Janet Maro, Founder and CEO of Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania (SAT), and Germany's Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture, Cem Özdemir, at the High Level Debate.
Photo: BMEL/Photothek

GFFA 2024 – Joining Forces for a Zero Hunger World

The international community is still far from achieving the goals it set itself for 2030 in combating hunger and poverty. At the 16th Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) in mid-January, ways were discussed to turn the tide after all.

How can we make our food systems fit for the future? And what measures can we take to reach zero hunger? These questions were at the centre of the 16th Global Forum for Food and Agriculture, held in Berlin/Germany in mid-January. The event again and again positively emphasised the fact that by now, 159 nations have committed themselves by signing the Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems and Climate Action, which the United Arab Emirates had presented in the course of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai in December 2023. But is this enough to face 2030 with hope?

Of hope and doubts

“I am quite hopeful,” said Henry Musa Kpaka, Minister of Agriculture and Food Security of Sierra Leone, during the opening ceremony. “We are producing enough food to feed the world.” The challenge was to also get the food to the people who needed it. The crises over the past years had shown that the countries in the Global South had to make greater efforts to feed themselves and thus become less dependent on imports and possible interruptions in the supply chains. To achieve this, last October, Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio had introduced the flagship programme “Feed Salone”, Kpaka reported. With its systemic approach, agriculture is to become more modern, more productive and, simultaneously, more sustainable, and hunger is thus to be eliminated in this country.

Dionys Forster, Director General of the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform (SAI), was concerned that in some regions, staple food crop yield progress was stagnating or even declining. “We have to look regionally at productivity and yields,” he cautioned. Forster is also critical of initiatives pursuing the material processing of potential food. In some countries, farmers were receiving more for the same crops if they sold them to these initiatives instead of to the food industry, he stated. “This will have an impact on food availability.”

A tailwind for family farmers

For Camila Cammaert Gutierrez, Coordinator for Sustainable Food Systems at WWF Colombia, the integration of the food systems agenda and of the biodiversity agenda is crucial. “With nature protection, sustainable management and restoration of degraded land, we can make progress,” said the WWF veteran. The Associate Vice President of the UN Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Jyotsna Jyotsna Puri, sees the key to food security in investing in the production of small-scale producers.

This view was also held by Paulo Teixeira, Brazil’s Minister of Agricultural Development and Family Farming. “Agribusiness is growing 15 products, and family farming more than 1,000,” Teixeira maintained. While the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, as a firmly established institution, was predominantly focusing on the former group, and hence the export markets, last year, his Ministry had been set up under Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s government in order to promote domestic food supply. Essential instruments in supporting family farmers which he referred to included producer loans at favourable conditions in order to promote the mechanisation of sustainable agriculture and a government purchasing programme guaranteeing sales for farms. In this manner, regional value chains could be strengthened, Teixeira explained.

20 years of Voluntary Guidelines – a success story?

In November 2004, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) adopted the Voluntary Guidelines on the Right to Adequate Food. They are meant to support countries in achieving the right to adequate food, which was established in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in 1966. FAO’s Chief Economist, Máximo Torero, reminded the Conference that while the Guidelines are voluntary, they are based on obligations under International Law. “More than 45 countries have recognised the right to adequate food in their constitutions,” Torero noted with view to the 20th anniversary of the Guidelines.

One example is Nepal. This South Asian landlocked country, which ranks 143rd in the list of 191 countries in the United Nations Human Development Index, established the right to adequate food in its Constitution in 2015. However, such a legal act was not enough to bring about concrete changes, cautioned Raju Chapagai, who heads the Nepalese Justice and Rights Institute. “It is important to urge that the corresponding laws are passed at national level, and timely. This took us nearly five years.”

Strengthening civil society and multilateralism

Brazil’s health ministry had already started to formulate a national food and food security policy in 1999. Two years later, da Silva, then running for presidency, announced his “Zero Hunger” (Fome Zero) programme. How the human right to food could be implemented had then been discussed in several policy areas in the country, recalled Elisabetta Recine, President of the National Council for Food Security (CONSEA), which had also been founded in the context of Fome Zero.

Everyday work showed again and again how important it was to address the structural causes of hunger, such as poverty and inequality. “Furthermore, it is important to give people the opportunity to participate in corresponding legislative processes,” Recine argued. She is also looking forward to an intensive debate with civil society in the context of the G20 Summit, which is to be held in Brazil in November.

Recine welcomed the fact that, assuming presidency of the G20 Summit in New Delhi/India in September 2023,Brazil’s President da Silva had put social inclusion and the fight against hunger right at the top of the agenda and announced the establishment of a Global Alliance against Hunger and Poverty. However, the new alliance must not lead to the formation of parallel structures and weaken existing multinational spaces.

Redefining the poverty line

Inclusive growth and employment, social security nets and developing resilience were referred to as crucial prerequisites for asserting the right to food, with care being taken not to neglect the aspect of nutrition. “The definition of the poverty line should really be based on available nutrients rather than on available calories,” said Martien van Nieuwkoop, Global Director for the World Bank’s Agriculture and Global Food Practice. This would give more impetus to the implementation of social security interventions such as school feeding programmes.

Solutions sought for interwoven conflicts

Seventy per cent of those suffering hunger live in conflict regions. Against this background, for the first time in the history of the GFFA, a High Level Debate was held with the Munich Security Conference. “Access to adequate food is a precondition for a stable world,” stressed Germany’s Minister of Agriculture Cem Özdemir. He referred to the riots in the context of the so-called Arab Spring, one of the causes of which was the rising price of bread. “Climate change has made our world more vulnerable. Its impacts on the global security situation are enormous,” explained Paul Rushton, an expert on climate change and security with NATO. Increasing numbers of droughts and floods were destroying harvests, robbing people of their livelihoods and often forcing them to migrate, which could result in security problems. At the same time, extreme temperatures, for instance, were making it more difficult for the armed forces to fulfil their tasks, which, among other examples, had been witnessed during the latest NATO mission in Iraq.

Peace-building through agroecology

Janet Maro, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania (SAT), demonstrated what holistic solutions for interwoven problems could look like. Her organisation has succeeded in defusing the violent conflicts between crop farmers and Massai herdsmen in Tanzania’s Morogoro Region – with dialogue and cooperation. The animals kept by the pastoralists can now graze in the fields of the crop farmers. They eat the residues of the crops, and the crop farmers use the manure of the cows to raise soil fertility. The improved soil structure has raised the water holding capacity of the soils, which is especially crucial to securing harvests in times of declining precipitation. The animals are healthier and better fed than they used to be, and they provide more milk. A newly set up milk collection point enables Massai women to earn income and get economically empowered. “With agroecology, we have achieved peace-building in der community,” Maro comments, summing up the programme’s success. “Warlords are putting guns down, and the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people are improving.”

Silvia Richter, Rural 21

The Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) has been held since 2009. Representatives from politics, business, science and civil society meet at the several-day conference to discuss urgent world food issues. As a rule, the conference is held in the context of the International Green Week in Berlin/Germany; this year’s event from the 17th to the 20st January was run under the motto “Food Systems for Our Future: Joining Forces for a Zero Hunger World!”
The Conference traditionally closes with the International Conference of Ministers of Agriculture, in which ministers from 61 countries and representatives from 12 international organisations participated this year.

Read more at GFFA website

Further reading:
Rural 21 issue 04/2023: Stemming food loss and waste
Rural 21 issue 03/2023: Joining forces for agri-food systems transformation
Rural 21 issue 03/2023: Agrifood prices, food security and the role of trade



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  • user
    Lester Seri February 2, 2024 At 6:54 am