Frauen arbeiten auf einem Feld

‘The right to food is the most violated human right worldwide’

Ralf Sanftenberg, Director of the Rural Development and Agriculture Division, talks about the mid-term review of SDG 2 and why he remains confident despite the challenges.

Text: Sabrina Pfost Photo: Momar Talla Cissé

Zero hunger – this goal of the 2030 Agenda is still a long way off. Today, 735 million people suffer from hunger. And this despite the fact that great progress was made on fighting hunger worldwide from 1990 to the mid-2010s. But the number of people starving has increased since. The coronavirus pandemic, climate change and the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine are making an already tense situation worse.

And it’s not that there’s a shortage of food – there would be enough for everyone. There’s plenty of knowledge and technology too, even if it’s unfairly distributed. And the world’s population is still growing. To end hunger, global food production must increase by about 60 per cent by 2050, using existing water and land resources. To achieve this goal, agriculture needs to become more sustainable and better at conserving resources. And we need to look more closely at the multidimensional nature of rural development, agriculture and nutrition.

Fundamental transformation of agri-food systems

The realigned Special Initiative ‘Transformation of Agricultural and Food Systems’ of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) aims to quickly and fundamentally transform agricultural and food systems – shifting towards sustainable, climate-friendly growing and processing methods that preserve biodiversity. From better seeds to optimised irrigation, machinery and supply chains, the focus is on local changes with supraregional effects.

Recognising ecosystem services

In the Global South, smallholder farmers produce most of the food. But farmers also provide numerous ecosystem services. These include the protection of natural resources such as water. They also maintain soil and biodiversity. However, these services remain largely unrecognised and unremunerated.

This is where BMZ’s CompensACTION initiative comes in. Contributions beyond food production are compensated, for example when farmers use organic fertilisers to increase the carbon content of their soil. Carbon-rich soils store more water and release less nutrients and pollutants into groundwater. This makes farming more sustainable and allows farmers to generate additional income.

Acting together against hunger

In 2023 there were important conferences on the issue of hunger and malnutrition. Experts from politics, science and international organisations are working together on solutions for transforming agri-food systems worldwide. Will the global community turn the tide? Ralf Sanftenberg, Director of the Rural Development and Agriculture Division, talks about the state of progress in an exclusive akzente video interview.

The project contributes to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):
SDG 2: Zero Hunger