A World without Hunger Is Possible
With its special initiative for “ONE WORLD – no Hunger”, the German federal government issued a clear statement of intention. Soon commonly known as “SEWOH”, the initiative provided the opportunity to react fl exibly within budgeting regulations and make an extensive contribution to fulfilling SDG 2. The political calendar provided various occasions to engage the international community through Germany’s G7 and G20 presidencies. The fact that the number of people suffering from hunger has increased since then does not undermine SEWOH’s efforts. Instead, it underpins the call to further intensify efforts on the national, european and global levels. The calendar still offers good vantage points. Great expectations rest on the United Nations Food Systems Summit, and in 2022 Germany will again take over the G7 presidency.
A year after SEWOH is launched, the G7 member states under Germany’s presidency sign a joint commitment. At the summit in Elmau palace, they pledge to relieve 500 million people from the plight of hunger and malnutrition by 2030.
The G20 Initiative for Promoting Youth Employment in rural areas launches at the G20 Summit in Hamburg. By the year 2022, the goal is to get five million youngsters into training programmes to benefit their prospects. The initiative also plans to create one million jobs for young people.
As a member state of the EU, Germany is instrumental in including food security as a priority responsibility in the new European Consensus on Development, to which the EU and its member states are committed.
The BMZ makes sustainability in global agricultural supply chains a key issue in Germany’s EU council presidency. The European Parliament also demands a stop to human rights violations and deforestation in global supply chains.
With the conclusion and presentation of two scientific studies, Germany’s BMZ clearly signals its course for reaching United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 2 – Zero Hunger. Respectively authored by the Ceres2030 research partnership and the FAO together with the Center for Development Research (ZEF) of the University of Bonn, the two studies show that it is possible to achieve a world without hunger. The message: We have no problem understanding, but in acting!
The due diligence law passed by the government on initiative of Federal Minister for Development Dr Gerd Müller and Federal Minister for Labour Hubertus Heil imposes mandatory regulations for companies’ human rights compliance in supply chains. In the summer, the European Commission also proposes laws on compliance with human rights and environmental protection regulations in supply chains.
The German G7 presidency presents an opportunity to maintain momentum in the fight against hunger and and to continue driving our ambitious objectives.
Even though enough food is produced on Earth to feed the world’s population, over 810 million people suffer from acute hunger – accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the number increased by 120 million in 2020 alone. Two billion people are malnourished. It is particularly absurd that two-thirds of those suffering from hunger live in rural regions, even though most food comes from there. The reasons are to be found in poverty, inequality, crises and conflicts, poor governmental leadership, lack of infrastructure and, increasingly, the effects of progressing climate change. The international community had hoped open borders and international trade could conquer hunger as a consequence of globalisation. Those hopes were dashed. Many developing countries neglected their own agricultural production as a result of low market prices and relied on cheaper food imports to feed their populations. For a long time, development policy makers also neglected the issue. With rising global prices, 2008 made it clear that the path taken was wrong.
“ The key to combatting hunger and malnutrition was and still is to develop local agricultural and food economies.”
That was Federal Minister for Development Dr Gerd Müller’s conviction just after he took office in 2013, and when he started SEWOH. The vision is to achieve SDG 2, without stripping the planet of its natural resources. Past approaches to ending hunger focused unidirectionally on increasing agricultural production – with severe consequences for people and environment. As part of SEWOH’s approach, progress and innovation must act to develop resource-friendly and sustainable agricultural practices. To that end, the initiative helped create networks in many partner countries, linking agricultural research and applied science, business and civil society, farmers – typically small businesses themselves – and SMEs in the agricultural sector. Efforts were concentrated on education and training, especially for women and adolescents. Women, after all, are key to development. Their legal status, professional education, entitlement to land rights and opportunities for financing their businesses all relate directly to productivity.
More decentralised production and regional trade with agricultural products in fair markets, expansion of approaches in agricultural economics, more added value in our partner countries, heavier mechanisation adapted to local conditions, use of renewable energy and sustainable water resource management – the innovations needed for all these improvements are crucial in the fight against hunger. Additionally, COVID-19 has effectively driven home the significance of digital aids in food production. These approaches are brought together and implemented in the Green Innovation Centres, but not just there. New forms of cooperation and partners were sought and found for self-organisation of smallholders, as were functioning cooperatives and support for founding small and mid-sized companies based on agricultural operations. With about 1,5 billion euro in investment per year, Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is currently one of the world’s largest donors in the field of food security and rural development. To give SEWOH the necessary international thrust, conditions first had to be adapted nationally. Additional, flexible funds, supplied through a separate budget, made it possible to test new approaches and apply them extensively. This process even made it into Germany’s 2018 coalition government agreement. “Overcoming hunger and poverty in the world is an essential goal of our development policy. We want to strengthen rural areas and include the ‘ONE WORLD – no Hunger’ special initiative to focus on supporting smallholders, local sustainable solutions and cooperative approaches.”
