Platform for African – European Partnership in Agricultural Research for Development

Monday, January 20, 2014

Global Forum for Food and Agriculture 2014

16 – 18 January 2014. Berlin. Global Forum for Food and Agriculture 2014: Empowering Agriculture: Fostering Resilience – Securing Food and Nutrition.

Ministers from 69 countries gathered in the German capital; among them, Robert Sichinga, the agricultural minister of Zambia. One third of his country is farmland. Corn is the main crop.

"We don't want our food supply to be dependent on other countries," Sichinga said. "The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) tell us that we can't plant maize anymore, but should import genetically altered maize from South America instead. For us, that's a stupid suggestion that we will not accept under any circumstances."

Zambia is banking on small farmers who plant traditional types of corn. The government supports the purchase of seeds and fertilizer with considerable subsidies.

In addition, the government buys up the corn in order to ensure a measure of price stability. Critics say that Zambia lags far behind its agricultural potential and could achieve much more with the right technology.
"We don't want genetically modified crops in Zambia because we don't know what consequences they have for human health," Sichinga said. "As an African, I also won't let others tell me that their way is the only way that's right."
African countries such as Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Burkina Faso are taking a different approach. Genetically modified corn - as well as cotton, sugar cane and bananas - are being planted in those countries. Philip von dem Bussche, spokesman for the seed company, KWS Saat AG, thinks that's the right way to go. Progress will be achieved above all through new breeds of crops, he said.
"We are also trying to make plants healthier to protect them from climate change and diseases and to improve their quality," said von dem Bussche, adding that it's about turning farmers into entrepreneurs.
There's no foreseeable end to this entrenched ideological struggle. As a consequence, progress has stalled.
"We are not moving fast enough," said UN environment expert Steiner. "Expanding farmland not feasible over long term."

It's a criticism that certainly applies to the agricultural ministers in Berlin. Nothing groundbreaking was included in the summit's final communiqué.

German agriculture minister, Hans-Peter Friedrich, 
at the Global Forum
According to that communiqué, agriculture has to be strengthened so that it can withstand climate change and limited resources. This is only achievable through diverse, sustainable and productive farming, the document said. There should be investment in crop research and support for family farms. Decentralized solutions should also be recognized and private property respected, according to the text.

Germany's agricultural minister, Hans-Peter Friedrich, said that above all the relevant actors have to talk with each other more. Berlin will campaign for more and better communication, he said.


Deutche Wele 20/01/2014. Industry, non-profit groups divided over how to increase food production

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