What is needed for a long-term fertiliser strategy?

The world is currently experiencing a historic food crisis. High fertiliser prices are part of the problem. In addition to the necessary short-term aid measures, the crisis ought to be made use of to develop and implement longer-term fertiliser strategies for sustainable, in particular smallholder increases in production in the Global South.

Smallholders likely to react particularly sensitive to high and variable fertiliser prices.© Fabiana Woywod

By Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)

The Deutsche Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (German Institute for Development Policy) is one of the world's leading research institutes and think tanks on questions of global development and international development policy.

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This article appeared first in Rural21 and is part of a media cooperation between Rural21 and foodfortransformation.org.

The majority of a total of more than 800 million food-insecure people live in smallholder households. As long as these people cannot move on to activities which are not dependent on agriculture, which is unlikely for most for the foreseeable future, an increase in their area and labour productivity remains the most important approach to more income and thus to food for the majority of those going hungry. At the same time, the intensification of smallholder farming represents a contribution to more food availability and more stability, to economic growth especially in rural regions and to a reduction in land pressure in natural reserves. The key argument is that it is income and not food production per se which assures their food security. Of course, for resilient livelihoods additional mechanisms also play a role, such as diversification, access to financial services and stable food markets.

 

Better availability of plant nutrients is crucial for enhanced agricultural productivity. So far, in modern agriculture, mineral fertiliser played a dominant role in that. Some estimates put around 40 per cent of global yield increases down solely to the increased use of mineral nitrogen, the most important plant nutrient. It is difficult to view the contribution of other macronutrients – phosphate and potassium – as well as micronutrients like boron, iron or zinc separately from that of nitrogen, with micronutrients being particularly important among higher-value and vulnerable vegetable and fruit varieties and for plant health and quality. And then there is lime, which is frequently added to raise the pH value and thereby nutrient availability of the soil. All in all, mineral fertilisers are said to account for up to 60 per cent of modern production progress, usually in conjunction with modern plant varieties necessary for higher take-up, use in the plant and concomitant changing plant health situation.

 

Strong correlation between fertiliser and food prices

Given the considerable importance of mineral fertilisers, it is no surprise that the correlation between international fertiliser and food prices has historically been very marked. The current food price crisis, too, has a fertiliser component. Since mid-2020, i.e. already before the Ukraine war, fertiliser prices had risen strongly, showed another sharp increase at the beginning of the war, and now, in mid-May 2023, they are back at the pre-war level, but are two or three times higher than they were before 2020. It is difficult to express in numerical terms just how large the contribution of fertiliser prices to the rise in food prices and the hunger problem really is, for this relationship depends on a large number of factors which interact. The cost-benefit ratio of using fertiliser varies depending on the respective location, crop and level of fertilisation. The less is used, the higher the yield loss tends to be according to the law of diminishing yield increase. Furthermore, other relevant prices change too, especially that of energy, which plays an important role for the food prices in various forms for production, processing, warehousing and transportation of fertiliser and agricultural products. The joint correlation of global energy, fertiliser and food prices is very close.

 

Severe price fluctuations are very problematic for the farmers. After all, they have to pay for fertiliser in advance, at a stage when they do not know what the agricultural prices will be after harvest.

 

Smallholders likely to react particularly sensitive to high and variable fertiliser prices

In poor countries of the Global South and among smallholders, the fertiliser price crisis is further aggravated by a number of factors. Even if the price relations are an incentive to produce more, the farmers can hardly afford the higher fertiliser costs with their own reserves, and even if they do have access to credit, it is very expensive. Moreover, for various reasons, smallholders are particularly risk-averse, and insurances and price-hedging are virtually non-existent in countries of the Global South. So on average, smallholders will take fewer risks and are most likely to apply less fertiliser if prices rise. Since their use of fertiliser is usually very low (the African average, for example, is below 20 kg/ha, compared with the global average of approx. 140 kg/ha), their drops in yield accompanying diminishing fertiliser use are particularly high. This explains why, in May 2022, the President of the African Development Bank warned that fertiliser shortages could lead to a 20 per cent decline in food production on the continent.

