Agricultural land continues to be under pressure all around the world. Thus, the 2022 Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) worked on new strategies for soil protection, sustainable soil management and fair access to arable land.
‘Without soil, the only thing that can grow is hunger.’ These were Ophelia Nick’s opening words to mark the beginning of the 14th Global Forum for Food and Agriculture. ‘More than 90 per cent of the global food production depend on it’, the Parliamentary State Secretary of the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture continued. The international community is at a crossroads. While the United Nations still maintain ‘zero hunger’ by 2030 as one of its Sustainable Development Goals, hunger and poverty have been on the rise for years as climate change, environmental pollution and armed conflicts continue to unleash a torrent of global problems. The GFFA has responded to these developments by focusing on soil as an essential resource: this year’s conference was titled ‘Sustainable Soil Use: Food Security Starts in the Soil’. The event took place in Berlin in the last week of January; like in 2021, it was held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic.
‘At least the digital format allows us to reach an even greater audience’, Ms Nick commented. The conference comprised 20 events in five days, attended by more than 2200 international guests who listened to around 120 speakers from a wide range of backgrounds in politics, business, academia and civil society. Around 10,000 people accessed the livestream. Three specific insights emerged as a common theme across all panels: green agriculture continues to gain traction – as it should. Access to arable land must become fairer. Smallholders must remain at the focus of efforts in this field.
The GFFA has been an established and important international conference for many years, dealing with questions about the future of nutrition and agriculture.
All participants agreed that soils need protection, yet there was plenty of scope for discussion about concrete measures and how to implement them.
Rattan Lal’s response, for instance, sounded somewhat disillusioned. The professor and Director of the CFAES Rattan Lal Center for Carbon Management and Sequestration at Ohio State University merely said: ‘research must be turned into practice. Christiane Lambert, on the other hand, spoke out against excessive regulation. ‘We would prefer a tailored solution to a top-down approach’, the President of the European farmers’ union federation COPA commented.
Focus on Sustainable Soil Management
The annual GFFA monitor and document developments in the global discussion on food security. The first high-level panel, jointly organised with the European Commission, was dedicated to the quintessential question of how to make soils more sustainable. Joe Swinnen, Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), called for a holistic approach:
Global and local measures must be connected.
'All players along the value chain must be included in the process – not just farmers but consumers, too.’ María Emilia Undurraga highlighted the need for soil to absorb more carbon. ‘We must remember to decommission land in order to strike a balance and protect biodiversity’, the Chilean Minister of Agriculture said. Across all panels, participants saw a clear need to take action: the limited amount of land that is available worldwide must be managed sustainably. Speakers, audience members and participants in the live chat all emphasised the importance of biodiversity for soil. One resolution ran through the conference like a silver thread: climate protection and climate change adaptation need to be advanced further. In his summary, EU Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski emphasised the EU’s influence on consumers all over the world. ‘We heavily focus on satisfying demand in a sustainable, socially responsible way.’ He announced that sustainable cultivation would become standard. ‘The Commission will enshrine these practices in its strategy.’
The Question of Soil Exploitation is Fraught with Controversy
But how do people organise soil management among themselves? Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure (VGGT), adopted ten years ago, offer an answer to this question. During the second high-level panel, Gabriel Ferrero de Loma-Osorio, Chairman of the Committee on World Food Security, argued for the use of this global framework by governments and all other players. ‘We have many innovative approaches’, he said as he demanded that the food systems be viewed from a different angle. Maximo Torero voiced a similar sentiment. The Chief Economist at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) argued that following the adoption of the VGGT, the focus was on building awareness. ‘There were some successes, but we need to upscale now.’ In other words: fair and rights-based access to arable land must be guaranteed. All panelists agreed on this.
At the subsequently held Summit of Agriculture Ministers, Cem Özdemir welcomed 67 participants virtually. When the final communiqué was being presented, European Commissioner Wojciechowski recited a proverb:
Humankind owes its existence to a fifteen-centimetre layer of ground.
The adopted paper listed soil protection, strengthened biodiversity, climate protection and climate change adaptation as its most important demands. It also included the following sentence: ‘Investment, cultivation, research, innovation and digital transformation will be an important part of the solution that is needed to use soils sustainably.’ The GFFA has set the direction for global agriculture: more than just a buzzword, sustainability is a concrete programme now.
Möhring formuliert ihren Ansatz aus der Opposition heraus genereller und schärfer: „Um Staaten nachhaltig und langfristig darin zu unterstützen, ihre eigene Bevölkerung zu versorgen, müssen sowohl Freihandelsabkommen, die es Staaten verunmöglichen eine eigene Wirtschaft aufzubauen, ausgesetzt werden, als auch die Landwirtschaft selbst zu einer nachhaltigen Produktionsweise umgebaut werden, beispielswiese durch eine Förderung der Agrarökologie. Der Einfluss großer Agrarkonzerne muss zurückgedrängt werden.“
In gegensätzlicher Richtung ist Frohnmaier von der AfD unterwegs. „Ich trete für einen grundsätzlichen Richtungswechsel in der Entwicklungshilfepolitik ein“, schreibt er. „Die Entwicklungshilfe muss sich kohärent mit der Außen- und Außenwirtschaftspolitik Deutschland an strikt an den deutschen Interessen ausrichten. Im Fokus stehen vor diesem Hintergrund die Abwehr unerwünschter und illegaler Migration und damit einhergehend der Abbau fehlerhafter Anreize, die Rückführung illegaler Migranten, die Verbesserung der wirtschaftlichen Kooperation Deutschlands mit Entwicklungs- und Schwellenländern, die Erschließung von Märkten und Ressourcen.“
Aus vergangenen Fehlern lernen, Ungerechtigkeiten ins Visier nehmen und ein Fokus auf Klimaschutz und Ökologie: Das sind die sich herauskristallisierenden Punkte, auf welche die befragten Bundestagsfraktionen setzen – durchaus zuweilen eine gemeinsame Schnittmenge.
