And a semicolon in the middle

By

After a two-year break due to Covid-19, the doors of the International Green Week (IGW) in Berlin are opening again. From 20th to 29th January, visitors from all over the world can discover, marvel and taste the produce. But the event is not only feasting and fun. The BMZ stand asks questions about where food comes from & where it goes – and in the process becomes a crash test for many habits.

At the BMZ stand at the International Green Week, thousands of visitors were able to listen to interesting discussions on food systems during the first weekend. ©Thomas Köhler/photothek.de, 2023

By Jan Rübel

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

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Visitors at the BMZ counter were able to try seeds from fresh cocoas. ©BMZ, Jürgen Cyranek, 2023
Visitors at the BMZ counter were able to try seeds from fresh cocoas. ©BMZ, Jürgen Cyranek, 2023

For breakfast, Franziska Giffey is served a cocoa of the special kind. Between her index finger and thumb, she examines a bean a little sceptically. "Can you eat it like that?" asks the Governing Mayor of Berlin, while Cem Özdemir is already chewing on the second one next to her, visibly satisfied. It is nine o'clock in the morning, Giffey and the Federal Minister of Agriculture are received by BMZ State Secretary Jochen Flasbarth at the stand of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development during their opening tour of the International Green Week (IGW). One bite, a second - and Giffey's eyes widen. Tastes good, they say.

 

On their tour, they still have fish and cheese, ice cream and cake waiting for them, but "now we're going to coffee", Özdemir calls out. The two walk through the BMZ area.

 

On the brown carpet, Giffey's white sneakers come across a footprint with the words "How often do you throw away food?" It is a question for the Green Week, for the visitors and for the whole world.

 

The Green Week is the most important international trade fair for food, agriculture and horticulture. It is also a celebration of consumption, with 1400 exhibitors and 300,000 visitors. Those who enter BMZ Stand 107 in Hall 10.2 can also enjoy. But there are a few questions to ask: about the origins of food, the consequences of a chocolate in Germany for farmers in Ghana and what food does to the planet for Homo Sapiens. But first, a coffee.

 

Giffey, Özdemir and Flasbarth have arrived at the other end of the stand, stopping at "Angelique's Finest" from Rwanda. "This is real coffee," Özdemir enthuses. "This is with oat milk," says brand ambassador Denyse Uwera as she offers the mayor a cappuccino. "It's okay," Giffey smiles. Uwera tells her that her coffee comes from a women's cooperative and the origin of the beans can be traced back to the field based on a blockchain developed with BMZ.

 

"It is time for women to take more shares in the value chain, not only as farmers, but in the whole economy," says Uwera. "Not only in Rwanda," replies Giffey, looking serious.

 

Then the tour continues.

 

Weighty questions are being negotiated on the square metres of stand 107. How can the challenges of the global food crisis, of which little is felt at the fair, be mastered? How can we live without hunger? Passers-by to the left and right of the BMZ area hardly expect this interjection; most are looking for pleasure. But quite a few stop. "I recommend the barbecue and Thai mix first," says BMZ staff member Anisa El-Battahi when a couple stops in front of the insect table. The crickets are deep-fried and seasoned, a protein-rich, sustainable superfood of the future. "Well, why not," he says. And she: "It's not part of our culture, after all." Both are dressed in Bavarian traditional costume, coming from the Bavarian stand. Heidi Leitmanstetter, tax consultant, and her husband Rudolf, mayor of Vogtareuth, take a bite. "Hm. Yes." And, "It's not bad." No, they wouldn't buy it, but: "Our children are vegetarians, the young people look much more consciously at food. They have completely different senses. Maybe this is something for them."

 

In the meantime, the area is filling up. A delegation of Norwegian parliamentarians drops by, one of them asking about the German Supply Chain Act. "It wasn't easy to get there," says Lisa Kirfel-Rühle from the BMZ, "but the direction is right. And how is it in Norway?" They have a transparency law, the MP replies, "it concerns the big companies". Next to the politicians, four teenagers push past, striving towards a wooden table. "172 euros of income per month - too little to live on", one teenager reads out. On the plate are scannable white cardboard plates, with titles like "56 eggs", "fuel" or "house". Now it's time to go shopping. The girl discusses with the others, scans in. But after she has stocked up on groceries and now also wants to pay for "communication" and "education for four children", a screen lights up red: "Your monthly budget has been reached!" The youth grumbles briefly. "Oh, come on," one of them with a baseball cap then grins, "school is overrated."

