25 January 2022 Speech by Parliamentary State Secretary Bärbel Kofler at the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture

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Ladies and Gentlemen,

“Everything is interaction.”

That is what Alexander von Humboldt wrote more than 200 years ago, with reference to the interconnections between nature and society.

At least since then, if not before, scientists have been warning us that the competition for land use between different sectors and stakeholders is getting fiercer all the time.

Today, the growing world population, the use of synthetic fertilisers and agricultural technologies, overgrazing and deforestation are all contributing factors.

Today, almost everywhere on the planet, land is becoming an increasingly scarce commodity.
Every year, 12 million hectares of productive land – an area about the size of Bulgaria – is lost. We humans are quite literally at risk of losing the very ground under our feet.

Land use therefore needs to become sustainable – from an economic, environmental and social point of view –

• so that everyone has enough to eat,
• our vital natural resources, climate and biodiversity are protected,
• and all people can live a life in dignity on a healthy planet.

There has been international consensus on the necessary solutions for a long time. These solutions are described in the 2030 Agenda, in the Rio conventions of the United Nations on climate change, biological diversity and desertification and in other international agreements.

With SDG 15, the international community wants to work explicitly towards halting the global loss of fertile land and soil by 2030. But we are still lagging far behind when it comes to implementation.

What do we need for sustainable land use?

1. an agricultural sector that protects natural resources,
2. global structures that foster and promote sustainability and social justice, and
3. responsible patterns of production and consumption.

1. We need to protect our vital natural resources:

That is true for both Germany and developing countries. That is why, in our development cooperation work, we are supporting agro-ecological approaches in rural development and sustainable agriculture: less use of fertilisers and pesticides, more regional cycles and markets that are rooted in local culture and traditions. – This will benefit the people, the environment and the economy.

The BMZ is working, for example, with communities in Africa and in India to help them protect their land from erosion and preserve soil fertility.

Local farms have had higher yields and for about 1.3 million people in these regions the food situation has improved.

The BMZ is engaged in fighting desertification as well. Germany is investing more than 600 million euros a year.

But it is also a matter of rights:

In order for smallholders to be able to invest, they need rights to their land. That is of huge importance for women in developing countries in particular. This is because secure land rights are necessary in order to create incentives for the sustainable use of resources and for investments in soil quality. That is why the German government supports the implementation of human rights instruments like the voluntary guidelines of the World Food Organization (FAO).

2. Sustainable land use is a global issue.

That is why global structures need to foster and promote sustainable land use, for example in the case of trade. It is not enough, in the globalised world economy, just to make improvements on the supply side in the developing countries.

The general conditions on the demand side also need to be adjusted, for instance by making agricultural supply chains sustainable and deforestation free.

That is why the BMZ supports a strong EU law to ban imports linked with deforestation, and the regulation of supply chains.

3. Our production and consumption must also change:

We need the private sector to get involved and take responsibility by investing in sustainable agriculture and infrastructure, and through more education and training.

And each and every one of us can make a contribution: through our personal behaviour as consumers. That includes consciously choosing to buy fair products.

To conclude: The opportunity for major policy changes with regard to land use is there: we have the knowledge, experience, technical expertise and financial means. But there is also room for improvement.

– Let’s get started! So that the land and all its resources will continue to sustain and feed all of humankind.