Africa’s population is young and ready to take its destiny into its own hands. Agriculture offers amazing opportunities in this regard. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation wants to support the next generation in this way.
As the world's largest private foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation works to fight injustice. The foundation focuses primarily on promoting the health of children and young people. The largest supported project is the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
No matter to which African country you travel – be it Zambia, Ghana or Nigeria – what is striking is that everywhere you look, you see the people are much younger than those in Germany. This is more than just an impression: Close to 60 percent of all Africans are under the age of 25 years. In Germany, they account for less than one-fourth of the population. At the same time, the population is growing more dramatically than anywhere else in the world. To ensure that this population dynamism does not turn into a threat but to ensure that it is an opportunity for Africa and the world. These young people must be given the tools needed to fully fulfil their potential. How does this work? It works when meeting basic human needs, above all nutrition, is no longer the main concern of the population.
The agricultural sector in sub-Saharan Africa is, in fact, perfectly capable of feeding all its people and to make an important contribution to meeting the Sustainable Development Goal 2: ending global hunger. Moreover, agriculture can even become an important engine for economic growth and a future opportunity for Africa’s young people.
To make this work, however, existing challenges need to be overcome. Productivity is low at the moment. Droughts, flooding, and pests put crop yields at risk. The ever more severe climate conditions are bringing about ever new threats. At the same time, farmers require access to markets in order to be able to sell their products.
Agriculture can become an important economic engine and a future opportunity for African youth.
Consultation services or resources such as seeds, fertilisers, and high-quality animal medicine are not available either throughout the entire region. The political framework for all of this is also essential to the process. The agriculture sector and the entire system of food products in many African countries are not sufficiently equipped to allow for a balanced diet. Add to that, that a large number of products are only available during certain seasons due to the lack of adequate storage capacities.
Research and development are key
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is taking a variety of approaches to tackle the challenges mentioned. A key aspect of this involves adapting to climate change which will have severe consequences for small farmers in the poorest regions.
In order to raise political awareness for this issue, we have been active in the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA) since 2018. The initiative, lead by former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Bill Gates as well as World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva, collects best practices and coordinates new measures in order to mitigate the effects of climate change. The objective of this is to demonstrate that adapting to climate change is not only necessary, but it also contributes to sustainable economic development and security.
Another key aspect of our work is supporting the life and work of small farmers through research and development. In order to promote agricultural changes, even today a large number of products and tools are being developed, such as vaccines for animals and innovative plant breeding. This, for example, includes a newly-cultivated type of rice, nicknamed “Scuba” rice. “Scuba” is the English name for the diving sport, and it reveals a special feature of this new type of rice: These plants can dive. In rice-growing areas in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, catastrophic floods keep destroying entire harvests. This is why the Gates Foundation has been supporting the “Stress Tolerant Rice for Africa and Asia” project. In the framework of this project, researchers at the “International Rice Research Institute” and the “Africa Rice Center” have succeeded in developing a new type of rice through conventional methods of cultivation. This new type of rice can make better use the oxygen that it has stored. Simply put, this allows the plants to hold their breath underwater until the flood is over. The researchers have predicted that up to 20 million farmers in South Asia and Africa will be cultivating this new type of rice.
Technological innovation can also make a huge difference. With the help of digital technologies in agriculture, small farmers can, for example, increase their earnings or they can make certain tasks more efficient, such as checking soil health and plant development. In addition to this, farmers gain easier access to financial services and new markets via digital applications. A great example for this is the “2Kuze” project in which a digital platform was used that connects the farmers in East Africa directly with the buyers of their products. This way, the farmers can access markets via their mobile phones and without the services of a broker.
Not only small-scale planning needs to be good, but the macro level is no less important
The role of women in agriculture is a challenge that is frequently overlooked. Around 50 percent of farmers in Africa are female. However, their turnover is 20 to 30 percent less than that of men. It goes without saying that this is not because men make better farmers. It takes a lot of things to succeed in agriculture: good soil, the right seed, healthy animals, tools, time, expert knowledge. Women do not have the same level of access to any of these things as men. In some countries, for example, there are laws preventing women from buying land. Women can also less frequently make decisions regarding the household budget, which makes it harder for them to invest in the necessary supplies. In short: If the situation of women is improved, a considerable increase in agricultural productivity can be expected.
