Innovation and tradition - Ways to ensure global food security

Federal Minister Dr. Hans-Peter Friedrich

Speech delivered by the Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Hans-Peter Friedrich, on the occasion of the 3rd AGCO Africa Summit

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I. Introduction

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted to be able to speak to you here at the 3rd AGCO Africa-Summit.

This summit for Africa's agricultural sector has, within a very short time, established itself as an important institution. Every year, it brings together international representatives from politics, industry and science in order to discuss viable strategies for a modern and stable Africa.

I would like to extend my warmest thanks to you, Mr. Richenhagen, as the organiser and host of this event. Your commitment has created a unique and highly effective network. And this is very much needed.

II. Current situation

Ladies and Gentlemen, achieving global food security for everyone is one of the greatest challenges of our time. In spite of the huge efforts undertaken, we are still miles away from achieving the first UN millennium goal of halving the number of people suffering from hunger by 2015.

Over 840 million people are currently afflicted by hunger while two billion are suffering from malnutrition. The situation on the African continent is particularly alarming: Here, 226 million people are, at present, affected by hunger.

By 2050, the world population will have risen to nine billion people. Africa is among the regions with the highest population growth rates. Two billion people will be living in Africa alone. People in need of food, access to clean water, education and energy.

Wars, climate change and natural disasters dramatically worsen the situation. Consumer habits and demand are changing, notably in the emerging countries. Many factors, not least the economic and financial crises, influence the world market prices for food, which in turn have serious consequences, especially for developing countries.

These factors frequently go hand in hand and their complexity means that there are no either-or solutions.

There is no Via Regia, or single ideal path to follow. We must start from the diverse conditions on the ground and find the right path for every region.

This is, no doubt, difficult, but there is no reasonable alternative. We cannot sit idly by while so many people in the world are starving.

III. Increasing productivity - Empowering agriculture

Ladies and Gentlemen, We are, in purely mathematical terms, capable of feeding the whole of humanity. But only mathematically. So what are we to do?

I strongly believe, and not just because I am Minister of Agriculture, that an adapted, efficient and sustainable agricultural sector plays THE key role in the pro-active fight against hunger and the safeguarding of global food security.
Furthermore, rural development, especially in developing countries, is of major importance.

We must begin with the farmers on the ground: Initial and further training, adapted technologies and innovation are fundamental prerequisites for a strong farming sector. This is the only way to ensure the rural population's effective participation in economic and social development.

Ladies and Gentlemen, there is huge and largely untapped potential in African countries: over 60% of available unused farmland in the world is in Africa.

Yet this potential alone does not fill stomachs. What matters is farming the land in a productive and sustainable manner. To this end, farmers must learn which cropping methods are best suited for their soils. We need more investment in the training of farmers! We need multipliers on the ground.

The Federal Agriculture Ministry, together with industry, supports training and further training courses: I am thinking, for example, of the Agricultural Advanced Training Centre in Kulumsa, Ethiopia, or the German-Moroccan Centre of Excellency for Agriculture in Morocco.

Both projects focus on teaching modern sustainable production methods and providing training in the use and repair of machinery. Because: Modern and adapted technologies are only of use when they can actually be operated and maintained.

Farmer co-operatives can also be effective in improving living conditions. For instance, when it comes to procuring loans and capital goods or finding better outlets.

The Federal Ministry of Agriculture promotes the exchange of experience between farmers' unions from southern Africa and the German Farmers' Association. In May last year, my predecessor, Ilse Aigner, opened the "Farmers pro Farmers“ seminar in Pretoria. I will continue along this path.

Farmers need a joint and strong voice and the possibility to engage in networking. They need well-developed transport routes, sufficient storage capacity and modern means of communication to acquire information on prices. It cannot be the case that large quantities of agricultural goods do not even reach the market because they have rotted beforehand or have been infested by pests.

Last but not least, we need to expand economic and social infrastructure. Enhanced access to education and health-care facilities is a basic requirement for this. Assisting farmers on the ground means investing in rural farming. In both financial and non-material ways.

The United Nations' General Assembly declared the year 2014 to be the "International Year of Family Farming" to underscore the importance of family structures for farming. Let's make this year a success.

IV. Promoting agricultural research

Ladies and Gentlemen, improved agricultural research is essential for higher productivity. To this end, research efforts are needed along the entire value-added chain.

