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Meeting Global Food Security Challenges in the face of Climate Change


More than 140 guests came to join our second lecture with Prof. Gebisa Ejeta. 


Moderator Jasmin Fischer welcomed our guests and opened the evening. 


Gebisa Ejeta, SAB member and Professor of Agronomy, spoke about the challenges for global food security with regard to climate change and other global developments. 


He highlighted: "Global food security is a problem for all of humanity and it needs to be handled jointly."



Prof. Joachim von Braun commented on Prof. Ejeta's talk and enriched the discussion by asking questions about the work of UN's SAB, the recent developments within the organization, and the importance of science for the progress of food security.

[Global Solutions] The second lecture of the series “Global Solutions for Sustainable Development” was held by Prof. Gebisa Ejeta at the Bonner Universitätsforum on May 17th. The Ethiopian member of UN-Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s Scientific Advisory Board talked about “Meeting Food Security Challenges in the Face of Climate Change”.

Together with more than 145 guests, including a group of students from the University of Gießen, moderator Jasmin Fischer opened the evening and introduced Prof. Gebisa Ejeta. The SAB member and Professor of Agronomy at Purdue University, USA, grew up in a rural village in Ethiopia, being given the opportunity to receive a profound education through hard work and scholarships. His personal experiences did not only shape his private, but also his academic life and research priorities, putting, for instance, the development of higher education, agricultural research, and responsible technical assistance in his home country on his personal agenda.
Beginning his talk, Prof. Ejeta highlighted that hunger has been a problem on this planet since the rise of civilization: “There are many people amongst us that are denied that opportunity to feed themselves.” According to different studies, the population will have reached 9.5 Billion until 2050 and most of the population growth is likely to come from developing countries. Consequently, this means that food production needs to double until 2050. Whereas Western Europe and North America are using high technology and modern science to improve their production processes since decades, Africa just started to make use of inputs and fertilizers. Thus, on the average, the use of fertilizers and inputs in developing countries is still very low, especially compared to the excessive use of it in the developed world.
 “We’re running out of land around the world, and land has become a precious commodity both in the developed and the developing countries.”
Almost half the land that can be cultivated and used for food production can be found in Africa. This offers a tremendous opportunity to the continent but also inherits difficult situations and developments like the current rush for African land grab. Despite the fact that urbanization and modernization are putting a lot of pressure on the resources of the planet, it is not only the food production agenda that needs to be improved but also the food system agenda in general. IN other words: not only the question of how food production can be increased needs to be solved, but also the kind of food that is cultivated needs to be improved. Especially the triple burden of nutrition (malnutrition, over nutrition, deficient micronutrients) require a higher level of recognition and consciousness among the different communities. The fact that there is still an enormous amount of food loss, especially in developing countries, and too much food waste in the developed world make the situation even more complex, so Prof. Ejeta.
In addition, climate change is one of the most challenging developments influencing food security worldwide. According to Prof. Ejeta, climate change is likely to have the most critical and significant impact on the availability of fresh water, patterns of diseases, damages from floods, droughts, and fires, as well as on property losses due to the sea level rise. In the context of food security, it needs to be noted that 70% of all fresh water use is related to agriculture which will become more and more problematic concerning the necessary increase of food production.
“Global food security is a problem for all of humanity and it needs to be jointly handled.”
Food security for the poor has to be seen from a slightly different perspective as the desperate need for science and technologies in developing countries cannot be overemphasized, states Prof. Ejeta. About 80% of the food available in Africa is produced by farmers on the continent – many of them suffer from hunger themselves. However, they are unable to improve their harvest due to a lack of knowledge, technology, governmental support, or resources. Concluding his talk, Prof. Ejeta summed up the potential he sees for Africa to successfully meet the upcoming challenges: “I think Africa needs to tighten its belt and commit to development as well, from its own resources, to make a difference.”
Prof. Joachim von Braun, Director at the Center for Development Research (ZEF) of the University of Bonn, gave a comment on Prof. Ejeta’s words and added further perspectives. To him, land degradation is a very underemphasized theme as the value of the land lost due to degradation is twice as high as the money that is currently put into development aid. Together with the mentioned micronutrient problem and climate change, it creates an issue with especially affects the vulnerable communities to a very high degree. Additionally, Prof. von Braun emphasized that the population of each country can also be defined in terms of their ecological footprint. This perspective underlines that all countries need to work on their lifestyle to assure, for instance, a certain degree of food security to humanity in general. To this thought, Prof. Ejeta added: "If the population of the world today lived like Americans, we would need three planet earths. But we only have one planet."
Closing his comment, Prof. von Braun took the opportunity to ask three questions to Prof. Ejeta: Which is the most important science for food security and which role plays gene editing and genetic science? Have science and research been forgotten when the SDGs were written? And, finally, is the UN fit to implement the SDGs successfully? Referring to these questions, Prof. Ejeta stated that biotechnology will make a significant contribution to plant genetics, plant improvements, animal genetics, and animal improvement. The technologies that are available now already transform the way crop improvements are done. With regard to the SDGs, he underlined that the SAB was founded to secure a scientific background and profound recommendations to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Additionally, he emphasized that within the organization, constructive contributions are made to secure a successful development.
After Prof. Ejeta’s talk and Prof. von Braun’s comment, the audience had the opportunity to discuss further aspects with Prof. Ejeta. The questions addressed a wide range of topics including the issue of land grab in Africa, the importance of small farmers in Africa and a possible need for industrialization, and the possibility for the exchange of experiences between countries to be prepared for a more limited availability of resources due to climate change. A specific question from a researcher from Ghana touched upon the lack of governmental subsidy and the absence of young people working in the field of agriculture in his home country. Prof. Ejeta argued that the solution is simple and complex at the same time: Young people need to receive support and an opportunity to flourish. The trading markets need to work for them so that their risk can be minimized. Only then it can be possible that food production and agriculture undergoes the necessary development in Africa successfully. 

The lecture series is coorganised by the German Commission for UNESCO, the Forum Internationale Wissenschaft (fiw) and the Liaison Office International Academic Sciences of the UN City of Bonn. 

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