‘The Green Revolution reaches its limits’

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.

Ich bin ein Alternativtext
What helps the small farmers? "From our point of view hybrid seeds aren’t effective for small farms", Stig Tanzmann says. © Jörg Böthling/GIZ

Stig Tanzmann

Stig Tanzmann ist Landwirt und Agrarwissenschaftler und arbeitet seit 2010 als Referent für Landwirtschaftsfragen bei Brot für die Welt.

Stig Tanzmann is a farmer and agricultural scientist and has been working as a consultant for agricultural issues at Brot für die Welt - Evangelical Developmental Service since 2010.

Brot für die Welt (BfdW)

Brot für die Welt

"We don’t see ‘Green Revolution’ as a future model"

 

 

Mr. Tanzmann, why do you see AGRA as a ‘sinister alliance’?

Stig Tanzmann: We see a lot of issues with AGRA because of its handling of difficult political approaches. We don’t see ‘Green Revolution’ as a future model, but problems that continue to manifest themselves.

 

 

With the ‘Green Revolution’ in Africa or in general?

In general. We and our partners work based on different principles and see how the ‘Green Revolution’ reaches its limits or even failed several decades ago in various parts of the world. In India, for example, a country that is very much committed to the ‘Green Revolution’, the ongoing decline can be observed very closely. Unfortunately, in Germany far too little is reported about the devastating situation in Indian rural areas. At the end of November there were big farmers protests in the streets of Delhi again. Of course, this raises the question: why is the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) now investing in the promotion of the ‘Green Revolution’ in Africa, where it didn’t work out the first time around? And there are many known issues with the approach globally.

 

 

When was the first attempt?

The ‘Green Revolution’ has been a comprehensive programme since the 1950s and 1960s, and starting in the 1970s it was also attempted in Africa. But it could not gain ground in Africa. If it starts again today, alternatives will be put under pressure. AGRA is supported by funding programmes and policy approaches that restrict alternative agroecology and organic farming programmes in Africa, which the BMZ also supports.

 

 

Will the farmers then have the freedom to choose independently?

An example: As part of its political efforts, AGRA exerts a specific influence on national and regional seed legislation. These laws usually come down to the simple fact that only certified and approved seeds may be marketed. And this means that the farmer's own seeds don’t fit the category because they don’t meet certain conditions of approval, such as the so-called DUS criteria for homogeneity and stability. Consequently, these rural cultivation systems are discriminated against. From our point of view, we prefer diverse breeding approaches. We have nothing against certified seeds or the protection of the interests of breeders. However, the farmer systems can’t be excluded. In 2015, the BMZ and GIZ (German Society for International Cooperation) once published a helpful study on these issues. Implementing the results of this study under AGRA would mitigate or remove many of our concerns.

 

 

"Farm-saved seeds are being made illegal"

 

Would the rules be so strict that this happens?

In Malawi and other countries, when these laws are adopted, it means that farm-saved seeds are being made illegal. In Tanzania, farm-saved seeds can only be traded locally in the respective district. The BMZ would have to deal more with problems like that. Because even in the ‘Green Innovation Centres’ of the special initiative 'One World – No Hunger' (SEWOH) pushed by the Ministry, there is always a crop that doesn’t match a commercial seed sector. You can’t simply throw the baby out with the bathwater.

 

 

Now, a large part of the farm-saved seeds are cultivated for their own use. Locally, there wouldn’t be much of a change then.

We support the exchange of seeds. If a farm-saved seed proves to be particularly well suited, it must be passed on through exchange and sale. We certainly don’t demand an absolute subsistence economy: If the smallholders can’t sell their own seeds, it limits them.

 

 

But that does not invalidate commercialisation in itself?

No, we’re not opposed to it. But the settings must be right, so that smallholders benefit from it. Article 9 of the Seed Agreement of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation (FAO) guarantees, amongst other things, the so-called farmers’ rights: to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed. In other words, the right to sell their farm-saved seed. Of course, this is a commercial act. Our partner organisation Navdanya in India, which has built up a network of well over a hundred local seed banks and is globally known for its work in the preservation of traditional and farm-saved seeds, encourages the participating farmers to sell their seeds as well. I could name many examples from our partner spectrum here.