 

In order to attempt an assessment of the current fertiliser crisis despite the issue’s complexity as described above, a study which appeared in the specialist journal NatureFood is cited in the following which tried to isolate the effects of fertiliser costs and trade restrictions in a model calculation: “We show that, combined, agricultural inputs costs and food export restrictions could increase food costs by 60–100 per cent in 2023 from 2021 levels, potentially leading to undernourishment of 61–107 million people in 2023 and annual additional deaths of 416,000 to 1.01 million people if the associated dietary patterns are maintained. Furthermore, reduced land use intensification arising from higher input costs would lead to agricultural land expansion and associated carbon and biodiversity loss.”

 

The debate over mineral fertiliser

Individual governments and the international community have resorted to a wide range of measures to mitigate the current food crisis. Alone the World Bank announced in April 2022 “that it is making up to $30 billion available over a period of 15 months, including $12 billion in new projects”. For this purpose, in addition to support from already existing funding lines, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has set up a new “food shock window under the emergency financing instruments”.

 

However, the current crisis has also exacerbated already heated up debates over a transformation of agricultural production and even “the” (global) food system. This applies in particular to the role of external fertiliser. To critics, very high rates of fertiliser application are a synonym for ecologically non-sustainable “industrial” agriculture – linked with the eutrophication of water bodies, breaching of planetary boundaries, greenhouse gas emissions and the degradation of soil quality. To advocates of this type of agriculture, external fertiliser use is not only a key means of achieving high yields, but also serves to limit the degradation of cropland through soil mining and the expansion of cultivated land, thus contributing to preserving biodiversity outside such land.

 

While both views have good arguments, the scientific bottom line is that sustainable agricultural production requires the nutrients drawn from the soil with the harvest to be added to it again, whether naturally, via soil weathering, sediments and the atmosphere or by human action, with organic and/or mineral fertiliser. This equation contains many variables which vary from location to location, such as soil quality and the mobilisation of nutrients, external inputs from the atmosphere or from the natural environment via livestock keeping, nitrogen enrichment with legumes from crop farming or agroforestry, the degree of nutrient circularity on the farms, but also losses through insoluble fixation in the soil, leaching and outgassing. The degree of marketing among the farms is also of considerable significance. The more produce leaves a farm and enters the market, the more the circularity on a farm is disturbed, and the earlier external nutrients have to be added to make up for net losses.

 

However, for smallholders, market production is an essential element to overcome poverty and attain higher income enabling an acceptable quality of living. For example, yield in sub-Saharan Africa is usually at less than 20 to 30 per cent of the yield under good agricultural practice, and even with this low level of area productivity, the nutrient balance is usually negative (soil mining). Therefore, with the exception of very fertile and deep-reaching soils, as area productivity and the degree of marketing rise, the additional and external supply of nutrients becomes essential. However, just how strong this supply has to be and where the nutrients come from can make a big difference both for the sustainability of supplies from agriculture, and hence for local resilience, and for the costs and thus the competitiveness of farmers.

 

Setting the course for a sustainable fertiliser strategy

 

For long-term sustainable agriculture, fertilising oriented on net nutrient withdrawal with a minimum of losses is desirable, hand in hand with enhanced yields and labour productivity of smallholders.

 

Achieving this requires the following measures:

 

Redistributing fertiliser intensity and developing a (clean) fertiliser industry. For nutrient withdrawal which cannot be supplied via the practices described in the following, synthetic (this is what nitrogen fertilisers industrially gained from atmospheric nitrogen are often called) and mineral (other fertilisers produced by mining natural soil resources and mixtures of these with synthetic nitrogen) fertilisers will continue to be needed. Whereas the output quantities are far too high in many industrialised countries and certain areas of emerging economies, they are generally too low in poor countries and among smallholders. A global redistribution of fertilising intensity from the Global North to the Global South is therefore needed. For more about what origin of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser is desirable, see below.

 

In order to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of nitrogen fertilisers in particular, efforts can be made to develop a synthesis of green hydrogen in the long term, although the necessary methods are still significantly more expensive, even when taking the current gas prices into account.