The Gates Foundation supports the agricultural strategy of individual countries at a macro level. In this, we work together with all the partners involved: with the state, the private sector, and additional individual actors. In Ethiopia, the Gates Foundation has been active since around 2006, and has founded in 2010 the “Agricultural Transformation Agency” together with the Ethiopian government. The agency provides government ministries with evidence-based solutions aimed at improving productivity in agriculture across the whole country by supporting research and development in the agricultural sector, and giving women better access to markets. This approach is already showing signs of success: Ethiopia has successfully started its transformation of the agriculture sector, and the country is playing a leading role among all countries south of the Saharan desert. The private sector has supported this through massive contributions such as investing in new products and services. This is how productivity could be increased sustainably.
Germany is also doing its part for Africa’s development
The Gates Foundation works closely with states like Germany. The Federal Republic of Germany has long recognised that progress in agriculture improves the future prospects of the African continent and, above all, of its young population. It was as early as 1971 that Germany was one of the co-founders of the consultative group for international agricultural research “CGIAR” (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research). This organisation is looking to improve the management of natural resources in agriculture and in cultivating tropical forests. And the most recent example is the “Global Agriculture and Food Security Program” (GAFSP), an international fund for agriculture and food security. Germany as well as the Gates Foundation are funding the program that is looking to further implement the approach outlined above.
The Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development is making a major contribution to improving agriculture and nutrition with its special initiative “EINEWELT ohne Hunger” (ONEWORLD without hunger). In addition to this, Germany has announced an SDG2 moment for the coming year. In this context, the GAFSP and CGIAR should also be strengthened further.
In other words: The dedication of Germany and the international community should not subside, given that the agricultural transformation in sub-Saharan Africa holds future opportunities for the entire continent.
In Eastern El Salvador, campesinos are cultivating a self-image to encourage rural youth to remain in rural areas. With help from Caritas, they have adjusted the cultivation methods to their soils and traditions - Marvin Antonio Garcia Otero,the deputy director of Caritas of the Diocese of San Miguel believes this is the best way to prevent rural exodus and criminality.
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.
Does Africa's youth want to live in the city or in the country? Which career path seems particularly attractive? And how optimistic are the young people about the future? Young adults from rural areas answered these questions by SMS.
How can agriculture modernise Africa? And does the road to the cities really lead out of poverty? Dr. Reiner Klingholz from the Berlin Institute for Population and Development in conversation with Jan Rübel .
In western Africa a new middle class is emerging. Their consumer behaviour is determining the demand for products – home-produced and imported goods, on the internet or at the village market. The people of Ivory Coast in particular are looking to the future with optimism.
This is a benchmark for everybody: More rights for women are a very influencing solution in the struggle against extreme poverty and hunger worldwide, says Stephan Exo-Kreischer, Director of ONE Germany. The organisation specialises in political campaigning as a lever for sustainable change.
Happy youngsters in rural areas, green development and the connection to the digital age – professor Joachim von Braun believes in this future sceneraio for Africa. For three decades the agricultural scienties has been researching how politics can create prosperty on the continent.
Africa is home to the world’s youngest and fastest growing population. For many young people, agriculture could offer a job perspective. But to improve the living conditions and job prospects of young people in rural areas, political reforms and investments are desperately needed, as these people will be at the centre of agriculture and agricultural development in the future.
It is 2080. We are on a farm somewhere in Africa. Everything is digital. The blockchain is an omnipotent point of reference, and the farm is flourishing. But then, everything goes wrong. A dystopian short story, written exclusively for SEWOH.
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.
At the moment, the agricultural industries of African countries exist in relative isolation. Imagine peasant farmers digitally connected to the value chains of the global food industry. How could this happen? A guidebook.
Interview with Gnininkaboka Dabiré and Innocent Somé
Later on you want to become a farmer yourself, or would you prefer to take up another profession? Two young people from Burkina-Faso talked to representatives of the Dreyer Foundation about their parents' farms, the profession of farmer and their own plans for the future.
At the beginning of December 2018, AGRA's board of directors met in Berlin. The "Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa" panel discussed the next steps in their policy of modernizing agriculture. How to go on in the next ten years? One question - many answers from experts.
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.
