The North bears the responsibility, the South bears the burden

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

Ich bin ein Alternativtext
Kenya: Water, cleaned in the sediment, collects in the sandy dry riverbank. © Christoph Püschner/Brot für die Welt

Susanne Neubert

(c) Dennis Williamson

Susanne Neubert, Director of the Centre for Rural Development (SLE). Strategic development in education, training, research and consultancy. Securing and supervising SLE overseas projects. PhD in agricultural economics and ecology with a regional specialisation in Africa.

Seminar für Ländliche Entwicklung (SLE)

Welthungerhilfe

Worldwide climate change has – as we all know – long since changed from being a future scenario into something that is actually happening. The main responsibility for this lies with the Global North and China.

 

In rural regions of the Global North, climate change is becoming evident primarily in the form of increasingly frequent extreme weather events, while changes in temperature and rainfall patterns have so far generally been slow and barely perceptible. Due to the favourable starting point of a temperate, i.e. neither unduly hot nor cold climate, farmers here still have numerous options for adapting to the changes. For instance, in these circumstances, one can easily cultivate crops which thrive in warm climates, since there is a wide range of such crop species and varieties. Many agricultural businesses in the northern regions of the world also have the resources for investing in irrigation or drainage systems in order to even out the effects of major fluctuations in rainfall. In addition, the majority of German farmers are insured against major weather losses. What’s more: The Federal Republic subsidises agricultural businesses and it provides government advisers to help them, so the businesses are able to access the latest technology and relevant expertise for dealing with climate change.

 

Climate change is not the only problem: combined with poor management it has led to a deterioration in the quality of soils, pastureland and water resources, and this has created a critical situation which has already reached a dramatic level in many places

 

In the Global South by contrast, above all in the poorest countries of Africa, the situation is completely different. Particularly in hot countries where the initial conditions are already extreme and in semi-arid regions, i.e. countries with prolonged periods of drought, the range of available crop species and varieties that are able to cope with the even higher temperatures and even more erratic rainfall that result from climate change is very limited. However, climate change is not the only problem: combined with poor management it has led to a deterioration in the quality of soils, pastureland and water resources, and this has created a critical situation which has already reached a dramatic level in many places. Market and political failings on a national and regional level, together with a lack of know-how and limited access to inputs, have led to this situation, which is being further exacerbated by climate change.

 

At the local level, this has an impact on farmers in the form of a lack of options and investment opportunities, for instance, due to restricted access to seeds, loans, fertilisers, and pesticides. Furthermore, there is still a lack of professional advice which would enable farmers to improve productivity and would give them the appropriate know-how to be able to adapt to changed climatic conditions.

 

The current conditions of poverty that most farmers are in mean that they cannot run any risks, and so it’s often impossible for them to change the crop species or varieties that they grow. One example of this: Early-ripening varieties that withstand greater levels of aridity provide yields which are about 25% lower than varieties which have a longer period of growth. This means that such adaptation measures are inevitably associated with economic disadvantages compared to the initial situation. However, if the expected drier conditions then do not occur, which may well be the case since climate variability is also increasing, early-ripening crop varieties may well rot in the fields and not provide any revenue. Therefore, adaptation measures are not without their own costs, and often, or even always, they entail disadvantages, above all if they are designed as a response to a specific direction of climate change – such as even less or even more rainfall. Farmers who don’t have many resources also don’t have the money that is needed for purchasing and operating investments such as irrigation systems that can offset fluctuations in rainfall. Subsidies or loans are not normally available, or they are associated with extremely high rates of interest.

 

Politicians often have an “urban bias”, in other words they serve the interests of consumers in towns and cities and worsen the situation of producers in the hinterland areas

 

Another difficulty is that the respective agricultural policies of the countries concerned are usually completely inadequate. Politicians often have an “urban bias”, in other words they serve the interests of consumers in towns and cities and worsen the situation of producers in the hinterland areas. For example, in southern Africa, subsidies have been unilaterally provided for the cultivation of maize for decades now with the aim of promoting national food security. However, this has not achieved the intended goal, and Zambia and Malawi still rank among the countries in the world which have the lowest level of food security. A side effect of this policy is that it has led to a very low level of agricultural diversification, an increase in cultivation risks, the loss of agrobiodiversity, and an unbalanced diet.
But even if – as is the case in some other African countries – there are good political measures in place, e.g. if sensible resource-protection and adaptation programmes have been developed, the measures are not usually implemented, and so far – in cases where they have in fact been implemented – they have had little effect. A reason for this deplorable state of affairs is often the single-project approach which means that measures are taken on a local basis for a limited period of time, but they do not produce any wider effects. 

 

In this legislative period Gerd Müller (CSU) has been appointed as the minister responsible for German development cooperation for the second time in succession. The focus on rural development and agriculture within the “A world without Hunger Initiative” launched by Müller can therefore be continued for another three or four years. All the same, it is recognised that effective adaptation to climate change is a necessary precondition for also producing an agricultural sector that is successful, socially inclusive, and more economically profitable.