 

However, not only the application but also the production of mineral fertiliser ought to be promoted in the Global South. The crisis has shown that dependence on a handful of supplier countries is too high. Now some endeavours are underway to establish an independent fertiliser industry in Africa and use local natural resources, in particular gas and raw phosphate.

 

Raising energy efficiency. With clever crop sequencing, choosing the right time for application and properly working the organic and inorganic fertilisers into the soil, nutrient losses can be reduced. One major hope is the introduction or improvement of precision agriculture – by precisely placing the fertiliser below the soil surface, in accordance with the respective supply needs of the plants. On large, mechanised farms, this can be achieved with high-tech, using satellite and computer steering of the machines, on small farms with manual application of the fertiliser during or after sowing. Coating or chemically and biologically modifying the fertilisers with the aim of delaying the dissemination of nutrients and improving uptake is to contribute to reducing losses and gaining efficiency.

 

Improving soil quality. To optimise the use of the nutrients in the soil and those added, activating soil life and raising soil organic matter are crucial. Some tropical soils completely absorb fertilisers without such additional measures, while in most other soils, this improves nutrient supply and storage. This can be achieved by temporally and/or spatially phasing the cultivation of different cultures, by crop-livestock integration, by adding biological substance (residual matters), etc. Lately, there has also been much experimenting with microbial activation of the soil and plant-soil interaction. However, many methods requiring larger amounts of organic matter require conversions in the farming systems and entail investments which are frequently anything but trivial. For larger farms, mechanised methods are a precondition. For small farms, manual methods are required which, however, have to consider peaks in labour input as well as the workload, for even the smallest farms experience labour bottlenecks at certain times. For methods incorporating livestock manure, corresponding stocks of animals and the feed supply are a precondition.

 

Growing legumes. The cultivation of legume crops is one particularly frequently mentioned form of substituting mineral fertiliser and improving soil life. In connection with bacteria, these crops can bind atmospheric nitrogen, and depending on the mode of cultivation, they also contribute valuable subsistence and cash crops as well as feed. However, legumes are not always easy to integrate into farms. They are often susceptible to disease and difficult to store, and in the form of trees and shrubs, they soon compete with other crops for water, light and nutrients, while their green mass has to be worked into the fields or transported within the farm and marketing them creates competition with imported products, in particular soy. Looking far ahead, it is conceivable that nitrogen fixation in non-legumes will become possible via genetic engineering, which would facilitate adaptation but present challenges in terms of biosafety and authorisation.

 

Fertigation. In horticulture, combining irrigation with applying soluble fertiliser is a tried and tested method to effectively disseminate nutrients, although it also entails considerable investments as well as water abstraction and pollution. It will therefore tend to remain a (larger) niche solution.

 

Developing the circular economy. In the long term, efforts also have to be made to improve not only the nutrient cycles within farms but also to enable the return of nutrients which leave the farms when farm produce is marketed. This is by no means trivial, either, for there are numerous health/ hygiene, logistic/ economic, legal and psychological obstacles. For most of the nutrients are contained in the human faeces. These are enriched with harmful substances, stink, cause revulsion, are watery and are bulky to transport fresh. Ways have to be found to separate and enrich the substances and manufacture accepted products. This can be accomplished at local level in the form of organic fertiliser, which can also bring back nitrogen and organic matter to the soils. Partly, high hurdles have to be cleared regarding possible health hazards, and one partial solution could be restricting application to non-food crops. Nutrient concentration has to be raised for longer transportation routes, e.g. via the biological or chemical extraction of individual nutrients. During the last few years, this has already been achieved on a technologically large scale in the case of phosphate, with developments here being driven by fears of this possibly being the first substance to become scarce at global level. Such fears have since dissipated, which is one reason why the methods are not yet economical.

 

Developing financing systems, eliminating subsidies

As argued, the respective fertilising strategies which are sustainable in the long term have to be tailored to locational features and cannot be put into practice from one day to the next. Bundles of measures customised to individual farming systems still require a considerable amount of research and local adaptation in cooperation with the farmers themselves. For many measures, markets have to be tapped and supply chains established, which calls for close cooperation with the private sector. For fertilisers and new inputs as well as labour, farmers have to make major investments in the short term, and they have to do so for mechanisation and farm conversions in the long term as well. For this purpose, they require capital (loans) and, in order to safeguard themselves from risks, whenever possible, insurances, as well as saving options. Here, support is needed for making rural finance systems work better.