As President of the IABM cooperative in Muhanga, Alphonsine Mukankusi is not simply focused on the figures. She has learned how to deal with people and how to take on responsibility. At the same time, her work helps her to come to terms with the past
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
Agnes Kalibata, AGRA president since 2014 and former minister of agriculture and wildlife in Rwanda, is convinced that Africa's economy will only grow sustainably if small-scale agriculture is also seen as an opportunity.
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.
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.
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
The world’s population keeps on growing; with this rise comes an increased need for food as well as productive employment opportunities. Offering young people in rural areas better employment prospects is one of the objectives of the sector project. The young population is the key to a modern and efficient agricultural economy.
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.
A contribution by Prof. Dr. Anna-Katharina Hornidge
In the video format "#99SecondsWith" of the German Institute of Development and Sustainability (IDOS), Prof. Dr Anna - Katharina Hornidge talks about the new Africa-Strategy of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
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.
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.
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.
Joe DeVries is a breeder – and Vice President of AGRA (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa). What are the chances and risks of a ’green revolution‘ in Africa? A discourse between Jan Rübel and him about productivity, needs, and paternalism.
Stefan Liebing is chairman of the Africa Association of German Business. The manager calls for a better structure of African farms. Jan Rübel asked him about small farmers, the opportunities for German start-ups and a new fund.
What happens when young people leave the rural areas? How can the region achieve what is referred to as the demographic bonus – and how can it reap the benefits of the demographic dividend? A look at demography shows the following: What is most important is promoting women’s rights and education.
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.
A report by T. S. Jayne, A. Adelaja and R. Mkandawire
Thirty years ago, Africa was synonymous with war, famine and poverty. That narrative is clearly outdated. African living standards are rising remarkably fast. Our authors are convinced that improving education and entrepreneurship will ensure irreversible progress in the region even as it confronts COVID-19.
Startups are booming in African agriculture. What are the current trend and challenges – and can other regions benefit from innovative approaches? A Video-Interview with Claudia Makadristo, Regional Manager of Seedstars
A quick and cost-effective method calculates living wages and incomes for many different countries. The GIZ together with Fairtrade International and Richard and Martha Anker have developed a tool that companies can use to easily analyse income and wage gaps.
The soybean is a natural crop that can be used to make a lot of food. So, Tata Bi started a small processing business first on her own, then with a few other women, which provides the women with an additional source of income year-round besides selling the soybeans.
Africa has a huge opportunity to make agriculture its economic driver. However, the potential for this is far from being made exhaustive use of, one reason being that women face considerable difficulties in their economic activities. The organisation AWAN Afrika seeks to change this state of affairs.
What contribution does development cooperation make to conflict prevention? What can it do for sustainable peace? Political scientist Karina Mroß talks to Raphael Thelen about post-conflict societies and their chances for peaceful development.
What do electrical engineering, telecommunications and agriculture have in common? They arouse the passion of Strive Masiyiwa: Thirty years ago, he started an electrical installation company with $75, later riding the telecommunications wave as a pioneer. Today he is committed to transforming African agriculture.
The Cashew Council is the first international organisation for a raw material stemming from Africa. The industry promises to make progress in processing and refining cashew nuts - and answers to climate change
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.
In October, the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) adopted policy recommendations ‘Promoting Youth Engagement and Employment in Agriculture and Food Systems’. Anke Oppermann answers five questions on youth employment in the agricultural sector.
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.
Saskia Widenhorn, Head of the Cotton Component in Cameroon and the Sub-Saharan Cotton Initiative at GIZ, reports on the Bremer Cotton Week, which brought together international industry experts. The agenda included supply chain transparency, sustainability and new forms of cooperation between the private sector and partner countries.
Three female entrepreneurs from Mozambique, Sri Lanka and Uganda tell their stories about starting organic businesses from scratch, now selling Baobab Oil, Gotukola powder and Shea butter in international markets. And they explain why their business is almost 100 percent female.
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.
There are only about 1 million jobs in the East African country. The majority of the population works in the informal sector, and it can be difficult for them to find customers. Biscate offers a digital solution - without the need for internet, data or smartphones.
Together they are stronger: In many African countries, young men and women are coming together to form youth organisations. These organisations help young people in rural areas to earn a living in the agricultural and food sector, creating prospects for the future in rural areas.
gebana, a Swiss fair trade company, follows the principle of "sharing" with its corporate philosophy: farming families in the Global South participate directly in the sales of their online shop. Caroline Schaar, Marketing at gebana, explains the company's approach.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.