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Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Podcast of the Federal Government
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A contribution by Jes Weigelt and Alexander Müller
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A contribution by Kerstin Weber and Brit Reichelt-Zolho (WWF)
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Double interview with Tony Rinaudo and Volker Schlöndorff
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A contribution by Nadine Babatounde and Anne Floquet (MISEREOR)
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A contritbution by Essa Chanie Mussa (University of Gondar)
Rural youth need viable livelihood opportunities to escape out of poverty and realize their aspirations. How could they be helped to fully unleash their potential? This is an aloud call that needs novel strategies among governments, policy makers, and international development partners and donors.
A report 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.
A report by Alexander Müller and Jes Weigelt (TMG)
As the climate changes, the population of Africa is growing and fertile land and jobs are becoming scarcer. New ways are currently leading to urbanisation of agriculture and a new mid-sized sector in the countryside
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Journalist Jan Rübel spoke with Joao Campari ahead of the UNFSS Pre-Summit. The Chair of Action Track 3 highlights key challenges in transforming existing food systems towards sustainable production and shares his expectations for the Summit.
A contribution by Dr. Karin Gaesing and Prof. Dr. Frank Bliss (INEF)
Especially in densely populated areas, land pressure leads to overexploitation of available land and a lack of conservation measures. The West African country of Benin, with heavily depleted soils in many places, is no exception.
Interview with Paul Newnham, Director of the SDG 2 Advocacy Hub.
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An Interview with Francisco Marí (Brot für die Welt)
Brot für die Welt (Bread for the World) did not attend the UNFSS pre-summit. Instead, the organisation took part in a counter-summit that took place at the same time. A conversation with Francisco Marí about the reasons, the process - and an outlook for the future
Interview with Martina Fleckenstein (WWF), Michael Kühn (WHH) and Christel Weller-Molongua (GIZ)
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Genetically modified bacteria become edible proteins, cows graze on pasture, and no waste is produced in an industrial circular economy. Journalist Jan Grossarth sees a silver lining for the future of world nutrition
A Contribution by Emile Frison and Nick Jacobs (IPES-Food)
While having failed to solve the hunger problem, industrial agriculture appears to be causing additional ones both in environmental and health terms. Emile Frison and Nick Jacobs call for a transformation.
Fish is important for combating malnutrition and undernourishment. But it is not only notable for its nutritional value, but also secures the livelihoods and employment for 600 million people worldwide.
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A contribution by Prof. Dr. Anna-Katharina Hornidge
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A Contribution of the 'Initiative for Sustainable Agricultural Supply Chains' (INA)
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An Interview with Shamika Mone (INOFO) and Elizabeth Nsimadala (EAFF)
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Indian farmers restore precious soil material combining traditional with innovative approaches. A case example how governance, agriculture and development cooperation can work together to combat climate change.
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Kenya is a large importer of vetable oils mainly from Indonesia and Malaysia - amongst them sunflower oil. Due to the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, there were supply bottlenecks and food shortages, leading to less affordable vegetable oils in Kenya. As a response to the lack of supply, the Sanga'alo Institute of Science and Technology, took that impulse, teamed up with the GIZ and established regional cultivation and refinement of sunflowers.
Protectionist policies like tariffs supposedly protect domestic producers if they cannot compete with cheaper imported products. Some African countries have therefore opted to impose such import restrictions for a number of products. For the case of chicken imports in Ghana, this study analyses whether restrictions would lead to overall positive or negative welfare effects among households.
Regarding deforestation free supply chains, there are challenges and opportunities for smallholder farmers as well as for international forest governance. Also, responsibilities for companies and potential incentives for manufacturers to use materials from fair trade and sustainable sources need to be explored. But what does “deforestation-free” actually mean?
The Africa Agriculture Trade Monitor 2022 (AATM) was published by IFPRI and AKADEMIYA2063. The report analyses the short- and long-term trends and drivers of African agricultural trade flows, including regional policies and the role of global markets.
The German government is struggling to pass a supply chain law. It is intended to address violations of human rights, social and environmental standards. What would the consequences be for business? A double interview with Veselina Vasileva from GEPA and economics professor Andreas Freytag.
Four interviews kick off the relaunch under the new name „Food4Transformation“, asking the same questions from different perspectives. "Women and young people need access to land. And they need financial support to cultivate this land." - says Kolyang Palebele, President of the Pan African Farmers Organisation (PAFO).