 

 

JOERG BOETHLING /GIZ
A farmer himself: Stig Tanzmann, adviser on agricultural issues at "Bread for the World". © Hermann Bredehorst/Bread for the World

 

"AGRA campaigns for political processes that eliminate the farmers´rights"

 

AGRA claims to focus on smallholders in particular.

Yes, I definitely want to give AGRA credit for it. But the funding should be designed so that there can be other approaches as well – and that’s where I have my doubts. In its policy efforts regarding seeds, AGRA often campaigns for political processes that then result in seed and plant variety protection laws that virtually eliminate the farmers' rights. So, in reality they make commercialisation of farm-saved seeds impossible and serve only breeding companies and corporations, but not farmers.

 

 

AGRA's position is that the existing systems should continue to coexist ...

... but then they should not push for exclusionary legislation, as in the case of seeds.

 

 

AGRA works locally with small and medium-sized seed producers. The big multinationals are not there.

But these laws work well for the multinationals. Cooperations of multinationals are increasing in Africa. And the medium to large seed producers in Africa have either been acquired by the multinationals or work with them in close cooperation. That will certainly continue to increase. How does that leave room for the farmers? Farm-saved seeds are very relevant in many places. It accounts for 80 per cent and has great cultural significance. And this sector receives almost no government support, and it has been working successfully for 30 years and longer. Why not start there?

 

 

Why not give smallholders the freedom to choose between their own seed and other seed?

We don’t consider that a key issue. More offers are always good. But other options are not promoted at the same time; instead they are practically limited by AGRA's policy on farm-saved seed systems, as I just explained. The BMZ needs to take a closer look to see which legislative changes have which consequences and how to truly create freedom of choice. I can only recommend ‘sui generis’ legislation in this case. There are significant studies on how to specifically design such laws. The aforementioned study by APBREBES (Association for Plant Breeding for the Benefit of Society) was even presented at a GIZ event as an example of how to implement the previously mentioned BMZ/GIZ study. If AGRA had really seriously dealt with the problems and successes of the ‘Green Revolution’ in other parts of the world, they would have had to use the ground-breaking Indian laws as an example for political seed efforts. The only reason why the farmers of Navdanya sell their seed so successfully because it is all based on a sensible legal framework.

 

 

In the end, there is nothing against using hybrid seed as well, right?

We’re not counting on it because we find it extremely difficult in the smallholder context, and especially in Africa. Every year a new batch has to be purchased, which can become financially dangerous for small businesses. Even if it works well for three or four years, one bad harvest can quickly trap the farmer in debt.

 

 

It carries risks, but also great potential through higher productivity.

I don’t agree with that. There are also non-hybrid seeds that are similarly productive and do not create dependencies. The areas are usually rather small: The amount to be commercialised and monetised with a surplus yield is often insufficient to successfully operate in the medium or long term without subsidies for hybrid seeds and chemicals.

 

 

By international standards hybrid seeds are the norm. We are surrounded by hybrid seeds in Germany. Why should Africa choose a different path?

There are many farmers, but also breeders who go a different way. From our point of view hybrid seeds aren’t effective for small farms because it increases their vulnerability. Moreover, the inbred lines necessary for hybrid breeding elude the public seed banks, so even in the medium term, the genetic resources are already privatised. Regardless of the farmers, every state and every society should think very hard as to whether they want to take that risk of dependency.

 

 

Even if these companies are initially supported by protective mechanisms?

Now there are many agricultural programmes in Africa again, which is also thanks to AGRA, and the African countries are finally investing more in their own agriculture. But when subsidies, such as the Farm Input Subsidy Programmes (FISPs) are used to support the farms, the question arises: Why is most of the financial volume spent on hybrid seeds and chemical fertilisers, but hardly any of it on agro-ecological/agricultural advice, on improved distribution of farm-saved seed, or on improved breeding support? This question is raised by many farming and rural movements in Africa. The alternative approaches could also increase productivity, as has been documented in other countries.

 

 

For example?