 

Components of a sustainable fertiliser strategy

From an economic angle, longer-term, lasting subsidies should not be resorted to whenever possible, since they usually set the wrong incentives and create considerable costs and risks for the state budget. This is currently becoming apparent for the subsidies for mineral fertilisers, which were introduced in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa following the example set by Malawi in the early 2000s. There, sometimes as much as 20 per cent of the entire state budget has been spent on them. Given the currently high price levels, governments cannot maintain the subsidies, and even in normal times, they absorb so much money that hardly anything is left for research and investments addressing the above-mentioned and other challenges in the agricultural sector. Furthermore, many of the subsidised fertilisers tend to benefit more wealthy farms via the black market because, owing to urgent liquidity problems, the poorest often sell them quickly. However, while long-term subsidies are unsustainable, in the current high price phase, short-term subsidies are appropriate to cope with the crisis as a transitional instrument.

 

The current crisis offers the opportunity to develop fertiliser strategies which focus on the long-term alternatives, and which, while driving up the non-sustainable subsidies where necessary in the short term, wind them down in the long term. Now it is up to the countries of sub-Saharan Africa to employ the means as efficiently and effectively as possible. They do not have the rich industrial nations’ option to maintain costly subsidy strategies. The EU ought to support such local strategies rather than transferring its own problems with sustainability to the countries of the Global South in an unreflected manner. The European Union’s refusal to support a local fertiliser industry with reference to climate change while simultaneously seeking to secure energy and natural resources world-wide can only be perceived as hypocrisy in the Global South. After all, the respective countries and actors there have greenhouse gas emission levels which have so far been way below the global average, and the reasons for their emissions are probably the most justified ones globally. Saloni Shah notes in the journal Foreign Policy that “Even former United Nations climate envoy Mary Robinson has come around to the idea that African countries should take advantage of their natural gas reserves to meet their energy needs.”

 

The effort to establish long-term fertiliser strategies may be cumbersome and challenging but is certainly worthwhile. In relation to the economy as a whole or to employment, the agricultural sectors are significantly more important for poor countries than the industry sectors are for rich countries.

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An interview with Dr. Julia Köhn

Four interviews kick off the relaunch under the new name „Food4Transformation“, asking the same questions from different perspectives. Dr Julia Köhn, Chair of the German AgriFood Society, points out in the interview: Only if innovation and transformation are profitable in the medium term can they close the food gap in the long term.

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BMZ releases video on the transformation of agricultural and food systems

A contribution by GIZ

The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has released a video on the transformation of agricultural and food systems. In the video, Federal Minister Svenja Schulze also speaks about the urgent need to combat global hunger and contribute to resilient agricultural and food systems.

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“More of the same is not enough - we need to rethink”

An interview with Dirk Meyer

Four interviews kick off the relaunch under the new name „Food4Transformation“, asking the same questions from different perspectives. Dirk Meyer, Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, thinks: less individual solutions are needed, but more systemic approaches. Because in addition to the goals for food security, the issues of climate and biodiversity must also be taken into account.

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Unlocking the potential of agrivoltaics

A contribution by Fraunhofer Institute

Agrivoltaics is a concept that combines photovoltaic electricity generation and agricultural production, providing the opportunity for a more efficient land use and contributing overall to the integration of food, energy and water systems. This can be particularly interesting for countries in the Global South, where rural electrification rates are often low and food security needs to be improved.

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Partners for change - Network meeting on transforming agricultural and food systems

A Contribution by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development

At the network meeting "Partners for change - Transformation to a food secure, resilient and sustainable future", almost 250 participants from over 20 countries came together to exchange experiences and ideas on the transformation of agricultural and food systems. The final product, joint recommendations to transform agricultural and food systems, can now be read online.

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Just change starts with listening

A Contribution by Jan Rübel

Halfway through the 2030 Agenda, the BMZ invited participants to a network meeting entitled "Partners for change - Transformation to a food secure, resilient and sustainable future". Experts from around the world developed recommendations in a consultation process and then consolidated them in Berlin. A site visit.