 

Meanwhile, further back on stage, the programme begins.

 

"Agricultural systems are galaxies away from sustainability," says State Secretary Flasbarth.

 

Next door from another exhibitor's cocktail stand, salsa sounds warble. Flasbarth is now talking against the cheerfulness from over there, telling of the many emergency aids. "It was often about social protection, pure cash transfers to curb prices." That was short-sighted, "but that's what we have to do now". Next to him are Josefa Sacko and Jürgen Vögele. "Seventy percent of Africa's population lives in rural areas," says the African Union (AU) Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture. "We are not igniting the potential of the youth there." Before the Corona-lockdowns, she says, there was an upsurge in intra-African trade, "and now? We still have problems. Yet we still need African solutions for African countries." Vögele next to her nods. "The situation is challenging," says the World Bank vice-president. The music from the cocktail bar picks up. He talks about a dashboard developed by the Alliance for Global Food Security (GAFS), "on which you can see for the first time for each country what the problems are and how much has been spent on which project." This connects many dots, he said. "In a few months we had 31,000 clicks on the website." The music falls silent.

 

Insects as snack and future protein source were popular amongst visitors. ©BMZ, Jürgen Cyranek, 2023
Insects as snack and future protein source were popular amongst visitors. ©BMZ, Jürgen Cyranek, 2023

Meanwhile, the insect stand is bustling. El-Battahi has put up a small sign. "Please don't touch," she has written on it. "We'll be happy to put something together for you." A group of young men are eyeing the stall. "Well, you've never tried this yourself, have you?" one of them asks challengingly. She takes the biggest grasshopper, holds it up and demonstratively puts it slowly into her mouth. Take this, says her look. That's where the man has to follow. He tries the crickets. "Crunchy," he says. The others laugh.

 

Before Sacko rushes off to her next appointment, the AU commissioner tries chocolate from the Ivory Coast, offered from a small sales table. "Delicious," she smiles, "I'd love another piece." On its premises, the BMZ enables twelve small entrepreneurs from African countries to sell their products, thus circumventing the long supply chain and offering their products directly. The jam from Algeria also tastes good to Sacko, but a senior citizen from Berlin next to her grimaces. "No, it's too intense for me".

 

The success stories go down well. The audience moves closer with every word as Nina Wenzel from Mars Germany talks about the food company's sustainability projects. "We've been doing this for 40 years, but it's a drop in the ocean," she says. "In the process, we found that a real key to development is gender equality." With 30 village communities, she says, they are working on such enabling effects. Sebastian Lesch from BMZ stands next to her on stage. "We are trying to engage the different stakeholders to realise living wages. This includes working with companies." Behind the stage, the small supermarket is filling up with shoppers. On the shelves are the products of twelve small suppliers: Pastes, sauces, dried and pickled fruits. Chocolate and powder. One word comes up again and again: "Intense", says a man in his mid-fifties. He buys five bars of plain chocolate - and "one of the hottest sauces I've had in my life", he points to the chilli "Venomous Hot Sauce" by "Black Mamba" from Swaziland. "The prices are actually ok, especially in relation to the quality."

 

The visitors to the fair, who pass the BMZ stand on the left and right in a never-ending stream, keep seeping inside. They inspect the opened cocoa pods, suck the beans. They look at knee-sized cubes on which the UN Sustainable Development Goals are written in large letters. And listen as a few thoughtful semicolons are sprinkled into the throng. "What constitutes sustainable agricultural supply chains?" asks moderator Katie Gallus, Flasbarth's "galaxies away" phrase still ringing in her ears.

 

"We need to rethink our consumption patterns," says Anke Oppermann from BMZ. "Because it means that people don't live well elsewhere."

 

Gallus looks for a practical example - and finds it in Shamika Mone, rice farmer and president of INOFO, a global association of organic farmers. "We have different figures," she says, meaning better than those from conventional farming. But: "My high-quality rice goes to a trader for 200 rupees per kilo. He resells as little as 250 grams for 300 rupees." In the end, customers in Germany pay a price for the product from which the farmer's yield is far, far away. "I therefore tie consumers directly to the farm, let them become investors," says Mone.

