An opportunity for the continent

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.

Ich bin ein Alternativtext
©Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation/Frederic Courbet

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

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

Ich bin ein Alternativtext
©Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation/Jake Lyell
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

©Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation/Frederic Courbet
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

©Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation/Joan Sullivan
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.
 

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The human finca

Interview with Marvin Antonio Garcia Otero

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.

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Good health is impossible without healthy food

By Heino von Meyer

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.

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© GIZ

Actual Analysis: The locusts came with the crises

By Bettina Rudloff and Annette Weber (SWP)

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.

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© GIZ

One Health – What we are learning from the Corona crisis

Dr. May Hokan and Dr. Arnulf Köhncke (WWF)

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?

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Resilient small-scale agriculture: A key in global crises

By Kerstin Weber and Brit Reichelt-Zolho (WWF)

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.

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Ideas on the ground: Local solutions for global challenges

Interview with Sebastian Lesch (BMZ)

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.

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Developing countries hit doubly hard by coronavirus

By Gunter Beger (BMZ)

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.

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“Corona exposes the weaknesses of our nutritional systems"

Interview with Arif Husain (WFP)

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.

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“Healthy ground brings good and many fruits”

Interview with Ben Sekamatte and Boaz Ogola

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.

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Hier steht eine Bildbeschreibung

Statement from GAFSP Co-Chairs: GAFSP and COVID-19 Pandemic

By GAFSP

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).

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(c) Welthungerhilfe

5 questions to F. Patterson: Why is there more hunger?

Interview with Fraser Patterson

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?

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(c) Joerg Boethling/GIZ

What it takes now

By Heike Baumüller

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?

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(c) Katapult/GIZ

The digitised farmyard

By Jan Rübel

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. 

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(c) Christoph Pueschner/Zeitenspiegel

Can this end world hunger?

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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(c) Christoph Pueschner/Zeitenspiegel

From start to finish: a vision of interconnectivity

By Tanja Reith

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.

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"Pandemic increases violence against women"

Interview with Léa Rouanet

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.

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Gender equality: Essential for food and nutrition security

By Carsta Neuenroth (BfdW)

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.

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Building our food systems back better

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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"We must mobilise all available resources"

By Ismahane Elouafi (ICBA)

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.

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Do we have to dare a new food system?

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

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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"The virus does not need visa"

Interview by Dr. Ahmed Ouma (CDC)

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.

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Double interview: The Forest Maker and his director

By Jan Rübel

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).

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Ms Rudloff, what are the benefits of a supply chain law?

By Jan Rübel

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.

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School Feeding: A unique platform to address gender inequalities

By Carmen Burbano de Lara (WFP)

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.

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Africa's rapid economic transformation

By T. S. Jayne, A. Adelaja and R. Mkandawire

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.

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From Berlin to Yen Bai: 10,000 trees for Vietnam

By GIZ and BMZ

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.

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