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Think20 Policy Brief centres on Agroecology

Insights from the T20 Policy Brief

Given the urgency of transforming agricultural and food systems, GIZ India's Food Systems and Agroecology Working Group is exploring the potential of agroecology in collaboration with Think20 partners. A policy brief has now been published.

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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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"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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(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) Welthungerhilfe

5 questions to S. Fan: Where are the new roads?

Interview with Shenggen Fan

Shortly before ending his position as Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPR) Dr. Shenggen Fan talks about the reforms and new modes of operation needed to achieve global food security in the coming decade.

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Climate Adaptation Summit 2021: ‘We can do better’

Event report by Jan Rübel (Zeitenspiegel)

The first Climate Adaptation Summit put climate adaptation at the center of politics for the first time. The virtual meeting united global players with one goal: building resilience is just as important as climate protection itself. Around 15,000 participants discussed direct proposals.

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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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Turning many into one: CGIAR network restructures

A contribution 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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KLAUS WOHLMANN / GIZ

"Farmers are smart"

Interview with Maria Andrade

From the lab to the masses: Maria Andrade bred varieties of biofortified sweet potatoes which are now widely used all over the continent. She sets her hope on the transformation of African agriculture.

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Small-scale farmers’ responses to COVID-19 related restrictions

A study by SLE

The lockdown due to COVID-19 hit the economy hard - including agriculture in particular with its supply chains and sales markets. What creative coping strategies have those affected found? The Seminar for Rural Development has begun a research study on th

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Small fish with a big potential

A contribution by Paul van Zwieten

African inland fisheries are increasingly reliant on the capture of small fish species that are sundried and traded over long distances. They make an important contribution in alleviating “hidden hunger”: consumed whole, small fish are an important source of micronutrients. Only that, unfortunately, politicians haven’t yet realised this.

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Building our food systems back better

A contribution 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"

A contribution 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?

A contribution 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

A contribution 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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© GIZ

Resilient small-scale agriculture: A key in global crises

A contribution 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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(c) Klara Palatova/WFP

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

A contribution by the 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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The Forest Maker and his director

Double interview with Tony Rinaudo and Volker Schlöndorff

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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The state of food security in Cape Town and St. Helena Bay

A study by Markus Hanisch, Agustina Malvido, Johanna Hansmann, Alexander Mewes, Moritz Reigl, Nicole Paganini (SLE)

Post-Covid-19 lockdown: How food governance processes could include marginalised communities - an extract of the results of an SLE study applying digital and participatory methods.

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(c) Nina Schroeder/World Food Programme

Green from the growth container

A contribution by Maria Smentek (WFP)

If there is a lack of fertile soil and rain, hunger breaks out quickly. Maria Smentek from the World Food Programme (WFP) explains how farmers and pastoralists can counter climate change with hydroponic-systems.

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(c) Gudrun Barenbrock/GIZ

Edible bugs - the new beef?

A contribution 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) Thomas Lohnes / Brot für die Welt

The hype about urban gardening: farmers or hobby gardeners?

A contribution by Stig Tanzmann

Urban gardening is becoming increasingly popular in northern metropoles. People who consider themselves part of a green movement are establishing productive gardens in the city, for example on rooftops or in vacant lots. In severely impoverished regions of the global South, urban agriculture is a component of the food strategy.

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How the self-help approach empowers smallholder women

A report by INEF and Kindernothilfe

Supporting groups of smallholding women substantially contributes to strengthen rural operations economically. The organisation and associated group activities can help to reduce extreme poverty and improve the food situation.

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Gender equality: Essential for food and nutrition security

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

A contribution by Nadine Babatounde and Anne Floquet (MISEREOR)

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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Hunger must not be a consequence of the epidemic!

A contribution 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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Developing countries hit doubly hard by coronavirus

A contribution 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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Hier steht eine Bildbeschreibung

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

A contribution 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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An investment in Africa's future

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.