 

A little away from the hustle and bustle, at a round table in the stand's "supermarket", I watch with Christel Weller-Molongua from GIZ (German Agency for International Cooperation) the endless queue of people, the laughter, snacking and toasting. "We certainly reach a few people," she says, "but many are hard to draw in." The stall is also a crash with many a habit. Does she feel like a caller in the desert? Weller-Molongua is silent for a moment. "Competition for funds is increasing," she says. There are the roads in Germany, the schools, many things in need of improvement. "International development funds will perhaps be scrutinised even more in future. That makes it all the more necessary to honestly present the relevance and impact of our work." Above her towers the logo of the stand, written umpteen times like a roof of the BMZ area: "#ICH WILL FAIR". It sounds defiant and determined at the same time. From afar, the sound of an alphorn resonates for a long time.

 

Since Monday, the field has been and will be left to school classes...

 

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When sustainability becomes part of the curriculum

A contribution by Jan Rübel

During the trade Grüne Woche, school classes visited the BMZ (German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development), Brot für die Welt and Misereor. Each class spends one hour at their stand to learn about the global challenges posed by food systems. A review by Jan Rübel.

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David versus Goliath: Consequences of mainstream agricultural export commodities and niche products

An Artikel by the Initiative for Sustainable Agricultural Supply Chains (INA)

A study published by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) examines the differences between globally traded agricultural commodities and domestic niche products in terms of economic, environmental and social impact on the region of origin. The results provide new evidence to make supply chains more sustainable.  

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Organic certification as an opportunity for developing and emerging countries

An Interview with Dr. Julia Bellinghausen (IPD)

The Import Promotion Desk (IPD) accompanied organic producers from developing and emerging countries to Biofach. In an interview, Dr Julia Bellinghausen, head of the IPD, explains the importance of organic certification in export promotion.

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COVID-19 and Rising Food Prices: What’s Really Happening?

A Contribution by IFPRI

Taking a look at the data (as of February 11th 2022) what the current price hike means for world hunger and what can be done to prevent from another food crisis.

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Côte d’Ivoire: Sweet Temptation without a Bitter Taste

A Story by GIZ

Until Easter 2022, GIZ publishes a new episode every fortnight introducing people who are committed to fair and sustainable cocoa in Côte d'Ivoire and Germany.

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COP27: Agri-food systems in the focus of the climate discussion

Stephanie Heiland, Project Manager at Sector Project Agriculture and part of this year’s Observer Delegation of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) at COP27, shares her insights on the role of agriculture and food systems at the climate conference. Among other things, she reports from GIZ’s COP27 side event ‘Climate resilient agriculture and food systems in times of multiple crises and fragility’.

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The Key to Transforming Food Systems Lies in Inclusive Governance

A Contribution by Daniel Montas

Experts from Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Ethiopia, India, Kenya and Malawi came together to discuss inclusive governance in a workshop entitled "Inclusive Governance of Food Systems Transformation". Daniel Montas, TMG Research, on the findings.

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The Agri-Food Map: An interactive map to explore sustainable agri-food systems

A Contribution by GIZ

The complex interrelationships of the sustainable transformation of agricultural and food systems are not always easy to understand - the Agri-Food Map, an interactive online app, makes the comprehensive relations accessible by providing a wide range of comprehensibly prepared information.

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The UNFSS Stocktaking – shadow and a little light

A Contribution by Harry Hoffmann (TMG) & Nathalie Demel (WHH)

At the halfway mark of the 2030 Agenda and two years after the UN Food System Summit 2021, a stocktaking moment was held in Rome to analyze the progress of countries on the commitments to action in transforming food systems. Dr Harry Hoffmann, TMG Think Tank, and Nathalie Demel, Welthungerhilfe, were on site and take stock as well.

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Climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies for the African livestock sector

A Contribution by ILRI and GIZ

The production of animal-source foods is becoming increasingly difficult due to the impact of climate change on the livestock sector in Africa. Though, Livestock make a crucial contribution to food security in Africa. Three papers by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), GIZ, ILRI and World Bank analyze, how Africas future livestock sector can look like.