In Brazil, they stayed away from hybrid seeds and invested in organic and farm-owned seeds. Consequently, the farmer's breeding reached new levels. We consider the precariousness that is currently required for farm-owned breeding, conservation and propagation not good. It’s really a miracle that it works so well in this state of insecurity and without government assistance. If it was actually promoted, it would have great potential to fairly quickly establish a self-sustaining system that doesn’t depend permanently on subsidies from the agricultural budget. The FISPs programmes that are politically influenced by AGRA are ineffective and cost-intensive from the perspective of our partners.

 

 

"It is increasingly obvious that agro-ecological agriculture will be the future"

 

Farmers are becoming more entrepreneurial. This is how things develop naturally when agriculture is commercialised – and generally speaking, you don’t disagree with that.

Objection. It isn’t entrepreneurial and sustainable if you have to subsidise seeds and fertilisers in the long term, just so that you can afford to buy it in the first place. An entrepreneur strives for independence, not dependence on subsidies. I think this is where AGRA as well as the BMZ are getting things confused. Agroecology would bring much more entrepreneurial independence than AGRA’s current approaches.

 

 

The populations in Africa are growing rapidly. This must obviously be accompanied by an increase in productivity – to feed themselves and to reduce food imports, correct? Could all that be done without hybrid and fertiliser?

Of course. By promoting agro-ecological methods, productivity can immediately be massively increased. Unlike the ‘Green Revolution’, however, these successes are sustainable for a long time and there are actually no negative environmental repercussions. In India, the fathers of the ‘Green Revolution’ have taken analysed the procedures and found drastic problems for man and nature. I recommend to read ‘Modern technologies for sustainable food and nutrition security’ by P. C. Kesavan and M. S. Swaminathan. The FAO (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization) says the ‘Green Revolution’ has increased yields in the short term, but has not overcome famine and instead created huge ecological problems that are completely out of control. Why then do it all again?

 

 

AGRA now claims that it has learned from the mistakes of the green revolution in India and Asia, where mass use of chemical fertilisers has become necessary. In Africa, the focus will be more on the local level, in close cooperation with the farmers – also with traditional seeds, so that not as much fertiliser must be used. Do you believe them?

I don’t want to completely dismiss this awareness of AGRA. However, in terms of seed policy AGRA failed to learn (or at least has not taken it into account) what India has actually done right in this area. But overall, the whole approach is no longer expedient. The concept is simply antiquated. It comes as no surprise that the FAO is focusing on agroecology. The BMZ should simply promote modern approaches other than those of AGRA. Okay, AGRA is taking on a more diverse position than in previous green revolutions. But it would be terrible if that was not the case. In rainfed agriculture, which is the main operation in Africa, it is also critical to ask whether the use of nitrogen fertiliser makes any sense.

 

 

By comparison, very little chemical fertiliser is used in Africa. Its proponents see a clear connection with the likewise low productivity.

Much of African agricultural systems suffer because for decades there was no systematic support. From a scientific point of view, it is becoming increasingly obvious that agro-ecological agriculture will be the future. AGRA is a bit antiquated in that sense and out of touch. Today, especially in Africa, you don’t need a system of fertilising with chemicals if you want to increase yields. In recent years, there have been a number of important studies on the potential of agro-ecological production methods in Africa.

 

 

Nevertheless, such a transformation of African agriculture in a conventional way would be nothing less than what is considered everyday standard practice in Europe and America. Doesn’t that mean that Africa is deprived of something?

I don’t understand the question. Agricultural systems in the US have catastrophic issues ...

 

 

... but they are still conventional.

The agricultural system of the US is definitely not conventional. It builds massively on the reckless use of green genetic engineering. And the problems there stink to high heaven. In 2017, there were massive losses over nearly 1.5 million hectares of cultivated land due to Dicamba drifting away from fields where Dicamba-resistant GM soybeans were growing.

Yes, but there is a transition underway, like here in Germany. The cultivation system trend is moving away from conventional agriculture. The demand for organic products is growing massively and can hardly be satisfied.

 

 

That’s also part of a certain trend towards luxury ...

... why should that be considered luxury? From my perspective, it stems from a deep awareness of the problems and long-term consequences of the ‘Green Revolution’.