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(c) Privat

Borderless food security

A contribution by Christine Wieck

Enabling smallholders to trade across regions and borders promotes food security and economic growth. Although everyone is calling for exactly that, implementation is still difficult

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© GIZ

Actual Analysis: The locusts came with the crises

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.

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"Extreme is the new normal"

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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© GIZ / Angelika Jacob

This is how developing countries can adapt better to droughts

A contribution by Michael Brüntrup (DIE) und Daniel Tsegai (UNCCD)

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) Christof Krackhardt/Brot für die Welt

Together and resourceful against worldwide hunger

A contribution 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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(c) Christoph Mohr/GIZ

Microinsurance against climate change

A contribution by Claudia Voß

Climate change is destroying development progress in many places. The clever interaction of digitalisation and the insurance industry protects affected small farmers.

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(c) Nina Schroeder/World Food Programme

Hunger is caused by people, not the climate

Interview with Jacob Schewe (PIK)

A study by the World Bank predicts that millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa will have to leave their homelands because of climate change. We have spoken with one of the authors

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What do you expect from this Pre Summit, Mr. Haddad?

Interview with Lawrence Haddad (GAIN)

Nutrition experts from all over the world are coming together in Rome. They are not only distilling 2000 ideas to improve food systems - they are also preparing for the big UN summit in New York in September. An interview. 

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Mr. Campari, how do we create sustainable food systems?

Interview with Joao Campari (WWF)

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.

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Land Rights, Gender and Soil Fertility in Benin

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.

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How do you campaign “Food Systems”?

Interview with Paul Newnham, Director of the SDG 2 Advocacy Hub.

The UN Food Systems pre-Summit in Rome dealt with transforming the ways of our nutrition. How do you bring that to a broad public? Questions to Paul Newnham, the Director of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 Advocacy Hub.

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UNFSS Pre-Summit: What did it achieve?

Interview with Martina Fleckenstein (WWF), Michael Kühn (WHH) and Christel Weller-Molongua (GIZ)

After the summit means pre-summit: It was the first time that the United Nations held a summit on food systems. Martina Fleckenstein, Michael Kühn and Christel Weller-Molongua reviewed the situation in this joint interview.

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Food System Transformation Starts and Ends with Diversity

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.

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(c) GIZ

Sustainable Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture in Rural Areas

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.

A Project of GIZ

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(c) GIZ

Land Rights for Secure Livelihoods: My Land is My Life

Three quarters of the world's population do not have secure land rights, which hinders investment and innovation. The project "Improvement of Livelihood and Food Security" supports smallholder farmers in acquiring land.

A project of GIZ

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City, Country, Sea: 6 Innovations in the Fight Against Climate Change

A listicle for climate-neutral agriculture

Vertically growing plants, magnetic cotton. Hairy leftovers fertilizing fields, tractors running on algae? These six innovations could lead agriculture’s next Green Revolution!

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No Food Security Without Climate Protection

A Contribution by Michael Kühn (WHH)

Climate change already affects the daily lives of people in the Global South. What are the challenges they face and what do these imply for negotiations at the climate conference in Glasgow?

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Engaging the Community to Solve the Bushmeat Crisis

A Contribution by the Forestry Research Institute Nigeria

The 'Domestication of Small Monogastric and Ruminant Animals' (DSMR) project led by a Nigerian research institute works with local communities to solve the bushmeat crisis.

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German G7 Presidency – fighting hunger with all our might

A Contribution by Welthungerhilfe

In the run-up to the G7 summit, experts from politics and civil society discussed sustainable and more effective options for action by the G7 states to combat hunger.

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‘Invite yourself’ – Farmers organisations as key stakeholders of food systems

A Contribution by Andreas-Hermes-Akademie

The Andreas Hermes Academy (AHA) discusses the transformation of food systems with 30 representatives of farmers organisations.

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The lessons learned from the last food crisis - A solution?

A Contribution by Agnes Kalibata

Inadequacy and fragility of food systems becomes more apparent with every food crisis. The question we must answer is “Where do we go from here?”

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From shared conviction to global response

A Contribution by Jan Rübel

The G7 is responding to the worsening global hunger crisis by mobilizing an additional $4.5 billion for this year alone. A key milestone for this in the run-up was the international conference on global food security "Uniting for Global Food Security".

