“The Rains came late this year and now the trees are gone”
The Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine are having dire effects on food security across the globe. Low income countries are already facing the rise of food prices, severely exposing them to malnutrition or even famines. For our first GenerAction story, ONE Youth Ambassador Jonas Nitschke, explains with the example of Tanzania, why the G7 summit should focus on helping and supporting local food production.
It is a hot summer day in July 2019 in the East African metropolis of Dar Es Salaam. A light breeze brushes through the palm leaves on the small avenue in the Mikocheni district of the Tanzanian capital. You can hear the ship cutters in the Indian ocean nearby bringing all kinds of fresh fish into the harbour. On the main street, you hear the roaring engines of the trucks delivering the farmer’s products from the countryside to the Kariakoo market.
It is lunchtime on a Friday and we are here in a busy corner of the city. We are sitting in our favourite café, Container Bar. The young waiter greets us with a handshake and takes our order in Swahili. Our plates will soon be filled with Chips Mayai, Mchicha and Ugali. In the local language, that's an omelette with chips, spinach, and a mix of corn and cassava flour. Ugali could be compared to polenta and is quite popular among Tanzanians. Most items on the menu are made with local products.
Agriculture in Tanzania accounts for nearly 30 percent of the country's economy , and employs three-quarters of its country's workforce. Its agricultural production is pretty diverse however, as other countries on the East Coast of Africa.
But the country is still suffering the aftershocks of the Covid-19 pandemic and the multiple global crises like the war in Ukraine are wreaking havoc on its food production and security. Inflation is also high as food prices increased by 6.6 percent since April 2019.
And high-income countries should be held accountable. First, for their climate change inaction and its impact on food security. The reliance of Tanzanians on their local agriculture means their harvest and food production are severely exposed to rising temperatures, more frequent droughts or heavier rainfalls.
This is particularly evident when one travels to inland national parks, such as Mikumi or Tarangire, and sees water points for elephants or antelopes drying up. Despite abundant water resources, Tanzania suffers from water scarcity, which is exacerbated by climate impacts on the country's rivers and the continent's three largest lakes such as Lake Victoria in the North.
The second key issue driving this vicious cycle is food insecurity. Tanzania is now self-sufficient for its food production according to the World Food Programme. But as its population will double by 2050, its food production will need to increase to avoid chronic malnutrition of children under five.
And the situation is already far from perfect: around a third of Tanzanian young children are malnourished. And for the entire African continent, unbalanced nutrition can undermine the physical and mental development of 155 million children.
Malnourishment is not only about food
Malnutrition is also driving the emergence of preventable diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria. One of the five deaths of pregnant women and children under five year-old are linked to this disease. Though authorities stepped up the fight against malaria in recent years by investing more on prevention and care treatments in recent years, the children mortality rate was halved.
This has been possible in particular through the work of the Global Fund, a partnership designed to accelerate the end of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria as epidemics. Since its creation, the partnership helped to save 44 million lives by investing more than 47 billion euros and strengthening health systems in more than 155 countries. This makes it one of the largest contributors to global health.
We as young activists recently urged Members of the European Parliament to fully fund their next call for contributions.
Tanzania is among the countries with the highest case numbers for malaria and makes up 3 percent of the global cases and 5 percent of the global deaths. Tackling these shocking numbers, the Global Fund together with the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), the U.S. government’s largest program leading the fight against malaria, provides more than 90 percent of malaria funding to Tanzania, and health systems are strengthened.
But this is just a drop in the ocean. Tackling these crises needs systematic change and sustainable policies by us in the high income countries.
No more empty promises
The blockade of Ukrainian grain in the waters of the Black Sea illustrates to us once again that we are unprepared here as G7 countries for the global food crisis to be used as a political tool in times of war. This relates to our inadequate policy solutions due to not investing enough capacities and resources into diversification strategies and local production.
Our policy priorities shifted due to the war in Ukraine and the money is primarily taken from the budget for development aid. The contribution of the budget in my home country, Germany, for development aid is set to be reduced by 12 percent in total, while Finance minister Christian Lindner from the Liberal Party (FDP) is also going to cut Germany's contribution to the World Food Programme by 50 percent to €28 million.
As already called for by the Y7, the official youth engagement group to the G7, in their final document much more needs to happen here as this is a step in the wrong direction.
Jessica Antonisse, who heads the EU Youth delegation to the G7 this year, sums up the tasks for the heads of states at the summit in Germany: "Our political leaders need to get to the root of the global food crisis by fully funding the WFP Global Crisis Response Plan with $18.9 billion in 2022 (€18.1 billion), they should avoid setting up any export bans, champion this approach for other countries to follow, and use diplomatic means to unblock ports, while at the same time supporting diversification of national food production and trading partners to decrease dependency."
As a young person for whom these issues are of particular importance and who has lost his heart to the warmth and kindness of the Tanzanian people, this is a crucial task for our politicians at the upcoming G7 Summit in Elmau.
The G7 is the next opportunity for our decision makers to finally fulfil their promises and invest into a better future for the African continent. The European Union needs more than empty promises to prevent another global crisis, especially as Tanzania, Ethiopia, Malawi or Kenya are facing severe droughts.
In the film "The Boy who harnessed the Wind", thirteen-year-old William Kamkwamba in Malawi uses his creativity and unconventional thinking to build a frugal wind turbine to save his family and his village from a famine.
We must all be like William. We must refuse to collapse under these crises or the cycle of injustice that accompanies them. We can transform our world for the better, for everyone. We are GenerAction and we need our leaders to act!