policies and focus more on the rights of those people around the world who plant and harvest food. However, this does not happen without pressure.
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.
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.
Startups are booming in African agriculture. What are the current trend and challenges – and can other regions benefit from innovative approaches? A Video-Interview with Claudia Makadristo, Regional Manager of Seedstars
Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, health is receiving unprecedented public and political attention. Yet the fact that climate change is also affecting the environmental and social determinants of health in a profound and far-reaching way deserves further recognition.
The COVID 19 pandemic is hitting developing and emerging countries and their poorest populations particularly hard. It is important to take countermeasures at an early stage. Companies in the German agricultural sector want to make their contribution to ensuring the availability of urgently needed operating resources.
International agricultural research is responding to new challenges: Their advisory group is undergoing a fundamental reform process and unites knowledge, partnerships and physical assets into OneCGIAR.
In Eastern El Salvador, campesinos are cultivating a self-image to encourage rural youth to remain in rural areas. With help from Caritas, they have adjusted the cultivation methods to their soils and traditions - Marvin Antonio Garcia Otero,the deputy director of Caritas of the Diocese of San Miguel believes this is the best way to prevent rural exodus and criminality.
Corona makes it even more difficult to achieve a world without hunger by 2030. So that this perspective does not get out of sight, Germany must play a stronger role internationally - a summary of the Strategic Advisory Group of SEWOH.
The Corona-Virus exacerbates existing crises through conflict, climate, hunger and locusts in East Africa and the Horn of Africa. What needs to be done in these regions? To face these challenges for many countries, all of these crises need to be captured in their regional context.
Due to the coronavirus crisis, the connection between human and animal health has gained new attention. Politicians and scientists are joining forces to propagate the solution: One Health. But what is behind the concept? And can it also guarantee food security for all people worldwide?
Biodiversity and sustainable agriculture ensure the nutrition of whole societies. But there is more: These two factors also provide better protection against the outbreak of dangerous pandemics. Hence, the question of preserving ecosystems is becoming a global survival issue.
A world without hunger and with sufficient healthy food as well as climate-friendly agriculture can only be achieved if ideas are transformed into innovations and ultimately also applied - a conversation with BMZ Head of Division Sebastian Lesch on the Innovation Challenge programme of the new Agricultural Innovation Fund.
In most African countries, the infection COVID-19 is likely to trigger a combined health and food crisis. This means: In order to cope with this unprecedented crisis, consistently aligning our policies to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is more important than ever, our author maintains.
The United Nations plan a Food Systems Summit - and now the Corona-Virus is dictating the agenda. The Chief Economist of the UN World Food Programme takes stock of the current situation: a conversation with Jan Rübel about pandemics, about the chromosomes of development - and about the conflicts that inhibit them.
Africa's cotton production plays a key role in the fight against poverty. The "Cotton Made in Africa" initiative promotes sustainable cultivation - one element of which is the use of organic pesticides. Entomologist Ben Sekamatte and cotton company manager Boaz Ogola talked with Jan Rübel about soil and yields.
COVID-19 has unprecedented effects on the world. As always, the most vulnerable are the hardest hit, both at home and - especially - abroad. A joint appeal by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ) and the Department for International Development (DFID).
Every year in October, the "Welthungerhilfe" aid organisation, with the Irish "Concern Worldwide" NGO, publishes the Global Hunger Index, a tool with which the hunger situation is recorded. What are the trends - and what needs to be done?
Artificial intelligence, big data and blockchain are the hottest topics of our time. The digital transformation of the African agricultural sector is ready for take-off. What will it take for the future of technology to hit the ground running?
Lots of apps are entering the market, but what really makes sense? For African agriculture, some of it seems like a gimmick, some like a real step forward. So this is what a smallholder farm in Africa could look like today - with the help of smartphones, internet and electricity.
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.
At the moment, the agricultural industries of African countries exist in relative isolation. Imagine peasant farmers digitally connected to the value chains of the global food industry. How could this happen? A guidebook.
African countries still face huge gender gaps in terms of access to work and capital. What are the consequences of Corona for women in Africa? Jan Rübel interviewed Léa Rouanet on lockdowns and gender-based violence. The economist works at the Africa Gender Innovation Lab of the World Bank.
The majority of producers in developing countries are women. Although they contribute significantly to the food security of their families, they remain chronically disadvantaged in male-dominated agriculture in terms of access to land, credit, technology and education.
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.
Freshwater deficits are affecting more and more people throughout the world. In order to counter this, our global food system will have to change, our author maintains. A case for more research on alternative crops and smart water solutions.
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.
Countries across Africa coordinate their efforts in the fight against corona by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) of the African Union in Addis Abeba. Until now, the curve of new infections has been successfully flattened – why? Dr. Ahmed Ouma, Deputy Director, explains the work of CDC in an interview with Tilman Wörtz.
Tony Rinaudo uses conventional reforestation methods to plant millions and millions of trees – and Volker Schlöndorff is filming a cinema documentary about the Australian. The outcome so far: An educational film on behalf of the BMZ (Federal Ministry for Economic Co-operation and Development).
The Federal Government is fine-tuning a law that would require companies to ensure human rights – a supply chain law. What are the consequences for the agricultural sector? Dr Bettina Rudloff from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) discusses linking policy fields with added value.
Besides the well known impacts of Covid19 lockdowns for the adult population, the associated school closures led to 90 percent of the world’s children with no access to schools. However, school meals are in often the only daily meal for children. Without access to this safety net, issues like hunger, poverty and malnutrition are exacerbated for hundreds of millions of children.
Thirty years ago, Africa was synonymous with war, famine and poverty. That narrative is clearly outdated. African living standards are rising remarkably fast. Our authors are convinced that improving education and entrepreneurship will ensure irreversible progress in the region even as it confronts COVID-19.
It began with clicks at a trade fair and ends with concrete reforestation: a campaign at the Green Week in Berlin is now enriching the forests of the Yen Bai Province in Vietnam. A chronicle of an education about climatic relevance to concrete action - and about the short distances on our planet.