A year later, when the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic confronted the world with entirely new challenges, the SEWOH structures established successfully years earlier proved to be capable, reliable and therefore particularly beneficial to finding solutions. Flexible, well-grounded and networked, the BMZ was able to re-allocate funds at short notice and efficiently use additional funding provided by parliament – significantly managing to counteract the negative effects of the coronavirus and its impact on food security and ending hunger in development cooperation partner countries.
2030 is imminent. To achieve the ambitious goal of a world without hunger, the BMZ included SEWOH issues in global processes right from its unveiling. For instance, in 2015 the German federal government took advantage of the German G7 presidency to set a common goal to save 500 million people from hunger and malnutrition. In 2017, the BMZ successfully launched the G20 initiative for youth employment in rural areas. By 2022, five million adolescents are set to benefit from training programmes, and a million jobs are planned to be created for young people. On the European stage, the new European Consensus on Development in 2017 included improving food security as a priority responsibility, with the EU and its member states committed to this goal.
SEWOH is also part of a new BMZ partnership model with African partner nations, the “Marshall Plan with Africa” introduced in 2017. It acts as a conceptual and fundamental plan for German African development cooperation and directly links into the African Union’s Agenda 2063. Under Germany’s G20 presidency, 2017 also ushered in the “Compact with Africa” initiative.
Together with the World Bank and other partners, Germany provides support specifically for reform-orientated countries for improving economic conditions and therefore becoming more attractive to private investors desperately needed in Africa’s rural regions.
The momentum so far has been impressive. Nevertheless, pandemics, climate change and crises once again appear to be overshadowing the target of a world without hunger. Despite German, European and international commitments, the world community is far from achieving SDG 2 on time. After halving the number of people suffering from hunger by the 1990s, that number has increased again significantly.
This gives cause for self-reflection. In October 2020, the BMZ presented new research results in Berlin, illustrating the level of investment needed as well as the most effective measures for combatting hunger. The findings were presented to Federal Minister Dr Gerd Müller and EU Development Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen. Studies estimate that an additional 40 billion US dollar are needed annually to end hunger. That sounds like a lot of money and will of course add up to a considerable amount by 2030. But when the significance and dimension of this goal are viewed on a global scale, the figures soon become less daunting. If the G7 made good on their Elmau commitments, that alone would be a giant step in the right direction. But our partner countries are crucial too. They need to pitch in, politically and financially. For the rest, private capital must be mobilised.
“ The evidence based SEWOH experiences and results are a strong foundation for further commitment.”
Against this backdrop, the BMZ places great hopes on the upcoming United Nations Food Systems Summit on the transformation of worldwide food supply systems and its follow-up mechanisms, and on next year’s German G7 presidency. The evidence based SEWOH experiences and results are a strong foundation for further commitment. At the BMZ, this understanding is also key to the new core strategy. Rural development, food security and agriculture are deeply rooted in the BMZ’s bilateral work and placed in strategic context. As one of only five core topics, SEWOH will merge into the ministry’s “DNA”. In all present considerations on a better rebuilding process after the pandemic, “recover forward better”, we can count on the expertise of our network of executive organisations, civil society, science and private business.
Their extensive expertise and experience are particularly concentrated in the SEWOH Strategic Advisory Board, an advisory committee the BMZ feels is outstanding in terms of ranking, quality of discourse and result orientation – and the likes of which probably do not exist in any other of the ministry’s sectors and divisions. The greatest strength of the Strategic Advisory Group is its members’ willingness to maintain a constructive dialogue on topics that are increasingly divisive in German society, Europe and globally, and to continue to search for joint solutions. Food security, agricultural economics and transformation of rural areas are some of today’s most complex challenges. They directly or indirectly feed into nearly every SDG, as is illustrated clearly in the Food Systems Summit’s preparations and in the recent German Advisory Council report on “Rethinking Land”. As it outlines, there are no simple solutions for the trilemma of food security, loss of biodiversity and progressing climate change. None that are feasible without a broad, solution-orientated multi-stakeholder alliance.
All of this makes our work complex and challenging, but also exciting and fulfilling. There is an ever-present relevance to the reality of our own lives. Humans encroaching on wilderness can lead to the spread of zoonotic diseases, causing phenomena like COVID-19. Climate change is increasingly responsible for extreme weather conditions and, in the worst case, makes parts of the Earth’s surface uninhabitable for lack of fertile soil. Regional shortages in food and resources can incite armed conflict. Tropical forests are stripped, sometimes for profit, sometimes out of social necessity. The list of examples goes on and on, but one thing is clear. Many of the future’s challenges arise from the need for sustainable food production, sustainable agriculture and forestry, and inhabitable rural areas. Moreover, climate protection plays into nearly every issue. Agriculture is not – as is so often claimed – solely the problem. It is more and more becoming part of the solution. What could be more suitable than an approach based on a broad social foundation, always with the big picture in mind, which solves problems using innovation?