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Federal Minister Schmid Federal Minister Schmidt during his opening speech, Source: BMEL/Ingo Heine

Policies against Hunger Sowing the seeds for good nutrition

"Let's work together to set the right course for ensuring adequate, healthy and balanced nutrition for everyone!" - This appeal by State Secretary Bleser to conference participants brought the 12th "Policies against Hunger" conference in Berlin to a close on 24 June.

The 2016 conference saw more than 250 participants from civil society, politics, industry and science meet to focus on identifying what political steps were necessary to ensure that everybody worldwide had adequate, sufficient and healthy food.

The Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture invited participants to the event under the title "Sowing the seeds for nutrition: What food systems do we need?" Peter Bleser, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Agriculture Minister, announced that the results of this year's "Policies against Hunger" discussions would feed into the 43rd meeting of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) in October 2016. He said that the BMEL would hold a side event during the CFS meeting and report on the conference results.

Almost half the global population are malnourished

Almost half the global population are malnourished: while around 1 billion people are overnourished, there are at the same time almost 800 million people suffering from hunger and around 2 billion people who lack essential vitamins and micronutrients. Federal Minister Schmidt emphasised at the beginning of the conference that "this makes the right to food the most commonly violated human right" and said to the conference participants: "Let's set ourselves ambitious goals: a world without malnutrition by 2030! That is feasible if we act together. We need to think holistically - from farm to fork".

The event built on the 2nd International Conference on Nutrition of the United Nations (ICN2) in Rome in November 2014. Besides the so-called Rome Declaration on Nutrition, the ICN2 also adopted a global plan of action. The Policies against Hunger conference built on this and laid down four priorities in searching for ways to provide everyone with adequate, sufficient and healthy food: diversification, processing, women's empowerment and nutrition education (see box).

Logo of the conference "Policies against hunger" Source: BMEL

Four focuses for 2016:

Diversification: Rice, maize and wheat are the most important staple foods worldwide. However, a balanced diet also requires fruit and vegetables, pulses, oils and animal-based foods. How can we increase the choice of food available? What do we need to do to ensure that this diverse range of foods are actually eaten and improve the population's nutritional status?
Processing: Food should be easy to prepare and also keep for a long time without the composition of their nutrients undergoing a negative change. What challenges arise due to these requirements during the production stages, in particular in developing countries? How can we ensure that food is highly nutritious and affordable, whether consumers are eating in or eating out? What role does the increasing level of urbanisation play?
Women's empowerment: Women account for the majority of the agricultural workforce in developing countries and emerging countries. At the same time it is generally women who are responsible for feeding the children and the family; they have to contend with a very high workload and, in doing so, their own nutrition is often neglected. Societal changes take a long time. Despite this, what possibilities exist to strengthen women in their roles here and now and thus ensure better nutrition for everybody?
Nutrition education: Having nutritional knowledge and competence in respect of what food is available and how it is produced, stored, processed and prepared, are all indispensable factors for following a balanced diet. This is true for both producers and consumers. How must we shape nutrition education so that the knowledge acquired is then actually used in day-to-day life?
The conference intends to show ways in which these four components can together help ensure a well-balanced diet and be realised in practice.

Nutritional knowledge is vital knowledge

State Secretary Bleser used his speech at the close of the conference to pay tribute to the conference participants' commitment. He said that they had really sown the seeds in Berlin and shown what approaches and policy framework were necessary in order, for example, to diversify cultivation and nutrition, to gear processing to balanced nutrition and to reduce food losses. He went on to say that participants had joined forces in focusing on the particular role of women and on the subject of knowledge transfer. "The aim must be to establish nutrition education in all areas of life," said Bleser. He said that nutritional knowledge was vital knowledge.

Decade of Action on Nutrition

The Federal Ministry will continue to press for progress on this important subject at all political levels. Federal Minister Schmidt underlined at the beginning of the conference that "Well-fed is not enough! Eliminating global malnutrition is right at the top of our agenda." He said that the resolutions passed at the second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) in November 2014 and the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition proclaimed on 1 April 2016 had established a framework that facilitated multisectoral action. He continued by saying that the United Nations' Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development also focused on the subject of nutrition. In it, the international community goes beyond merely declaring its intention to combat hunger by aiming to ensure access by all people to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round. According to Schmidt, the G20 agriculture ministers also intende to take on this challenge. He said that in their most recent meeting in China, they adopted an Action Plan on Food Security and Sustainable Food Systems. He stated that German would continue to address this subject during its G20 presidency and would focus on the topic of "water and agriculture". Schmidt: "The message is clear: food and nutrition will be at the centre of the coming decade! The Policies against Hunger conference has also carried this baton.

Schmidt believes that agriculture will play a central role: "Only an efficient, locally adapted and sustainable agriculture that produces diverse and nutritious food can establish the foundation for healthy nutrition," said Schmidt.

Bleser also underlined in his closing speech the importance of research as a basis for sound political decisions. He said that international cooperation in research played an important role in this regard. He continued by saying that the BMEL supported this path and had launched two new BMEL-funded cooperative research projects that week between German research institutions and partners in Africa. Their focus: "The role of diversified agriculture in a healthy diet" in Maputo and Cape Town and the issue of how the contamination of food with mycotoxins in the food chain in Kenya could be systematically reduced. According to Bleser, the BMEL is expected to initiate further cooperative research projects on the subject of "quality-conserving food processing" this year.

As of:
24.06.16

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