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

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.

© GIZ, Martin Godau, 2007

By Sebastian Lesch

(c) Sebastian Lesch / BMZ

Since mid 2018 Sebastian Lesch has been head of the Agriculture Department of the BMZ, which is responsible for a wide range of topics from agricultural trade and global agricultural supply chains such as soya, palm oil, cocoa or coffee, for the Common European Agricultural Policy to concrete innovation in our project work with a wide range of partners worldwide.

 

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Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development

GIZ

By Global Donor Platform for Rural Development (GDPRD)

GDPRD is a network of 40 bilateral and multilateral donors, international financial institutions, intergovernmental organizations, foundations, and development agencies. Set up in 2003 following the first High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in 2002, it brings together donors that believe the best way to tackle global poverty and hunger is to develop agriculture, reshape food systems, and invest in rural communities. More here.

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Secretariat of the GDPRD: With the COVID pandemic and the war in Ukraine, the development community is increasingly focused on emergencies and short-term assistance. As donors, how do we not lose sight of a longer-term lens? How do we continue work to increase the resilience of rural populations so they can better buffer future crises, and at the same time, make sure emergencies are better dealt with?

 

Sebastian Lesch: We are very much in a food crisis exacerbated by the Russian war on Ukraine, a climate and biodiversity crises, with conflicts in many parts of the world that influence food security and nutrition. In such a context, we have to both continue and accelerate our long-term transformation work on agrifood systems. This is about making people and markets resilient, improving incomes for rural populations, and ecological sustainability.

 

At the same time, we have to tackle the immediate fallout of the crisis. Of course, these are conflicting targets. You could deal with the immediate crisis but actually make the situation worse in the long-term, exacerbating future crises. We have seen these food systems crises come and go every few years. If anything, they have gotten worse. It is easier said than done when it comes to making individual choices such as ensuring people don’t starve, increasing local production sustainably, and making sure fertiliser is where it’s needed so that there will be a next harvest. We also need alternatives to fossil fertilisers in order to break this dependency on imports. This is very tricky. It needs to be broken down into individual aspects but at the same time, take the right pathways and show how it can be done differently in the future. That doesn’t make the job any easier.

 

What do you think needs to change in how donors look at food systems, in particular considering the financing for development assistance? Everyone says, “we need a paradigm shift”, but in your opinion, what does this actually mean and what needs to be done to achieve this?

Food systems are multidimensional and cater to different purposes, such as providing income and food, and conserving biodiversity. They need to both prevent and adapt to climate change.

 

The paradigm shift is really from seeing food systems as a system that produces food to one that is part of the Sustainable Development Goals. SDG 2 is not independent from the others and we need that holistic view.

 

With the UNFCCC COP 27 in Egypt, we are, for the first time, tackling the nexus between food systems, agriculture and climate. At the UNCCD COP in Abidjan, we connected resilience, soils and land to food systems. We need this cross-silo nexus thinking to effect that change.

 

The complaint has long been we need more agricultural finance but looking at the whole agricultural system, there is plenty of finance including subsidies for various things in agriculture and food systems. Countries, including the European Union and developing countries that provide these subsidies, need to create pathways to set incentives within agricultural food systems, to improve sustainability and create that nexus thinking.

 

The food system not only contributes to but is also a victim of climate change. We need to move away from that perspective and ensure agri-food systems contribute to the adaptation and mitigation of climate change.

 

Germany held the G7 presidency in 2022 and spearheaded the Global Alliance for Food Security (GAFS) initiative. Other donors and organizations have launched similar programmes. How do we ensure we coordinate and expedite our actions around the various crisis response initiatives and work collectively within the donor community?

When the Russian war in Ukraine hit, everybody looked towards Berlin for G7 reaction in terms of food security. This triggered us to come up with GAFS, which is not an institution nor a mechanism. The idea was to create a platform to make sure everybody is on board and that we have an agile response. This crisis is only starting, and we are still preparing for the worst. I am glad so many partners have stepped up with initiatives to complement this, such as the US, Italy, France.

 

I am glad the Rome institutions have stepped up and am especially thankful to do this jointly with the World Bank. This was a tremendous help and the World Bank is a great partner in GAFS with their convening and financial power. The Dashboard we launched is a good example of a first step in achievement. But I want to stress this very clearly – this is not a competition. It is great that many initiatives are there and I think we are achieving a good degree of complementarity.

 

How do you envision our continued good work together in the Donor Platform? What will keep the momentum going and keep the Platform useful to members over the coming months and years?

This is a great platform with the contacts and unique holistic format. The Platform is not where agriculture people talk to each other but a place about rural resilience, climate change mitigation and adaptation, natural resources, biodiversity, income and jobs in rural places, and digitalization. It is valuable to talk about these issues in an environment that is open, inclusive, but also protected and with space for discussion without decision. I am glad we have the Platform to do just that.

 

As we near the end of 2022, what gives you hope for the new year?

From a European perspective, war has returned and people are afraid of things beyond their imagination only a short while ago. This is a terrible crisis for many people and one that occurs terrible losses.

 

But crisis brings opportunity and a sense of need not only for change but an accelerated change to overcome systemic obstacles in transforming the food system.