 

So what are the strategies and adaptation measures that should be promoted by development cooperation? Agricultural measures that are likely to succeed are above all those which focus on the increasing variability of rainfall. Such so-called “low-regret measures” are effective at dealing both with increased and reduced rainfall, and also – i.e. unlike the above example – they don’t represent a wasted investment if the expected changes don’t occur. What specific measures could these be? They are typically systematic, and they primarily represent a balancing out of risks. In addition to the taking out of insurances, access to more climatic and pricing information, and greater diversification of agriculture and of all the systems that are used for securing people’s livelihood – which includes the opening up of new sources of non-agricultural income – they are primarily measures for preserving soils which enhance the resilience of agriculture in relation to the cultivation of all types of crops.

 

An organic soil is much better at compensating both for a lack of rainfall and for excessive rainfall

 

For instance, soil which has a high organic matter content is much more capable of absorbing water than a mineralised soil. Soil that is organically farmed dries out much slower than an eroded soil that is stripped of vegetation. An organic soil is much better at compensating both for a lack of rainfall and for excessive rainfall. This interrelationship is common knowledge, and it shows that mineral fertilisation alone is not beneficial. Farmers must therefore improve the organic management of the soil. In semi-arid regions the problem is that there is a lack of organic matter – precisely because there is a lack of the most important element for promoting its growth, i.e. water. Composted household waste is a good approach to use, but the amount available is only sufficient for manuring a garden. On the other hand, the benefit of using “catch crops” or “green manures” in fields is extremely limited since the rainy season, i.e. the growing season in these regions, is so short that such measures, i.e. the green manure plants, are in direct competition for water with the main crops.

 

Nevertheless, even in these cases there are opportunities for tackling climate change. Depending on the location, these may include other “conservation agriculture” techniques, various types of “rain water harvesting“, sustainable, collaborative river basin management, agroforestry and silvo-pastoral systems, and improved management of pastureland. For instance, in the Sahel new forms of “benefit sharing”, the balancing of benefits between arable farmers and herds-people, could be effective. Such initiatives are not really aimed at introducing a new crop species or a new method of pest control, or an expensive irrigation system, because measures like this would either be too specific or too costly, and they also involve increased risks. Rather they consist of non-specific measures – such as organic soil management – or social-institutional innovations which aim to achieve an improved level of organisation that makes joint or complementary farming and learning possible, while at the same time involving little financial expense.

 

If one goes down this route it will lead to agriculture becoming more ecological, and to stronger connections being formed between the rural and urban populations – who usually already live in multi-locational networks (with multiple livelihoods) in order to achieve a spread of risks. It would represent a “greening” of agriculture because it doesn’t focus on the use of conventional inputs like chemical fertilisers and pesticides – since that is expensive and increases the risks – instead the emphasis would be on diversification. However, such a course of action is only realistic if it is pursued on a non-dogmatic basis and is also accompanied by a significant mechanisation of agriculture in order to make up for the increased workload that is involved in organic soil management and diversification.

 

Within international cooperation measures these informal networks are usually ignored, as they don’t suit the personalised ways of thinking that are prevalent in western industrial societies

 

Just as important is the strengthening of multi-local networks or “livelihoods” which are traditionally used in African and Asian countries for the provision of mutual support within families. Since there are still virtually no formalised social security systems in the poorest countries, up to now these informal networks have been the only means of providing support for the sick and elderly. Within international cooperation measures these informal networks are usually ignored, as they don’t suit the personalised ways of thinking that are prevalent in western industrial societies. Development cooperation could align itself with these multi-local realities by providing informal information systems and marketing and insurance systems that are linked to them. Innovative approaches – particularly including the use of digital systems – can easily be combined with such measures. This approach could also be combined with the goal of expanding the networks which have traditionally been limited to the extended family. For instance, improved relationships between herds-people and arable farmers can lead to farmers making more effective use of the manure produced by the cattle, and conversely to cattle herders being able to buy grain cheaply.

 

So what is involved are socio-ecological innovations which are affordable and which can increase the resilience of the rural population in terms of its adaptation to climate change. These measures must also be economically worthwhile in order for them to be attractive enough for the local population that they can be implemented even without political support. In addition, investments will also be needed in order to make the learning and experimentation possible that is necessary for these measures to be organised in the right way. This money could be taken from the international Adaptation Funds, and the measures themselves could be usefully supported by development cooperation work.

 

It remains clear that the need to undertake climate adaptation measures in the South must be accompanied by a reduction of emissions in the North. This is the only way to achieve sustainability and to improve the credibility of the global communication process. It is unacceptable for adjustment efforts to be made in developing countries while emissions in the Global North continue to increase.

 

The Global North should, for instance, significantly reduce the emissions that are produced in industrial agriculture. This likewise requires a “greening” of agriculture, and consequently organic soil management. This would mean that more excess carbon dioxide would be stored in the soil (sequestration), and the reintroduction of site-specific livestock farming together with other measures such as afforestation could achieve the necessary reductions in emissions. Such measures also include the intelligent use of animal and human excrement and waste, and reductions in the amounts of mineral fertilisers and pesticides that are used. Nevertheless, consumers in the North would still have to pay more for their food, which would reduce meat consumption as well as the excessive ecological footprint of the North that it imposes on the countries of the South. The areas of land that are freed up in developing countries could be used for the cultivation of food crops which would benefit the South’s growing rural and urban population.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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