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Young farmers as custodians of transformation

An Interview with William Madudike

How can rural economies become viable and modern? William Madudike, youth representative of the Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) and a potato farmer himself, examines this question. He argues that the whole rural economy and actors from producers to consumers need to be considered. An interview on the initiative role of youth.

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Towards Climate Justice: Securing Women’s Land Rights for a Resilient Tomorrow

A Contribution by TMG

In the midst of global climate discussions, a resounding call emerges: Women's land rights must be the cornerstone of our climate actions. They're not just pieces of the puzzle; they form the foundation for true climate resilience. TMG Think Tank for Sustainability reports from the first African Climate Summit.

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New Podcast – Out now!

A Podcast by Food4Transformation

In a world facing crises – from pandemics, armed conflicts, and climate change – how do we ensure everyone has enough food within planetary boundaries? A new podcast by Food4Transformation discover solutions talking to government officials, scientists, NGOs and farmers around the world.

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Learning from Each Other

An Interview with Dr. Jacqueline Mkindi

Partnerships are needed to face the multiple shocks for food systems. This is what Dr. Jacqueline Mkindi, president of the Agriculture Council Tanzania (ACT) and CEO of the Tanzanian Horticulture Association (TAHA) states.

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The common thread is the importance of collaboration

A contribution by Scaling Up Nutrition Movement

It takes the joint efforts of diverse actors to achieve a transformative impact on the global food system. Barbara Rehbinder, Scaling Up Nutrition Movement (SUN), discusses four people-centred principles to get closer to this goal.

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Shu Wen Ng, the Clear-Sighted

An Interview with Shu Wen Ng

Shu Wen Ng is a health economist. She knows what is best suited to go on a plate. But how can this be achieved on a mass scale in countries with lower incomes? "The solutions to gett there already exist," she says, "but what is often missing is courageous leadership to implement them."

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Reforming agricultural policies to sustainably transform food systems

A Contribution by IFPRI

Global food systems are confronted with multiple stresses. It is more urgent than ever to make them more resilient, healthier and more sustainable. A key tool in such a transformation is reforming agricultural policies and repurposing agricultural support, as discussed in an online seminar co-organised by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

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Empowering farmers to control their own data

A contribution by GIZ

A new study on the digitalisation of agriculture puts farmers back at the centre of their own sector, identifies market gaps and gives recommendations on how to support relevant actors.

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Priscilla Impraim and her chocolate business

A contribution by Jan Rübel

Priscilla Impraim is one of the first women in Ghana to enter the chocolate business. Despite some hurdles, she founded the company Ab Ovo Confectionery Limited in 2006 with currently six permanent employees and 25 seasonal employees.

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Five climate-friendly methods in agriculture

A Listicle for climate protection and adaptation

These five management practices can increase agricultural production and contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

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Water may offer the only chance

Interview with Caroline Milow and Ramon Brentführer

Groundwater resources remain dormant in the soil of African regions. Where does it make sense to use them – and where does overexploitation of nature begin? Caroline Milow (GIZ) and Ramon Brentführer (BGR) talk about potentials in the future and lessons from the past.

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Sandisiwe Dlamini and the chilli pepper business

A portrait by Jan Rübel

By processing chilli peppers, Black Mamba wants to give something back to the rural population. In a short portrait, Sandisiwe Dlamini, Food Safety Officer, reveals how.

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“We want to overcome hunger and poverty”

An interview with Fernanda Machiaveli

After four years of the Bolsonaro administration, the new Brazilian government is trying to restart its engagement in agroecology, fighting deforestation in the Amazon and protecting indigenous communities and poor families from hunger. An interview with the Vice-minister for Rural Development and Family Farming, Fernanda Machiaveli.

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“We have to focus on sustainability”

An interview with Karen Mapusua

Karen Mapusua, President of IFOAM Organics International Network, on the danger of the current fuel crises and inflation to loose track in sustainablity, why organic farmers should be heard and how the word “crisis” has a very different meaning where she lives in Fiji.

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Governor's Day with Farmers – For more discussion with local actors

A contribution by William Onura and Larissa Stiem-Bhatia

In agriculture it is important to include political stakeholders in the discourse. To build the bridge between practical application and political action, the think tank TMG launched the Governor's Day with Farmers in Kakamega County, Kenya. Now it took place for the second time. But what are the goals and benefits of the Governor's Day?

