Africa could be losing between 40 and 50% of food produced due to poor food processing practices. This came to light at a recent conference on food security attended by 12 Southern African Development Community ambassadors and their representatives in the North Rhein Westphalia (NRW) State town of Ibbenren, Germany.
The conference, attended by experts from the food industry and policy makers, was intended to share methods that may be adopted or adapted for the African situation and help stem the needless loss of food.
Below is the full statement of the SADC Ambassadors.
SADC Ambassadors Conference on Food Security and Rural Development held at RIELA highlights Areas of Impact for SADC Germany Cooperation
Berlin, 4 June 2018
SADC Ambassadors Conference in Riesenbeck, 29 to 31 May 2018
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) faces considerable challenges regarding the region’s food security and nutritional health issues. This is particularly so in rural areas that depend on small- and subsistence farming. Whilst dealing in the short term with extreme weather conditions, the ongoing struggle to guarantee food security is rendered difficult by a combination of rural/urban migratory pressures, outdated farming methods, lack of agricultural training and financial support.
Following the invitation of Karl-Heinz Knoop, founder and owner of RIELA, 12 Ambassadors and representatives from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) accredited to the Federal Republic of Germany under the guidance of H.E. Phumelele Stone Sizani, Ambassador of South Africa, current Chair of the Group, attended a conference on Food Security in the North Rhein Westphalia (NRW) State town of Ibbenbüren.
RIELA is a family-owned local company, specialized in the production of crop and harvest storage facilities and crop processing machines with global impact on the food security sector.
The conference was held at the RIELA Energy Estate, a model Expo farm, showcasing RIELA and other NRW agroindustry producers’ best-practice solutions. Inventions and equipment easing soil preparation, harvesting, milling and storage as well as training methods were introduced that have not only led to success of the German agroindustry, but have been particularly selected to serve rural African needs and conditions.
Karl-Heinz Knoop described his experiences during 15 years of visits to the African country side and informed the conference audience of the shocking fact that approximately 40 – 50% of food produced in Africa is lost, due to false food processing practices and the use of inadequate food processing equipment. The struggle by small African farmers left a lasting impression on Knoop, who sought to bring all SADC Ambassadors and representatives from German agroindustry, finance, and education to the table with the aim to explore solutions and new cooperation.
SADC and African Ambassadors were thus introduced to the experiences of owners of proven simple, yet appropriate agroindustry solutions, developed by small family-owned businesses in the region over the past 60-years. Such farming machinery and methods could help SADC countries leapfrog and replicate their successes in a significantly shorter time, comparable to the way the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) states achieved success after the German reunification. Knoop finds that development assistance in the past focused on providing much equipment, yet without spare parts and training of the local population to maintain the machinery. This leads to highly unsustainable outcomes of well-intented but poorly executed aid projects. To achieve realistic health and socio-economic targets change has to occur on the grassroots level by helping small-and self-sufficient farmers to reap profit from their produce.
The Conference was graced and addressed by distinguished representatives from German politics, namely the Minister of Education and Scientific Research of the Federal Republic of Germany, Honourable Anja Karlizceck and the NRW Minister of Economic Affairs and Digitalization, Honourable Dr. Andreas Pinkwart. Other renowned speakers were the Head of the Africa Association of German Business (Afrika Verein) and representatives from the regional Agro-Industry Chambers, Federal Development Finance Institutions and Germany-Africa Solidarity Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs).
Speaking on behalf of the NRW Government, Dr. Andreas Pinkwart, Minister of Economic Affairs and Digitalization, said that his state government wishes to contribute to the development cooperation effort that helps Africa meet its challenges through capacity building, investment promotion, industrial development and fair trade. He called on African countries to work with investors to reduce the risks associated with investment in Africa, attracting more companies to its shores to create jobs locally.
