Protecting natural resources

Promoting sustainable, resource-saving production methods

Terraced fields in Mali

Using sustainable agricultural methods, production from existing arable land can be increased so that it will be possible to grow enough food to feed the growing global population in the future, too. Sustainable practices can also help in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, in preserving biodiversity and soil fertility, and in maintaining stable water cycles.

Only farmers who have the necessary expertise are able to use sustainable production methods effectively. The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is therefore supporting courses for small farmers to train them in sustainable farming methods. The aim is to pass on innovative agricultural knowledge whilst holding on to good traditional practices, and to make use of any possible synergies.

German activities in the agricultural sector are designed to be conflict-sensitive. This means striving to avoid social tensions due to unresolved questions of ownership, seeking to mediate between competing user groups and involving all stakeholders – including disadvantaged segments of the population.

Conserving soil fertility

Conserving and restoring soil fertility is a very important aspect of German development policy in this context. The cooperation measures that are carried out are intended to help the people living in these partner countries farm their land in a sustainable way. Within international initiatives, too, Germany is a strong campaigner for soil protection. More information on this subject can be found here.

In numerous projects in which the BMZ is engaged, sustainable and climate-smart approaches for land use are being passed on. The special initiative ONE WORLD– No Hunger sets out a comprehensive programme for protecting the soil so as to achieve food security.

Together with the UN Secretariat of the Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the EU Commission, the BMZ created the Economics of Land Degradation Initiative (ELD). The Initiative assesses the economic consequences of land degradation, raising awareness among decision-makers and partners about the economic benefit of investing in sustainable land management.

Germany also directly supports the work of the UNCCD Secretariat, which is headquartered in Bonn. In addition to the regular membership contributions, the BMZ also supports the international policy dialogue and the development of innovative concepts and instruments for implementing the Convention. One way that the BMZ is doing this is by working with the Global Mechanism and by providing significant financial support for the Global Environmental Facility (GEF).

Sustainable use of water

Another area in which German development cooperation measures play a part is fostering sustainability in irrigated agriculture. This is an area where extension services and small investments can directly increase the yields of small farmers. For example, the BMZ is supporting systems for water harvesting, irrigation and more efficient use of water. These systems range from small water retention basins and river bars to small-scale irrigation units, and medium and large dams and distribution systems.

Preserving biodiversity

Rwanda: Villagers seen through eucalyptus trees

Agricultural biodiversity has a significant role to play in achieving food security in developing countries. Where soil fertility is low and water is in short supply, regional varieties of crops often produce better harvests than high-yield strains. Intercropping reduces the risk of harvest losses. Traditional strains are also an important source of genetic material in order to breed plants with a higher yield.

That is why Germany provides support for the implementation of the United Nations International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. The aim of the Treaty is the protection and sustainable use of plant genetic resources. Furthermore, the BMZ also supports the Global Crop Diversity Trust, for which it has provided 25 million euros. The German Development Ministry is a strong campaigner for the traditional rights of farmers: they must be allowed to continue to store, propagate, exchange and further develop their seeds themselves. The BMZ advises partner countries on appropriate legislation for protecting these rights.

In addition, Germany also supports incentives for the preservation and sustainable use of ecosystems, for example, the introduction of Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) and certification procedures, and the abolition of agricultural subsidies that threaten biodiversity.

Tank, trough or table?

Agricultural land is not only used to grow food, crops are also planted to provide industrial raw materials, animal fodder and biomass for energy generation. The growing demand for these products also means growing pressure on fertile land and on water from competing types of use.

Food security is a clear priority for German development cooperation. Where partners suggest cooperating to produce biomass to serve as industrial raw materials or to be used for energy, there must be a verifiable direct positive impact on food security before any cooperation can be agreed. At the same time, use should be made of the opportunities for developing countries and, in particular, rural communities to generate income and acquire foreign exchange from the sustainable cultivation of renewable raw materials.

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