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"Well-fed is not enough!"

Date:
23.06.16
Location:
Berlin
Speaker:
Federal Minister Christian Schmidt

Speech by Christian Schmidt, Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture, at the inauguration of the 12th Policies against Hunger conference

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Salutation,

I. Introduction

"Sowing the seeds for nutrition: What food systems do we need?" This is the title of the 12th "Policies against Hunger" conference, to which I welcome you most warmly. But when I look at the large number of people in this hall, then I have to say that the name of our conference is actually misleading. Policies cannot take action against hunger on their own. No, good policies to fight hunger require joint action - by industry, civil society and politics - if they are to get off the ground. I am therefore delighted to be able to welcome you all to Berlin and would like to thank you for being prepared to join us in taking up the fight against hunger and malnutrition.

II. Malnutrition is a problem worldwide

The figures are clear: almost half of the world's population is malnourished in one way or another. There are many cases of overt hunger, for instance in sub-Saharan Africa. And there are many cases – and no longer just in developed nations - of people who are overtly overweight. But there are also around two billion people who suffer from hidden hunger. They may have enough to eat. Yet they are still malnourished. And their malnourishment leads to diseases caused by deficiencies that have a severe impact on health. This is accompanied not least by significant social and economic costs. It is not, therefore, enough for agriculture merely to produce enough food to fill people's stomachs. The aim must be to produce a diverse range of affordable and nutritious foodstuffs. Because our diets play a key role in our health and consequently in our futures.

III. Make nutrition a higher priority

Patience is needed to achieve success in nutritional policy. It is a marathon rather than a sprint. The subject of nutrition was also hardly touched upon internationally for many years. Although some aspects, such as vitamin A deficiency, iodine deficiency and impairments in child development, were addressed, there was scarcely any focus on the complex interplay between nutrition and health. Fortunately, this has changed radically following the second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN 2), which was held in Rome in November 2014. At ICN 2, the FAO and the WHO, together with other important international partners, made it clear that

  1. nutrition could not be focused on in isolation.
  2. Nutrition relates not just to what we eat; our nutritional status depends on many factors: health, hygiene, clean water, food production, access to food, marketing and knowledge.

I am delighted that, on 1 April this year, the United Nations followed ICN 2 by proclaiming the Decade of Action on Nutrition. I joined many other parties in supporting and advocating the choice of this decade as, with it, we can provide a binding framework for the ICN 2 implementation plan. Above all, the Decade of Action on Nutrition will enable us to focus public attention on the importance of this comprehensive approach to nutrition to a greater degree. The Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development also focuses on nutrition. In Goal 2, the international community goes beyond merely declaring its intention to combat hunger: "ensure access by all people (...) to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round." We will take on this challenge as G20 Agriculture Ministers as well. At our meeting of agriculture ministers in China, we adopted an Action Plan on Food Security and Sustainable Food Systems. Germany will continue to pursue the subject during its G20 Presidency and focus on the subject of "water and agriculture". The message is clear: food and nutrition will be at the centre of the coming decade! We will take advantage of this! We will also address this subject at our 12th "Policies against Hunger" conference.

IV. Viewing nutrition holistically

What needs to be done? From Farm to Fork: We need to gear the entire value chain to a balanced diet and make it nutrition-sensitive. We need a holistic perspective and the ability to take the broader view. That is why we are here today!

(a) Diversification:

Healthy nutrition always begins with agriculture as the source of primary production. Only an efficient, locally adapted and sustainable agriculture can create the foundation for healthy nutrition. The key aspect is what crops are actually grown. Just growing rice or potatoes will perhaps fill people's stomachs but it will not ensure better nutrition. Highly nutritious food, such as vegetables and pulses, must be promoted locally and globally to a greater degree. This is an important step, particularly for regions which traditionally grow and consume only a few staple foods. Successful approaches include for example the growing of appropriate vegetables in multi-tier cropping systems, fruit in agroforestry systems and integrated fish and vegetable production. But even the best range of goods is no help if the food goes bad or important vitamins and trace elements are lost on the way to consumers. The aim should therefore be, as far as is possible, to make nutritious products available all year round rather than only at certain times of the year. I am delighted that processing and the reduction of post-harvest losses and nutrient losses are subjects at this year's conference.

b) Nutritional education

Ladies and gentlemen, we also need to promote knowledge about nutrition in order for people to feed themselves well and properly. The educational sector therefore plays a particularly significant role, as nutritional knowledge is knowledge that is vital for life. In cooperation with the FAO, my Ministry supports pilot projects in Malawi and Cambodia to improve the diets of young children. On the one hand, we use these projects to promote the cultivation and availability of a large range of nutritious foods. On the other, we provide guidance for mothers in processing and combining foods in the right way to prepare nutritious baby food. Analyses show significant improvements in the children's nutritional status. Nutritional education is fundamental for balanced nutrition at home, at school and during training and education. More needs to be done in this regard in Germany as well. We must firmly establish the subject of nutrition in school curricula; the best option would be to have nutrition taught as a separate subject! I am engaged in a close exchange with the ministers of education and cultural affairs of the Laender on this issue.

c) Women's empowerment

I just cited the example of educating mothers about healthy weaning food. In many countries, it is still women who are primarily responsible for feeding the family. In addition to this, they often also work in the fields, in agriculture. They have a heavy workload. Their own diets, and those of their children, often suffer due to a lack of time but also due to structural disadvantages. In many areas of the world, women do not have equal access to resources such as land or water. They are denied education and equal participation in economic activity. And this, despite the fact that studies have clearly shown that investments that benefit women have a direct, positive influence on the family's nutritional status. The 12th Policies against Hunger conference has therefore also put women's empowerment on the agenda. Women play a tremendously important role, particularly within food systems.

d) Research

Agricultural and nutritional research is another key sector. I want to continue to improve the integration of the well-developed German research landscape into international networks. The International Research Cooperation for Global Nutrition support programme run by my ministry provides for German research institutions to cooperate with partner research institutions in third countries in carrying out research on selected topics. The core focus of the first phase of the programme is diversified agriculture for balanced nutrition in sub-Saharan Africa. The support focuses on projects that deal with domestic, and in many cases neglected, fruit and vegetable varieties. I am delighted that the participants at our conference include scientists who research in our partnership institutions and can report on their experiences at first hand.

Conclusion

Ladies and gentlemen, "Well-fed is not enough!", alleviating global malnutrition is right at the top of our agenda. The challenges are complex but that is no reason to relax our efforts. With the ICN 2 and the Decade of Action on Nutrition, we have established a framework that will enable us to take cross-sectoral action. Let us set ourselves ambitious targets: a world without malnutrition by 2030 - that is a feasible aim. Let's set to it!

Thank you.

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