Dr. Stefan Schmitz, Head of Directorate Food, Agriculture, Rural Development of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) welcomed RIELA’s efforts as being more than a mere ‘drop in the ocean’, as it promotes development from below in contrast to the traditional donor-recipient, one-way development. Germany and Europe need to rethink their development approach with Africa, given the opportunities and responsibilities that have come with globalisation, levelling states to become partners. Dr. Schmitz stressed that investments to agriculture leave a bigger development effect than investments in any other sector. He highlighted factors like consumer decision, infrastructure, secured land rights, context-adapted mechanisation and digitalisation, to ensure the attractiveness of agriculture and access to land.
Hermann Röder, Head of the West German Chamber of Crafts Day, in his presentation about “Dual Apprenticeship Training and Development in the Agricultural Technology – Tanzania Agritec project”, offered an example of a successful cooperation project. He presented to the delegation the result of improved food security, particularly through advancements in crop loss, after one year of the project being in place. This success can be owed to improved people development through skills training parallel to agricultural development.
H.E. Andreas Guibeb, Ambassador of Namibia commenced his address to the Conference by referring to the much needed “Ubuntu” (I am what I am because of who we all are) spirit of internationalism, tolerance and international understanding between peoples. Such approach in the global arena should be championed by Germany and its business, political and civil society leaders in a time when others emphasize ‘my-country-first’, isolationists approach, endangering equitable economic development and global peace. One such “Ubuntu” target arena is the sharing of knowledge, skills and technology which adds value to land. As a result, young people will naturally see and realise opportunities in the rural areas and stop migrating to cities, and earn a living from tilling and cultivation, making it a profitable agri-business.
Christoph Kannengießer, Head of the African Association of German Business (Afrika Verein), underscored why Germany is a good cooperation partner for African countries and what is required for successful cooperation. He used the opportunity to call upon the African Ambassadors to advocate German small- to medium enterprises to their governments. A more investor-friendly environment, better regional integration, advanced logistics and infrastructure, more private sector involvement in development cooperation and improved coordination between the German International Development Agency (Deutsche Gesellschaft für International Zusammenarbeit, GIZ) and private companies in development projects in Africa are crucial requirements for effective development cooperation between Germany and African countries.
Philipp Laass from HERMES held a lecture on financing and Export Credit Guarantees, presenting to the delegation the role and involvement of export credit agencies in trade transactions across countries and continents. He presented HERMES’ approach and success, promoting it to become a suitable partner for German and African companies that wish to create a market in the other country.
Anja Karlizceck, Federal Minister of Education and Research underlined the importance that Chancellor Merkel’s Government attaches to cooperation with Africa. Proof of that commitment are the initiatives launched since Germany’s G20 Presidency 2017 by the various Federal German Government Ministries, such as the Foreign Ministry’s “Marshall Plan with Africa”, the Finance Ministry’s Compact with Africa and the Economic Affairs Ministry’s Go Africa Policy. She added that her Ministry of Education and Research had likewise started an initiative to award a duo of Germany and Africa country researchers that identify a specific challenge faced by an African country and investigate a concrete solution to address the problem. The Minister has welcomed the opportunity to explore with the SADC in Berlin ways and means through with the Federal Ministry of Education and Research could support the implementation of lessons drawn from the NRW SADC Ambassadors Conference in each one of the 17 SADC countries with the support from line Federal Ministries, the NRW government and the industries in NRW.
Dr. Reinhold Hemker, President of the German-Zimbabwean Society, contributed to the discussion about the development of a dual education system in Africa by providing valuable insights to practical education, training and further education as key to prosperity. While acknowledging existing practical training and activities in Africa, Dr. Hemker criticised that the focus of international cooperation in education development is still too academic. To improve international cooperation in the education sector, for instance in exchange programmes and dual education programmes, coordinated education values and systems need to grow on federal and national levels.
The conference concluded with proposals for concrete follow-up steps on education and agriculture development cooperation between Germany and the SADC Member States. The SADC Ambassadors left Riesenbeck with the intention to continue talks with German stakeholders from various levels to promote dual education and selected agricultural machines and methods that will contribute to improve food security in the region.