To prevent global food crises, governments and NGOs must work together to professionalize agriculture worldwide and make it climate-safe. “We know where the hot spots are, but we fail to prevent famine.”
The current food crisis was high on the agenda of the World Economic Forum, which took place last week. This year’s annual summit in Davos, Switzerland, had the theme ‘History at a turning point’. The latter can certainly be said of the looming famine in the world.
It is not only caused by the war in Ukraine, stressed Hanneke Faber, food president of, among others, Unilever, the drought due to global warming also threatens food security in large parts of the world.
Faber spoke in Davos during a session on the crisis in global food systems. ‘It shows that the system is failing. It’s not just the war. The climate also forces us to produce differently. We need more hectares and a greater variety of crops. ‘
‘Farmers are always the last to leave a war zone’
Using data, famine can now be predicted well, says Rajiv Shah, president of The Rockefeller Foundation. This American institute stimulates data use and innovation for the sustainability of agriculture and energy supply in developing countries. “The worst has not yet come. August, September and October, it will be the months of famine. We can prevent it by focusing all aid on those areas, but we fail every time.”
Farmer can not invest
The speakers, including Theo de Jager, South African farmer and president of the World Farmers Organization (WFO), agreed that local agricultural production should be increased, especially in vulnerable regions. The Hunters recognize this social reflex. ‘These farmers do not currently have the resources for the expensive seeds, fertilizers and plant protection products. Before the war, these prices had already risen as a result of the corona crisis. They think twice before investing in it. ‘
According to Shah, therefore, an ‘aggressive’ humanitarian effort by governments with scientists and innovation is needed to help farmers increase their production. ‘With the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), we have reached 12 million farmers who, thanks to better seeds and knowledge transfer, have been able to increase their yields from 1.2 tonnes to 2.5 tonnes per hectare. We need to focus more on that. “
Unilever’s top executive knows a similar example from conventional soybean cultivation in the United States. A 5-year trial of 100 soybean farmers under the guidance of the University of Iowa showed that sustainable land management can lead to lower emissions and higher yields. “It’s possible, it’s not higher math, but it takes time,” Faber says.
According to her, this requires a different way of using agricultural support. These should be used more to stimulate regenerative farming methods. ‘The transition must really accelerate. That’s what I’m missing in the EU’s Fit For 55 strategy, it’s just about energy. ‘
Claire Akamanzi, a Rwandan pollist and businesswoman, sees the steps forward her country has taken in recent decades. After the genocide in 1994, the country fell into a deep economic and humanitarian crisis. “Due to the sharp rise in food and commodity prices, we are in danger of losing our economic results again. †
According to the African businesswoman, increased local production on the continent is the right answer to the food crisis. ’60 percent of the world’s fertile land is in Africa, but we depend on grain imports from elsewhere. The question is how can we cultivate more land and become self-sufficient. ‘
African food revolution
Farmer chairman De Jager has set his hopes on the success of the African food revolution. He sees a great interest in and influx into the sector among young people. “The condition is that they can earn something on it. The current digital tools provided knowledge and access to the sales markets and thus a better price. Therefore, bring more knowledge to the young people. We must modernize agriculture in Africa. ‘
One important reason is that 30 countries have already introduced a food export ban to protect their own people. This fuels uncertainty about food supplies in other countries, says Shah of The Rockefeller Foundation.
De Jager agrees: ‘No country can only consume what it produces itself. We farmers must produce what we are good at and what our soil and climate are best suited for. It is world trade that must continue to function properly. Food, diesel and fertilizers should not be weapons that block it. Farmers are not scientists or politicians. We’re talking about the consequences. We urge our leaders to end this war as soon as possible. ‘
Refugee farm families
In his position as WFO chairman, he visited refugee relatives and families of Ukrainian farmers in Hungary. The farmers there are ‘tough’, he says.
‘Farmers are always the last to leave a war zone. There is someone who has to feed the farm animals or keep the crop watering going. In Ukraine, farmers in bulletproof vests enter the country. It touched me. It shows the tragic fate of the farmer in this war. But despite the fact that they themselves lack food and resources, it ensures that they continue to work, stabilizing in those regions. ‘
The WFO has recently concluded agreements with the CEOs of major agricultural concerns on the supply of seeds and fertilizers to Ukraine. De Jager: ‘When the war is over, there must be a basis for rebuilding the country.’