Global Donor Platform for Rural Development
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In this two-day conference, Germany’s Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development BMZ presented their new concept ‘Developing rural areas and their contribution to food security’ to representatives of the German public, private, scientific and civil society. Minister Dirk Niebel of BMZ opened the conference, supported by Minister for Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV) Ilse Aigner and MP Dagmar Wöhrl. The new concept replaces the existing one of 10 years.
In their deliberations, Niebel and Aigner called for new partnerships between public, private, scientific, and civil society to combat hunger more effectively. The development of rural areas in developing countries had an enormous growth potential which needed to be used and developed, but over the past decades had not received the attention it required.
Self-help-oriented development assistance was an important focal area of German development policy, said Niebel, and partner countries, to reach the Millennium Goals, needed to include their population in the development process through good governance. The commitments made in L’Aquila in 2009 were the financial and strategic benchmark for German engagement. Between 2010 and 2012, the BMZ would make available an annual 700 million Euros for rural development, agriculture and food security - a total of € 2.1bn.
Niebel continued that the development of an efficient, socially and ecologically sustainable agriculture was the main challenge in developing countries. Subsistence capacity had to be strengthened to protect against price volatility and financial insecurity of the international agriculture markets.
Aigner added that increased production alone would not guarantee food security for the world population - what was needed were innovations and investment in infrastructure, technology and know-how in rural areas and the extension of international agrarian research.
Both ministers stressed the necessity to abandon all agrarian export subsidies and make market access equitable for the partner countries.
Stefan Schmitz (BMZ) introduced the concept’s main topics development of rural economy, natural resource management, social safety nets, and improvement of the role of the state and society. He stressed the concept’s uniqueness in its orientation on impact, partner countries’ responsibility, and new partnerships.
The event aimed to discuss the concept draft and to create new ideas for partnerships.
Participants represented the crème de la crème of German rural development from the public, civil and private sector, including the presidents of German NGO Welthungerhilfe, the German Farmers’ Union, German Cooperative and Raiffeisen Union, senior staff from Bayer, Nestle, German think tanks, NGOs and the development organisations.
Sonnleitner (German Farmers’ Union) praised Niebel for having re-invented the BMZ and stressed that Bavaria had made the jump from a purely agrarian society after WWII to a high-tech-state. Von Braun (ZEF) demanded ‘agriculture and food first!’ through production of staple foods and a back-to-basics approach with increased productivity – hoping that the ‘mistake of integrated rural development’ would not be repeated. He also called for a global institution for the regulation of price volatility and a centre for food security and rural development.
Alexander Müller (FAO) raised the question which investment would be necessary in rural and financial infrastructure, natural resource development, development and education, food and productive safety nets to make zero hunger possible by 2025.
He claimed that ‘Hunger was a poverty problem, not a mere food production problem’ which could be solved by more output, less input and greater efficiency. Participants broadly accepted and welcomed the concept. There seemed to be consensus that the concept’s quality would be tested in its implementation, and that it therefore should entail more concrete statements, clearer priorities, and a better orientation towards the target groups.
It was seen as important to emphasise governance issues, human rights, the role of civil society, gender equity, and to include the do-no-harm principle. Questions entailed how to establish and support social safety nets, ensure fair prices, and enhance the attractiveness of rural areas.
Participants raised the contradiction between the concept’s orientation towards the Right to Food and L’Aquila where the RTF had been omitted and demanded the firm establishment of cross-ministerial cooperation.
Last but not least, there was the call to establish an evaluation of the concept from day one.
In his final statement, director Konukiewitz (BMZ) summarised the themes and challenges from the conference, mentioning the necessity for structural changes in agricultural and food security to re-establish ‘food first’; importance of education, resource efficiency, market access and support, trade and management of natural resources, access to land and water, access to strategic resources such as seeds and fertiliser and institutional questions regarding cooperation. He promised that priorisation would happen, and that an evaluation of the concept would be firmly established.
Konukiewitz expressed his hope that the concept, once finalised, would serve not only as an orientation for German ODA, but also for non-governmental actors. As a forum, the Working Group on Global Food Security would be re-launched.
Of further interest: a day after the conference, a meeting was held to create a German alliance for agrarian research’ dafa.de financially supported by BMELV.