Berlin Memorandum calls on G7 to end ‘hunger scandal’

5558400857_dc9c453f21_b.jpg [Gates Foundation/Flickr]

Ahead of the G7 Summit, a global alliance of NGOs, scientists and businesses is demanding a paradigm shift in development policy, calling for industrialised countries like Germany to approach smallholders on equal footing as the only way to effectively combat poverty, climate change and armed conflicts. EURACTIV Germany reports.

Ahead of this year’s G7 Summit, agriculture experts from several countries on Wednesday (4 February) published a Berlin Memorandum, calling on governments to give more power to smallholders. The document was released at a conference hosted by Welthungerhilfe, in the German capital.

The memorandum’s authors call on G7 states to invest more money and political commitment in strengthening smallholder agriculture.

Smallholders are responsible for 70% of the food supply, while around 80% of them live below the poverty line. Among the more than 800 million starving people worldwide, the vast majority live in rural areas.

“Women are the biggest victims”

“Smallholders, especially women, are the losers in the agro-industry expansion policy pursued over the past few years, which has come with increasing demand for food. But smallholders are the key to solving many of the world’s problems,” said Ethiopian agriculture expert Alemayehu Lalise, co-author of the Berlin Memorandum.

Smallholders practice more environmentally-friendly cultivation methods than industrial agriculture, she explained. And they are the centrepiece of rural society, where the most poverty-related social crises develop, Lalise pointed out.

>>Read: Oxfam: German food project ‘ignores subsistence farmers’

The Berlin Memorandum, composed by experts from Germany, India, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso, criticised the G7’s development policy agenda from previous years.

Too often, industrialised countries acted above the heads of affected smallholders, the memorandum reads, and numerous development projects do not touch on the needs of people suffering from poverty.

The authors write that smallholders’ land rights should be respected, secured and, if need be, implemented so they are protected from “landgrabbing” by multinational corporations in the future.

In addition, the farmers should be incorporated into the value chain so that revenue and jobs can be generated in rural areas. Further, the authors argue development policy should focus more strongly on ecological sustainability than it has in the past.

“It is a scandal, that more than 800 million people are still suffering from hunger today,” said Bärbel Dieckmann, President of the NGO Welthungerhilfe.

“We must put this scandal to an end. Then we can also contribute to solving other problems and create stable conditions in conflict-stricken countries, for example,” Dieckmann explained.

Welthungerhilfe also called on Germany to achieve a considerable boost in development aid funding at the G7 Summit.

The “fair share” of G7 countries – meaning the sum, that industrialised countries are capable of investing based on their economic strength, is USD 31.3 billion, according to calculations by the Food and Agriculture Organization and Welthungerhilfe.

At the moment, however, the G7 only contributes a third of that amount.

“A world without hunger would already be possible today”

Germany’s Development Minister Gerd Müller expressed his support for the Berlin Memorandum. “We are on the sunny side,” Müller said. Heads of government from the wealthy states must send a message of responsibility, he pointed out, “a world without hunger is already possible today”.

Müller emphasised that boosting smallholders and better distribution and storage of the harvest could feed millions of people.

“Hunger is not a fate but, rather, the result of human failures,” the conservative politician commented. Every day, the right to food is being neglected.

The Minister, who hails from the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), announced that the German government would emphasise development policy aspects at the G7 Summit in the Bavarian Castle Elmau.

“A world without hunger by 2030 is possible. To do this, we want to commit all G7 states to the goal and introduce a monitoring system,” Müller said.

Support for agribusiness instead of smallholders

The Development NGO FIAN welcomed the Berlin Memorandum, but assessed it as being patchy.

“An important aspect is omitted by the memorandum: in the fight against world hunger, the industrialised countries are increasingly allied with powerful agriculture corporations.

The governments open the door for seed companies like Bayer and Monsanto to new markets, instead of helping the poorest of the poor,” said FIAN analyst Gertrud Falk, in a statement for EURACTIV Germany.

According to Falk, the most troubling aspect is German participation in the “New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition”, that was announced at the 2012 G8 Summit. The project’s goal is to pull 50 million people out of poverty in sub-Saharan Africa by the year 2022.

The core of the alliance is a cooperation treaty, under which ten African countries so far have committed to complete certain reform measures within a certain amount of time, which will improve conditions for private and commercial investments in agriculture.

“Our investigations have revealed that in numerous cases, the new alliance has worsened hunger in these countries, instead of containing it,” said Falk. She pointed to Mozambique as an example, saying that in a letter of intent the government there committed to stop free distribution of seed.

As a result, Falk explained, smallholders were forced into risky dependence on seed from multinational agriculture corporations.

After neglecting the issue for a long time, the EU and its member states have made food security a central part of their development policy.

The EU’s food security policy stresses the need to improve food availability, access to food, responses to food shortages and nutritional problems.

However, the Millennium Development Goal target to halve the number of people suffering from hunger by 2015 is unlikely to be met. Although significant progress has been made, especially in Asia, poverty and malnutrition have increased in parts of Sub-Sahara Africa.  

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), food and nutrition security "exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”.

In 2012, some 925 million people worldwide did not enjoy food security. Confronted with the effects of the food price crises in 2007, a rapidly growing world population and expected consequences of climate change, the international community has raised efforts to fight world hunger.

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