 

If we can harness that speed and momentum, then there is some good in this situation after all. I have seen so many people step up this year, come to the table, and act and say we need to overcome those silos. This gives me courage that we are not lost and can make a difference this year and next.

 

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Mr. Marí, what happened at the alternative summit?

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

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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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What is wrong with our nutrition in Germany, Mr. Plagge ?

An interview with Jan Plagge (Bioland)

Vitamin-poor nutrition must become more expensive, in-vitro meat is not a panacea, and agricultural systems should be more decentralised. Bioland President Jan Plagge in an interview about the challenge of (future) world nutrition.

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How Can We Feed The World in Times of Climate Change?

A Contribution by Jan Grossarth

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

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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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GFFA for New Perspectives on the Planet’s Soils

A Contribution by Journalist Jan Ruebel

For five days, the 2022 Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) in Berlin is all about strategies for a more sustainable land use.

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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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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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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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The importance of water for sustainable rural development

A contribtion by WE4F

How can the challenges related to water, rural development and climate resilient agriculture be addressed? What innovations need to be promoted? The Water and Energy for Food (WE4F) initiative presents strategies and innovations for sustainable, integrated water management in German and international cooperation.

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From reaction to action

A contribtion by GIZ

A Year of Multiple Crises: Russian war against Ukraine, extreme weather events, high prices for energy and fertilizer, food crisis had severe implications for food security and agriculture globally and especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. A Transformation of the food systems is needed.

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How the War against Ukraine Destabilizes Global Grain Markets

A Contribution by GIZ

Since early February 2022, two of the biggest grain and oilseed exporters have been at war. An overview, which countries are affected most severely by the destabilized grain markets, and what comes next.

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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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5 Questions for Jann Lay: What is Corona doing to the economy?

Interview with Jann Lay (GIGA)

The Corona pandemic is hitting economies around the world very hard - but developments in African countries are quite diverse. There are different speeds, resiliences and vulnerabilities. What are the reasons for this? Apl. Prof. Jann Lay of the GIGA Institute provides answers.

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Sustainable, feminist and socially just: The new Africa strategy of the BMZ

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).

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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 policy belongs in prime time

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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“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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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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What is needed for a long-term fertiliser strategy?

A contribution by Michael Brüntrup

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.

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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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The human finca

Interview with Marvin Antonio Garcia Otero

In Eastern El Salvador, campesinos are cultivating a self-image to encourage rural youth to remain in rural areas. With help from Caritas, they have adjusted the cultivation methods to their soils and traditions - Marvin Antonio Garcia Otero,the deputy director of Caritas of the Diocese of San Miguel believes this is the best way to prevent rural exodus and criminality.

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Answers from the youth: "Leave or stay? That depends on it!"

GIZ study; conducted by Geopoll

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.

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"Agriculture can become a job engine"

Interview with Reiner Klingholz

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 .

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(c) Privat

How much private investment is the agricultural sector able to bear?

By Pedro Morazán

Small farmers in developing countries must modernise their farming methods, but poorly understood reforms could exacerbate poverty instead of alleviating it.

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Uli Reinhardt/Zeitenspiegel

Enough of being poor

By Marcellin Boguy

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.

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New campaign for women: "Poverty is sexist"

Interview with Stephan Exo-Kreischer

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.

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(c) Simon Veith

The Big Bang is possible

Interview with Joachim von Braun

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. 

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More than just a seat at the table

A contribution by Welthungerhilfe

Africa is home to the world’s youngest and fastest growing population. For many young people, agriculture could offer a job perspective. But to improve the living conditions and job prospects of young people in rural areas, political reforms and investments are desperately needed, as these people will be at the centre of agriculture and agricultural development in the future.

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(c) Foto Privat

Story: In Blocked Chains We Trust

A contribution by Solomon King Benge

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.

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An opportunity for the continent

A contribution by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

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.

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(c) Christoph Pueschner/Zeitenspiegel

From start to finish: a vision of interconnectivity

A contribution by Tanja Reith

At the moment, the agricultural industries of African countries exist in relative isolation. Imagine peasant farmers digitally connected to the value chains of the global food industry. How could this happen? A guidebook.

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The Life of Their Dreams - What Children Want

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.

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“They said: You can do it”

A contribution by Bread for the World

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

 

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A new attempt at Africa's industrialization?

A contribution by Helmut Asche

Afrika is about ready. There are promising approaches for a sustainable industrialization. However, the path poses challenges to the continent.

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(c) Privat

Small Farms, big money

A contribution by Agnes Kalibata

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.

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(c) GIZ

Youth Employment in Rural Areas

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.

A project of GIZ

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Digitalization: The Driving Force in the Future of Agriculture?

A Contribution by GIZ

At the ICTforAg conference in March 2022, the digital agriculture community exchanged on the challenges and opportunities associated with the next green revolution.

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

An Interview with Blessing Mene

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

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Sowing change

A Contribution by Brot für die Welt

Roughly 800 million people suffer from hunger worldwide. Change is needed - for people and for the environment. Brot für die Welt reports on the starting points offered by everyone's ecological footprint and handprint.

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