Germany’s Minister of Agriculture Christian Schmidt (2nd from left) handing over the Final Communiqué to UN-Habitat Executive Director Joan Clos (left), China’s Permanent Representative to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Niu Dun (right) and Japan’s Vice-Minister of Agriculture Hiromichi Matsushima (2nd from right).

Germany’s Minister of Agriculture Christian Schmidt (2nd from left) handing over the Final Communiqué to UN-Habitat Executive Director Joan Clos (left), China’s Permanent Representative to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Niu Dun (right) and Japan’s Vice-Minister of Agriculture Hiromichi Matsushima (2nd from right).
Photo: BMEL/ Michael Gottschalk

Successful urbanisation needs agriculture!

At the Agriculture Ministers’ Summit in Berlin, Germany, in mid-January 2016, ministers from 65 countries adopted a communiqué on food security in times of urbanisation.

According to United Nations forecasts, three quarters of the world population will be living in cities and conurbations by 2050. At this year’s Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA), which was held in Berlin /Germany in mid-January, ministers of agriculture from 65 countries met to develop strategies to ensure food for the growing urban population.

At the end of the International Agricultural Ministers’ Summit, they demanded that urban food security be made a global priority. In their opinion, the national and international debate on urbanisation is not paying sufficient attention to food security. However, they argue, this is a prerequisite for political and social stability and crucial for planning and managing the urbanisation process successfully.

In order to achieve this, the ministers made a number of promises in their Final Communiqué. They seek to join forces to create the necessary framework conditions to master three crucial challenges on the way to global food security:

- a productive and sustainable agriculture that simultaneously meets the growing demand for food while maintaining biodiversity and making efficient use of the natural resources, which are becoming scarcer;

- efficient and reliable supply and value chains in order to connect urban demand with rural supply and to minimise food losses and waste;

- vibrant rural areas as attractive places to live and work in that contribute to minimising rural depopulation and migratory pressure of cities.

Productive and sustainable agriculture

In order to achieve these goals, they want to see to it that farmers – in particular smallholders – have adequate access to capital and financial services, education, training, inputs, technology, services, extension services and market information. They wish to promote legally secure access to land and financial means in line with the Principles for Responsible Investments in Agriculture and Food Systems (CFS RAI) and the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT). Agriculture is to be made more resilient, and natural resources, above all water and soil, are to be used more responsibly.

Efficient and reliable supply and value chains

The ministers stressed that it was important to use the potential of peri-urban regions – in particular for the production and efficient marketing of fresh food. Links between national supply and value chains and international trade flows should be promoted in order to avoid seasonal supply shortages and limit regional scarcities. In addition, supply and value chains should be made accessible to all producers, irrespective of their size and location. Additional opportunities for producers should be opened up to sell agricultural products to urban areas. Establishing co-operatives and creating access to them was to improve the market position of farmers. In addition, especially in developing countries, storage, packaging, cooling and transport capacities should be established and expanded.

Vibrant rural areas

In order to create livelihood opportunities in rural areas, the Ministers promised to support the promotion of responsible investments in agricultural and non-agricultural jobs. General and professional education and vocational training on agriculture, food and nutrition should be fostered to provide job opportunities, in particular for the youth. Participation of rural dwellers in economic, social, political and cultural developments should be improved and rural areas’ capabilities and self-government be strengthened by establishing functioning institutions that support bottom-up and participative planning.

Stimulus for UN Habitat III and G7/G20 processes

The ministers stressed the crucial role of agriculture and rural areas as vital suppliers of food and ecosystem services in for successful urbanisation. Stronger co-operation between urban and rural areas was necessary to allow agriculture to fully use its potential for feeding cities and contribute to sustainable food systems. The planning of expanding cities should take account of the specific needs of rural areas and agriculture. The results of the Summit are to contribute to the development of a “New Urban Agenda” by the UN Habitat III Conference, scheduled for October 2016 in Quito/Ecuador, and to the discussions on food security for the forthcoming G7 and G20 processes.

Silvia Richter, editor, Rural 21

Further reading

UN Habitat III Conference

Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems

The Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure (VGGT)

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