 

 

We are already full and aren’t afraid to go to bed hungry at night.

I don’t quite understand that argument. We have massive problems in Germany, namely an enormous nitrogen surplus, large groundwater issues and a massive extinction of species. European funding flows into a system that is no longer ecologically efficient. And it all comes with spine-chilling consequential costs that hardly anyone talks about. Look at the expensive drinking water treatment plants that are not reflected as externalised costs in the agricultural systems. This list of externalised costs, including social costs, can be continued for a long time, and many people outside the ministries are well aware of this. Why do you think that tens of thousands will take to the streets again on 19 January 2019, in the middle of winter, to demand another agricultural system? AGRA does not inquire about the social and environmental costs of its policy. The BMZ should definitely do it. Regarding the ‘Green Revolution’ in India, these very questions were asked early on. Read the previously mentioned scientific article. AGRA could have focused on these questions and, in my opinion, they also should have.

 

 

But doesn’t it make a difference if we select to be more organic here in Germany, with all the choices we have, while in Africa the need is so great that it would take a major force to increase productivity?

There’s a difference in opinion of how an increase in production could be realised. I can’t stand this exclusive tenet that leads people to believe that increased profit is only possible with the ‘Green Revolution’. The ‘Green Revolution’ belief system must be questioned more. We need other ways, because these industrial dogmas have led our planet to its breaking point and beyond. Especially in regards to nitrogen and phosphorus cycles, but also species extinction, the planet’s stress limits have been exceeded for years, if not decades. A link to the ‘Green Revolution’ is hard to deny.

If we want to feed people for the long haul, we need other systems. And if you look at the examples of Europe and America: the high productivity is also an issue as it leads to the enormous exports to Africa – because they are extremely cheap, mainly due to ignoring the ecological costs. How can operations with a size of three to four hectares resist such systems, if the trade issues aren’t addressed in terms of external tariffs.

 

 

What exactly is not African about AGRA?

That's not the real question. AGRA was set up by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Gates Foundation and will continue to mainly be funded by non-African funds. Of course, this has an impact on AGRA’s general direction. The more important question is whether AGRA has the sole answer to all African agricultural issues, as we are often led to believe, and whether people are seriously and earnestly addressing the African criticism of AGRA and the ‘Green Revolution’? There are a lot of critical opinions about AGRA from our partner environment, but in my opinion they have not been heard so far.

 

 

But nobody is challenging the African character of AGRA. That shined through in a background paper that you co-drafted.

There are still open questions in that regard. But we have to acknowledge: AGRA has an enormous influence on African agricultural policies. Despite all the basic criticism of AGRA's approach, there is no doubt about the positive influence on agriculture and agricultural policy becoming higher priority on the agenda of local politics. In this sense, there is an undisputed Africanisation.

 

 

This background paper – is it the official position of Bread for the World?

Bread for the World and its predecessor organisations, such as the Protestant Development Service, have a long history of criticising the ‘Green Revolution’ in general and AGRA in particular. The first critical publication about AGRA was published in 2007 by the Protestant Development Service. While criticising the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Brot für die Welt 2016 once again made a critical comment about AGRA. And of course we have been hearing critical comments from our partner organisations since the founding of AGRA. However, the paper you mentioned earlier was created by Jan Urhahn (Inkota) and me as an author paper on behalf of the Work Group on Agriculture and Food in the Environment and Development forum.

 

 

Ich bin ein Alternativtext
What will the future bring? Stig Tanzmann takes a critical look at the work of AGRA. © Jörg Böthling/GIZ

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Edible bugs - the new beef?

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) Christoph Püschner/Brot für die Welt

The North bears the responsibility, the South bears the burden

By Susanne Neubert

Adaptation to climate change can be achieved by making agriculture more environmentally sustainable – if the rich countries also reduce their emissions

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Graphics: Africa's digital disruption

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.

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Answers from the youth: "Leave or stay? That depends on it!"

GIZ study; conducted by Geopoll

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.

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(c) Foto Privat

Story: In Blocked Chains We Trust

By Solomon King Benge

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.

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(c) Joerg Boethling/GIZ

"We are not Uber for tractors"

Interview with Jehiel Oliver

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.