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‘Preserving and restoring fertile soils is a global responsibility.’

An Interview with Jochen Flasbarth (BMZ)

Healthy, productive soils are a prerequisite for global food security – one of the priorities of German development cooperation. State Secretary Jochen Flasbarth on Germany’s efforts to support sustainable land management and why the VGGT are more important than ever today.

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Scaling up Food Security

An Artikel by Jan Rübel

How can we reach more people with successful approaches to food security? In Berlin, an international conference organized by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationaler Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) addressed this issue.

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Five tips to reduce food waste

A listicle against food waste

Whether it's banana bread made from brown bananas, conscious shopping plans or foodsharing, we give you five tips on how to reduce your everyday food waste.

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What does it take to truly shift the paradigm on food systems?

An Interview by GDPRD

Why are short- and long-term responses important to address current and future global crises? Sebastian Lesch, Head of the Agriculture Division at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), provides answers to these and other questions in an interview with the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development (GDPRD) and explains how much Germany welcomes all donors pulling together and acting in concert.

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Strengthening food markets across the rural-urban continuum

A Contribution by Thomas Forster

How to maintain functioning food markets in global food supply chains in the face of vulnerability and disruption? Markets that support local and territorial food systems are part of the solution. Thomas Forster presents proposals for these markets to cope with future shocks.

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A dashboard as a key tool for global food security

A Contribution by BMZ

The Global Alliance for Food Security (GAFS), jointly launched by the German G7 Presidency and the World Bank, released the Global Food and Nutrition Security Dashboard during COP27: A Rapid Response Tool for Coordinating Global Action for Food Security.

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Five Questions for Dirk Meyer

An Interview with Dirk Meyer (BMZ)

Development cooperation needs to place good governance and a sustainable agri-food systems transformation at its center: After the first 100 days in office have passed, Dirk Meyer from the German Development Ministry (BMZ) spells out the goals, guidelines and priorities of the Ministry’s new lead.

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The Black Sea Breadbasket in Crisis: Facts and Figures

An infographic by ONEWORLD no Hunger

Rising food and gas prices, physical destruction and supply chain disruptions: Why the Black Sea region matters and how the war in Ukraine affects global food security.

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Fair Trade and Climate Justice: Everything is Conntected

A Contribution of the 'Initiative for Sustainable Agricultural Supply Chains' (INA)

Fair Trade organisations and the Initiative for Sustainable Agricultural Supply Chains (INA) have launched the #ichwillfair campaign during COP26 to highlight the link between global supply chains and climate change.

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The Rice Sector in West Africa: A Political Challenge

New insights on trade and value addition in the rice sector in West Africa

Low import tariffs, smuggling activities, unpredictable tax exemptions and weak enforcement of food safety standards: The potential of local rice value chains is undermined in West African countries.

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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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Agricultural prices and food security – a complex relationship

A Contribution by Dr. Fatima Olanike Kareem and Dr. Olayinka Idowu Kareem

High agricultural prices affect developed and developing countries alike, but the problem is aggravated for the latter through the lack of or inadequate resilience measures. Dr. Fatima Olanike Kareem, AKADEMIYA2063, and Dr. Olayinka Idowu Kareem, University of Hohenheim, explain what can be done to mitigate the negative effects on food security.

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Strengthening the market linkages of smallholders in the face of global supply shocks

A Contribution by Niladri Sekhar Bagchi

The consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine have enabled many countries to open up new export markets for their agricultural goods. However, smallholder farms have been largely left out. Drawing on his experience in India, our author gives a brief overview of how this can be changed.

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Innovative donor approaches and sustainable finance – A Review of UNFSS+2

A contribution by the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development

Two years following the UN Food Systems Summit, the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development and the Shamba Centre for Food & Climate hosted an official side event at the UNFSS+2. The event explored how public donors can increase the impact of their investments.

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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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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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What the Middle East conflict means for the children in Gaza

An Interview by Jan Rübel

The Gaza Strip depends heavily on humanitarian aid, more than ever with the current war. Gaza population is very young: Half of them are children. What is their situation on the ground? Questions for Lucia Elmi, Unicef Special Representative to the State of Palestine.