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The goals of transformation should leave no one behind

An Interview with Mareike Haase and Stig Tanzmann

Four interviews kick off the relaunch under the new name „Food4Transformation“, asking the same questions from different perspectives. Mareike Haase and Stig Tanzmann from Brot für die Welt explain why the right to food, inclusivity, agroecology and food sovereignty are the central levers for a successful transformation.

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From field to fan shop: how to increase supply

A contribution by Jan Rübel

Organic cotton is extremely popular – but farmers still find it difficult to change their conventional cultivation methods. A new project addresses this dilemma: Bundesliga football teams in Germany are promoting the switch to organic cotton in India. And thereby setting an example.

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How a Nigerian fintech wants to secure 1 billion US dollars for farms

An Interview with Blessing Mene

Small farmers often have a hard time getting financing. An app in Nigeria wants to change that: Founder Blessing Mene about what his app offers - and about the opportunities and limitations of agricultural financing.

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The rush for green energy shouldn’t undermine rights of pastoralist communities

A contribution by Hussein Tadicha Wario

Africa’s drylands seem to be predestined for generating solar and wind power – especially given the current hype over green hydrogen. However, pastoral communities are often put at a disadvantage in this respect. Our author describes the arising conflicts and what successful coexistence of green energy projects and the communities could look like.

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CompensACTION aims to reward farmers for climate performance

A Contribution of the Initiative

The CompensACTION Initiative for food security and a healthy planet, launched by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in 2022, is gaining momentum. It aims to financially compensate smallholder farmers for their contribution to preserving ecosystems. Initial successes have been achieved in Ethiopia, Lesotho and Brazil.

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“It created hope. It created a life”

An interview with Ally-Raza Qureshi, WFP

Iraq suffered many years of war, sanctions and economic crises. However, Ally-Raza Qureshi from the World Food Programme in Iraq sees progress. But now the effects of climate change are becoming apparent in the country. What is to be done?

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Earth’s well, all’s well!

A Contribution by Fairtrade Germany

With the annual topic "Earth’s well, all’s well!", Fairtrade Germany is focusing on the concept of agroecology at all levels - and is thus taking the next step towards achieving greater global sustainability. At the Green Week trade fair, Fairtrade Germany will show how this can be achieved taking the cocoa supply chain as an example.

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Blooming landscapes? Only with biodiversity!

A Contribution by Arne Loth

What do chocolate, carrots and tequila have in common? What sounds like the ingredients for an experimental cocktail are foods that would not exist without certain animal species. They are examples of how nature works for us every day, often behind the scenes.

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Together for food security in Zambia

A Contribution by Claudia Jordan (GIZ)

The Agriculture and Food Security Cluster of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in Zambia shows how synergies among different projects and partner organisations can help people to eat healthier, diversified food. A delegation of the Bonn based Division of Agriculture and Rural Development learned this in a field visit in the Eastern Province of the Southern African country.

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The Idea of Coffee entirely made by Women

A Conversation with Allan Mubiru

Allan Mubiru was standing in front of a shelf in Kigali, Rwanda, and discovered a local type of coffee. He took it, tasted it and was thrilled. A story about a grocery shopping trip that became the beginning of a successful business idea.

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From the perennial to the catwalk – banana silk as an alternative

A Contribution by Paul Kadjo

The textile industry contributes significantly to environmental pollution as it produces over 100 billion garments every year, resulting in huge CO2 emissions and water consumption. Fashion designer Paul Kadjo uses banana silk as an environmentally friendly alternative to make textile production more environmentally conscious and socially just.

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Climate Resilience in the Apple Value Chain

A Contribution by Puneet Bansal

In Himachal Pradesh, India, natural disasters are becoming more frequent and climatic conditions are changing – with negative consequences for apple production and farmers' livelihoods. Holistic and multidimensional innovation bundles are required for the entire value chain in order to make the food system more resilient in the future.

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The Answer is Healthy Soil

A Conversation with Nina Mannheimer

The Berlin start-up Klim is forging an alliance between farmers and companies. The aim is to use regenerative farming to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and sequester it as carbon in the soil. An interview with Nina Mannheimer.

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