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(c) Klara Palatova/WFP

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

By 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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(c) Christof Krackhardt/Brot für die Welt

Together and resourceful against worldwide hunger

By Brot für die Welt

Climate change disturbs the climate in Ethiopia. The answer from small farmers in the northern region is convincing: diversify!

 

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© GIZ / Angelika Jacob

This is how developing countries can adapt better to droughts

By Michael Brüntrup und Daniel Tsegai

Droughts are the natural disasters with far-reaching negative consequences. While rich countries are still vulnerable to drought, famines are no longer found.

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(c) Michael Bruentrup/DIE

News from the starting block: Changeover

By Michael Brüntrup

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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Ebay Against Hunger

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.

A project of WFP

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Resilience in times of crisis

Yemen is currently experiencing one of the worst disasters, due to war, hunger and disease outbreaks. The GIZ is locally engaged to improve the nutrition and resilience of Yemenites.

A project of GIZ

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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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(c) GIZ

Youth employment in rural area

Offering young people in rural areas better employment prospects is one of the objectives of the sector project. The young population is the key to a modern and efficient agricultural economy.

A project of GIZ

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(c) Foto XtraPay

XtraPay - thanks to farmers

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.

A project of BMZ

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(c) Luis Vera/Misereor

High on soya

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.

A Misereor project

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(c) Privat

Small Farms, big money

By Agnes Kalibata

Africas economy can only grow sustainably, if also small-scale agriculture is seen as opportunity.

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It all comes down to the young population

By Jan Rübel

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.

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An opportunity for the continent

By the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

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.

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Freed from trade? Towards a fairer EU Trade Agenda

By Dr. Jan Orbie

‘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’?

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Hunger must not be a consequence of the epidemic!

By Michael Brüntrup (DIE)

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!

 

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More than just a seat at the table

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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Global responsibility: Tackling hunger is the only way forward

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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Reference values: A building block on the road to social equality

Article by Friederieke Martin (GIZ)

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.

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Quinoa could have a huge potential in Central Asia, where the Aral Sea Basin has been especially hard-hit by salinisation.

Supermarket Scorecard on Human Rights

By Dr. Franziska Humbert (Oxfam)

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. 

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Quinoa could have a huge potential in Central Asia, where the Aral Sea Basin has been especially hard-hit by salinisation.

Africa's face of agriculture is female

By Beatrice Gakuba

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

By Nadine Babatounde and Anne Floquet

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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Quinoa could have a huge potential in Central Asia, where the Aral Sea Basin has been especially hard-hit by salinisation.

Video: 4 Questions to Claudia Makdristo

By Seedstars

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  

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Quinoa could have a huge potential in Central Asia, where the Aral Sea Basin has been especially hard-hit by salinisation.

Planetary Health: Recommendations for a Post-Pandemic World

By Dr. Kathleen Mar and Dr. Nicole de Paula

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.

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Innovations for a secure food supply

By German Agribusiness Alliance

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.

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Turning many into one: CGIAR network restructures

By Jan Rübel

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.

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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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© GIZ

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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© GIZ

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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Podcast: Fighting world hunger together

Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Podcast of the Federal Government

At the start of World Food Week around World Food Day on 16 October, Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed that the fight against global hunger will only be successful with international responsibility and solidarity (german only).

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A partnership to fight hunger

By GAFSP

The Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) was launched by the G20 countries in 2010 in response to the 2008-09 food price crisis to increase both public and private investment in agriculture. An overview of the programme's approach, results and impact.

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'It has never been more possible'

Interview with Carin Smaller (Ceres2030)

Over a period of two years, the Ceres2030 team spent researching answers to the questions of how much it will how much it will cost to realize SDG 2 and where that money should be spent most effectively. IISD Senior Advisor and Ceres2030 Co-director Carin Smaller about small farmers, machine learning and women empowerment.

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5 Questions for Gunther Beger (BMZ): What must be done?

Interview with Gunther Beger (BMZ)

How much will it cost to sustainably end world hunger by 2030? This question was posed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) that commissioned two research teams with finding an answer. The results of the studies will be presented on October 13 in the run-up to World Food Day.

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