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Agricultural Financing – from a broader Perspective

A Contribution by GIZ

In Sub-Saharan Africa, not all financial institutions (FIs) have access to knowledge about how to implement processes to enhance rural financial inclusion. The pan-African Community of Practice (CoP) plays a pivotal role in supporting these institutions along this transformative journey.

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Agriculture is more than Culture or Tradition

A Contribution by Simeon Kambalame

How can agriculture engage more young people in rural areas? Advocacy and education campaigns can play an important role here. Simeon Kambalame, Timveni Child and Youth Media Organisation, has launched such a campaign in Malawi.

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Gender Justice – a Precondition for Resilience

A contribution by IFPRI

Women and girls in poorer countries are affected in particular ways by the multiple crises the world is currently facing. Uncovering the linkages between gender, resilience and food security, experts from International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) look at ways to support women and girls’ capacity to respond to crises.

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Where can international cooperation in Gaza come in, Ms. Asseburg?

An Interview by Jan Rübel

The armed conflict between Israeli forces and the Hamas is escalating. What does this mean for a Gaza, region that was already heavily dependent on external aid? Questions for Dr. Muriel Asseburg, Senior Fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin.

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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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Nature conservation around the world

A Contribution by WWF

From measures to promote biodiversity in Germany to more sustainable cocoa cultivation methods in Ecuador: WWF works at many different levels. At the Green Week, it will be demonstrated just how multifaceted nature conservation work is and what role each individual's decision plays.

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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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Felix Phiri and two decades of Agriculture

A Conversation with Felix Phiri

Felix Phiri has been Head of the Department of Nutrition, HIV and AIDS at the Ministry of Health in Malawi for almost 20 years. A conversation about constants and change.

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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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©WFP/Rein Skullerud

Revolutionising Humanitarian Aid

A contribution by Ralf Südhoff

Financial innovations can prevent a crisis turning into a catastrophe. The livelihoods of people in affected areas may well depend on intervention before a crisis – and on risk funds.

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© GIZ

One Health – What we are learning from the Corona crisis

A contribution by 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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School Feeding: A unique platform to address gender inequalities

A contribution 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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Not waiting for a savior

An article by Lidet Tadesse

While Africa is the least affected region by Covid-19 so far, the number of confirmed cases and deaths on the continent is quickly rising. Despite the challenges many African countries continue to face, the African response to the coronavirus pandemic displays innovation and ingenuity.

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Good health is impossible without healthy food

A contribution 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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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

A contribution 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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How can the private sector prevent food loss and waste?

An interview with David Brand (GIZ)

From a circular food system in Rwanda to functioning cooled transports in Kenya: The lab of tomorrow addresses development challenges such as preventing food loss and waste

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Building Better Resilience to Transboundary Threats

A Contribution by the TMG Think Tank for Sustainability

Fuelled by climate change, desert locust plagues become increasingly frequent. A plaidoyer for a paradigm shift on handling transboundary crises.

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A New Mindset to Reform Agriresearch

A Contribution by Lennart Woltering (CGIAR)

In context of the 15th CGIAR System Council Meeting, Lennart Woltering shares his assessment of the ongoing One CGIAR reform process.

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Building climate-resilient and equitable food systems: Why we need agroecology

Agroecological methods target diversity and resilience and can thus promote the protection of forests, water and soil. Julia Tomalka and Christoph Gornott, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), on the potential of agroecology to safeguard against climate change and build resilient agri-food system.

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How are transformation and crisis intervention related, Dr. Frick?

An Interview by Jan Rübel

Martin Frick has been director of the WFP office in Berlin for a year – since then one hunger crisis has followed another. What are the diplomat's answers? A conversation about opportunities in agriculture, the interplay of multiple crises, the importance of resilience and tighter budgets.

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The Power of the Urban

An Interview by Jan Rübel

Cities play an important role in the transformation of food systems. But what exactly are the potentials and challenges? A three-way discussion between Ruth Okowa (Gain), Delphine Larrousse (World Vegetable Center) and Conrad Graf von Hoyos (GIZ).

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