We must, in particular, improve the potential of the relevant specific crops on the ground; this means stress tolerance, resilience and better nutrient absorption. Agriculture must adapt to climate change, manage resources better and become more sustainable. Seed research, especially, has already produced very promising results.

The knowledge transfer required for this purpose can be developed by strengthening international agricultural research institutions, training skilled personnel at German universities and fostering agricultural research and training in developing countries via joint projects with Germany.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please rest assured: The Federal Government will not let up in its support for agricultural research at national and international level. It is our goal to interlink German and international development-oriented agricultural research even more closely and to apply German know-how in a more targeted manner in order to ensure an adapted, sustainable and efficient farming sector.

As I said, there is no single ideal path to follow. We need an intelligent combination of smallholder agriculture and high-tech agriculture. Sticking dogmatically to a particular position does not help anyone.

The crucial thing for me is that agricultural production should be increased by means of sustainable management. We want to promote site-adapted and productive diversity.

V. Strengthening regions

Ladies and Gentlemen, there is more to rural development than just increasing agricultural productivity. Rural development also means ensuring that there are functioning health care and education services, an intact infrastructure and adequate financial instruments.

The aim must be to strengthen trade not only at global level but also at regional and local levels. The success of the Bali World Trade talks in terms of fair global trade and especially in terms of ensuring market access for the poorest countries marks an important step in the right direction.

Functioning trade chains are indispensable for linking towns and countryside, inland markets and coasts. Reliable framework conditions give incentives for investment and prevent corruption.

Basic prerequisites for this include a stable political environment, the guarantee of at least a certain minimum level of public security, reliable infrastructure and clear-cut rules governing access to public goods such as water. This is the only way of making sure that public and private money can be channelled to rural areas and used there in a targeted manner.

VI. Joint efforts are needed

Ladies and Gentlemen, the complexity of the situation and the manifold tasks involved mean that it is indispensable for us to join forces.

The international donor community is called upon to promote the above measures with grants and loans. And not indiscriminately but in a manner appropriate to, and tailored to, the requirements. This is contingent on clear political strategies that enable and secure sustainable rural development in the beneficiary countries.

I appeal to the representatives of industry - to you, Ladies and Gentlemen - to seek stronger cooperation with farmers, to respond to the needs on the ground whilst creating value-added chains in rural areas.

The upstream and downstream agricultural sectors offer numerous opportunities for innovation and investment. Whether we are talking about efficient irrigation systems or more simple mechanisation of farm machinery, the need exists.
On a positive note, I would particularly like to highlight the idea put forward by the G8 "New Approach for Africa" process that is intended to mobilise capital, and in particular private capital.

The political representatives of the countries are responsible for creating and securing the policy and regulatory environment.

The population must also be involved in the development process. Hunger is, in many places, due to poor governance, corruption and a lack of participation. Here, policy advisory projects to assist governments and parliaments in the shaping of a suitable political and economic environment would be appropriate.

In this context, I welcome the self-commitment undertaken by the signatories to the CAADP process, to earmark at least ten percent of public expenditure for agriculture. I encourage all those who have not yet achieved this objective to continue their attempts.

Ladies and Gentlemen, when I talk about joint efforts, I do not wish to leave out my own Ministry.

The Federal Ministry of Agriculture has established the "Policies against Hunger" conference series which, year after year, brings together international experts in Berlin.

What is more, at my invitation Agriculture Ministers from around the world gather each year in Berlin for the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture and the Agriculture Ministers' Summit to deliberate on global food security.

Two days ago, we held in-depth talks at the 6th Berlin Agriculture Ministers' Summit on the subject of "Empowering Agriculture: Fostering Resilience – Securing Food and Nutrition". We brought Agriculture Ministers from around 80 countries together around one table. This sets a new record, marks a great success and is an important sign of how seriously everyone takes these issues.

The outcome is a groundbreaking communiqué that will give agriculture a voice in the forthcoming United Nations' negotiations on the great challenges facing humanity - the post-2015 agenda for sustainable development.

VII. Conclusion

Ladies and Gentlemen, there is no simple formula for ensuring sufficient and adequate food for people throughout the world. What is needed are tailor-made solutions to the problems on the ground and a readiness to strike intelligent and innovative paths.

For it is only if we do justice to the conditions and structures in Africa that we will be able to master these challenges. This can only be achieved with money, courage and a willingness to join forces.

Cooperation between politics and industry, as shown by today's event, can bring us closer to solving the problem of hunger and malnutrition.


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