#10 hunger

Strengthening Agriculture – Fighting Hunger

Reports on hunger in the world are nothing new. For decades now, the media have been confronting us with images of people who lack even the most basic necessities. These pictures leave no one unmoved. The right to food is the least upheld human right. We cannot – and will not – accept this. But the challenge we face is growing. As the global population expands, our resources remain limited and are even narrowing due to climate change. By 2050, 9 billion people on this earth will need to be fed. Food security will continue to grow in importance as a key global mission. We intend to take decisive steps in fighting hunger and poverty.

Agriculture is the key to food security and nutrition

The key to safeguarding food security lies in agriculture. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that food production will have to be expanded by 70 per cent by the year 2050. This can only be achieved if sustainable agricultural yield is increased and our scarce natural resources are used more efficiently. Studies have shown that growth in the agricultural sector is twice as effective at battling hunger and poverty as growth in any other sector.

"The FAO estimates that food production will have to be expanded by 70 per cent by the year 2050."

Investing in the future

Investment is the primary tool for strengthening agriculture. But investment in agriculture has been neglected in the past. Over the last ten years, only 142 billion US dollars have been invested by public and private stakeholders in the agricultural sectors of developing countries.The FAO estimates that at least 50 per cent more investment in agriculture, the food sector and rural development is needed to achieve the necessary increases in production and efficiency.

Global Forum for Food and Agriculture delivers key impulses

This is where the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture comes in. Held for the fifth consecutive time as part of the International Green Week in Berlin, this international conference has developed into a pacesetter for the international discussion on global food security. From January 17 to 19, 2013 we set a ground-breaking and future-oriented course for considerable increases in responsible investment in agriculture.

The results of the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture rest on broad foundations because all the relevant stakeholders – policy-makers, the private sector, the scientific community, civil society and the public – were involved in the discussion to find the best solutions. For the first time, working groups were headed by two international organisations – the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) – resulting in the development of individual approaches to the subject.

The highlight of the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture 2013 was the fifth Berlin Agricultural Minister's Summit. This year, around 80 agricultural ministers from all parts of the globe participated. That is more than ever before. Around 70 per cent of the global population were represented. The Global Forum for Food and Agriculture has developed into the largest meeting of agricultural ministers in the world.

At the conclusion of the summit, the ministers issued a final communiqué in which they pledged commitment to the following core issues, which they intend to address through their investment policies:

  1. Investment in agriculture must be substantially increased. This applies in particular to developing countries and the areas of sustainable agriculture, rural development and infrastructure, along with research and the transfer of knowledge and technology.
  2. An environment must be created that enables investment. Establishing a reliable legal framework for investors is a key element in this process.
  3. Smallholder farmers must be empowered. They must be given the ability and skills to assume the role of the investor. Ensuring greater rights for local populations is an important precondition here.

I handed the communiqué to the Chair of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), part of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. The Committee on World Food Security has set itself the goal of developing principles for responsible agricultural investment. The communiqué will provide an important basis for this undertaking. It will push the international discussion forward in this and other committees.

Responsible investment

One of the driving forces behind the demands set out in the final communiqué is the need to render investment responsible. It cannot focus on financial goals alone. In particular, investment must contribute to sustainable development in the rural regions of developing countries, because this is where a majority of the world's poor live. Agriculture is the primary economic activity here. And this is also where the greatest untapped potential lies: inefficient production methods, lack of participation in the processing of raw materials, and low profit margins are widespread.

Above all, local people need access to education and advisory services if they are to develop an efficient agricultural sector. Other important factors include good infrastructure, goal-oriented research, and the genuine involvement of farmers in the value chain. A strong agricultural system can then be a central building block in safeguarding food security today and in the future.

"An investment-friendly environment requires legal certainty on the ground and for both public and private investors."

An investment-friendly environment requires legal certainty on the ground and for both public and private investors. Reliable framework conditions such as transparent approval processes, predictable tax laws and clear regulations on access to public goods (e.g. water) provide a strong incentive for investors. Not only that, they also prevent corruption.

Empowering smallholder farmers

Of particular importance is strengthening the rights of smallholder farmers, women and local communities. Good investment conditions and the protection of the interests of local land users are interlinked. Local smallholder farmers must be able to step into the role of investors. Clearly assigned and protected land rights represent an existential foundation here. Because famers can only provide security for loans if they can prove their unassailable right to their land. These land rights are particularly important for women, who make up 70 per cent of all smallholder farmers in Africa. The guidelines on land access adopted last year by the Committee on World Food Security have taken us a major step in the right direction. Now they need to be implemented. This is also part of the ministers' communiqué from the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture.

"A great deal of capital is needed to develop a sustainable agri-food sector that is capable of feeding the world of tomorrow. The money is there."

A great deal of capital is needed to develop a sustainable agri-food sector that is capable of feeding the world of tomorrow. The money is there. With the right frameworks in place, private capital in particular can be channelled towards rural areas and applied there in a targeted way.

But first we need a strong political consensus that grants agriculture the significance it deserves. The German government has pledged its commitment to this objective. If we all pull together, we can succeed in ensuring that no one is denied their right to food in future. This is our goal and the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture 2013 has brought us a decisive step closer towards achieving it.

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