Marlehn Thieme and Mathias Mogge presenting the Welthungerhilfe Annual Report 2018 in Berlin.

Marlehn Thieme and Mathias Mogge presenting the Welthungerhilfe Annual Report 2018 in Berlin.
Photo: Maurice Weiss/Welthungerhilfe

Conflict and climate change – the biggest threats to combating hunger

Presenting its Annual Report, Welthungerhilfe demanded that the international community of states at last introduce policies deserving to be called “climate justice”. Germany’s Federal Government should not forget its commitments regarding the least developed countries.

More and more people are fleeing war and armed conflict. At the same time, as a result of climate change, increasing numbers of people are being deprived of a sustainable food base and secure livelihoods. These two factors, currently the chief drivers of hunger, are also determining the activities of Welthungerhilfe. “Many people no longer have any reserves and lack resilience to cope with the ever more frequent extreme weather events. Droughts, floods and cyclones are destroying fields and livestock and exacerbating hunger,” said Welthungerhilfe President Marlehn Thieme, presenting the organisation’s Annual Report 2018 in Berlin, Germany, in late June.

Africa especially hard-hit

In Africa, the focal continent of Welthungerhilfe activities, the disastrous link between climate change and global food security was becoming particularly apparent. In 2017, around 39 million people were no longer getting sufficient amounts of food because of extreme climate events. In March this year, besides ruining houses, schools and roads in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, Cyclone Idai had above all also devastated fields, thus destroying the harvests for the coming months. This in turn was worsening the already poor food security situation, Thieme said.

A question of justice

The poorest people in the South were bearing the chief burden of a problem that was above all being caused by the rich countries of the North. But they had hardly any resources to prevent or compensate for crises. Coping with climate change today was therefore above all a question of justice. The Welthungerhilfe President appealed to the international community of states, who were meeting in Osaka, Japan, on the 28th and 29th June on the occasion of the G20 Summit, to support policies based on climate justice. This above all included adequately considering the economic and ecological costs that living standards in the industrialised countries were resulting in – such as through land used to produce animal feed or for energy crops that were then no longer available to provide the local population with food, and in some circumstances were resulting in smallholders being driven from their land.

Food security standard put to the test

Observing the Human Right to Adequate Food ought to be a binding element of sustainability strategies. In this context, together with the World Wildlife Fund and the University of Bonn’s Center for Development Research (ZEF), Welthungerhilfe is testing the use of a food security standard (FFS) in various pilot regions.  It consists of 45 criteria and is to be used in agricultural projects as a building block for sustainability standards and certification schemes in order to establish compliance with the right to food. The FSS is to be applicable both for smallholder and for large farms. The aim is to avoid competition between local food security and agricultural exports. Welthungerhilfe General Secretary Mathias Mogge said that the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil was among those interested in using the FFS. He was reckoning with the instrument being applied on a large scale in about a year’s time.

Nexus approach needed

Not only is Africa suffering extremely from the impact of climate change, it is also the country in which the largest number of armed conflicts are occurring world-wide and which has recorded the largest number of displaced persons. For instance, more than 70 armed groups are operating in the eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Around 4.5 million people have had to leave their villages, while 850,000 have sought refuge in neighbouring African countries. Staple food prices have soared to levels forcing parts of the population to spend 80 per cent of their income on food, according to Mogge. Out of an estimated 94 million inhabitants, around 60 per cent are living in extreme poverty, i.e. on an income of less than 1.25 US dollars a day. In the Human Development Index (HDI), the country comes up 176th among a total of 188 countries. Around 13 million people have to rely on humanitarian aid. In addition, there has been an outbreak of Ebola that has already claimed the lives of 1,500 people. “This country demonstrates particularly clearly how important it is to closely integrate emergency relief, reconstruction and long-term aid,” Mogge noted.

Keeping the LDCs in mind

Mogge explicitly welcomed increased investment by the German Federal Government in food security measures over the last few years. Involving the private sector was also an important step in achieving the goal of combating hunger. However, the Welthungerhilfe General Secretary is critical of the reorientation of German development cooperation, which, in the context of the Marshall Plan with Africa, is opting for so-called reform partnerships. “The way countries are selected threatens to leave the LDCs, the least developed countries, by the wayside,” Mogge pointed out. The German government had committed itself to providing 0.15 per cent of its gross domestic product for the LDCs. Currently, however, this share was at a mere 0.11 per cent. Expressed in euros, this amounts to 3.6 billion euros flowing into the LDCs, although it would have to be five billion.

Welthungerhilfe in figures
Welthungerhilfe states that in 2018, it supported a total of 10.5 million people with 404 projects in 37 countries. More than half of the projects were run in the areas of food, agriculture & environment and humanitarian aid. The regional focus of activities was on Africa, where 6.5 million people had been supported with more than 205 projects in 19 countries. The countries receiving the largest amount of support were Burundi, Liberia, the Central African Republic and Zimbabwe. In Asia, 3.8 million people were supported in 14 countries via 146 projects. A total of 21 projects were located in South America and the Caribbean. In addition, 32 supra-regional projects and 21 projects on policy and public relations activities were run in Europe.
Since it was founded in 1962, Welthungerhilfe has financed a total of 9,331 overseas projects with around 3.71 billion euros.

Silvia Richter, editor, Rural 21


Further reading:

Welthungerhilfe Website

Rural 21, issue no 1/2019: The nexus