BONN, Germany (Landscape News) — Stefan Schmitz first joined the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in 2001. He has been deputy director-general and commissioner for BMZ’s “One World – No Hunger” initiative since it was first created in 2014. He is especially proud of its Green Innovation Centres, which have been promoting innovative approaches to sustainable agricultural development and agri-value chains.
The centers have reached over half a million people through the training they offer and, as a result, they have seen an average productivity increase of 36 percent on supported farms.
Between 2007 and 2009, Schmitz, who will speak at the opening plenary session of the upcoming Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) in Nairobi, worked as a senior advisor to the secretariat of the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, where he led its work on Managing for Development Results. Prior to his stint in Paris, he coordinated the German bilateral cooperation program with South Africa and Namibia, as well as taking on the role of deputy head of the infrastructure division at the BMZ.
Schmitz is looking forward to the outcomes of the third annual AFR100 partners meeting to be held on the eve of the GLF in Nairobi. AFR100 is an African-owned initiative for country-level commitments to bring 100 million hectares of degraded forest landscapes under restoration across the continent by 2030 and supported by BMZ, one of the founding members of the AFR100 initiative. In that context, 26 African countries have already made voluntary pledges to undertake substantial restoration activities. AFR100 and Bonn Challenge contribute to the same target: Restoring a total of 350 million hectares by 2030 worldwide as committed by the New York Declaration on Forests.
Landscape restoration is effective at reversing damage, can mitigate climate change and lead to improvements for livelihoods, helping meet the U.N. anti-poverty Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, a key component of the GLF mandate.
Schmitz shared his views with Landscape News in the following interview.
Q: What issues will you be addressing in Nairobi?
A: We are all aware of the continent’s massive development challenges, which are driven by population growth, rapid urbanization, migration dynamics, and climate change. We are also aware of the pressures these developments put on natural resources. At the same time, there is an opportunity to unlock the potential of Africa’s diverse and rich landscapes through restoration and by sustainable and inclusive management of forests and other natural resources. This calls for strengthening efforts towards greater policy coherence at all levels, global, national, and local, and across all relevant sectors.
So I consider it a great opportunity that the Global Landscapes Forum conference in Nairobi is taking place back to back with the third annual AFR100 partners meeting. It is sending a signal to advance the crucial integration of reforestation, restoration and sustainable rural development agendas. The versatile concept of landscapes as discussed under the GLF provides us with a powerful lever in the fight against hunger and poverty, but also in implementing the entire Agenda 2030 – and especially SDG2 (zero hunger) and SDG15 (life on land).
Q: How do the One World — No Hunger Initiative and SDG2 intersect with recuperating degraded forests and landscapes?
A: Degraded soil and depleted landscapes are major reasons for weak agricultural productivity. Ecologically intact and functional landscapes are the basis for sustainable food production and poverty alleviation in rural areas. The One World No Hunger Initiative directly addresses this at a landscape level. Together with our partners – national governments, civil society, the private sector and academia – we have by now brought sustainable land management practices to 104,000 hectares, including agroforestry and reforestation.
Q: What specific challenges do African countries face in strengthening a sustainable approach to agricultural production?
A: The challenges for the agricultural sector in Africa result from complex interrelations of various factors. Here we are looking at growing population pressures on fragile natural resources, massive demand for food from rapidly increasing urban settlements, migration dynamics, and the effects of climate change, as well as lack of access to knowledge and services or markets.
Sustainable agricultural production needs to consider those dynamics. We can not look at it in isolation from the broader rural development process, nor from social and ecological dynamics at landscape levels.
Moreover, when speaking about sustainable agriculture, we must not forget the crucial role of the sector in addressing massive underemployment in Africa. Therefore, a major challenge for our partner countries in Africa is to move towards greater policy cohesion and cross-sectorial development planning. This can create the framework conditions for a diverse agricultural sector, unfolding its potential to drive inclusive and sustainable transformation of the rural space.
Q: One World No Hunger promotes strengthening land tenure, especially for women, small holders and marginalized peoples. What impact can this have on reducing malnutrition and rural poverty?
A: Ownership and land user driven investment are the backbone for sustainable agricultural production and other forms of natural resources management. This will only be possible if land users can operate under secure tenure rights. We recognize the potential of smallholders, women, youth and marginalized groups to become drivers of change for the creation of productive and sustainable landscapes, which are essential for food security and poverty alleviation. Therefore, their right to land is a cornerstone of our One World No Hunger Initiative – our programs aim at securing tenure rights for at least 450,000 people by 2022.
Q: Last March, you spoke at the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture conference in Berlin. What role can responsible livestock production play in restoring landscapes and reducing greenhouse gas emissions?
A: It is high time to embrace the livestock sector under the holistic concept of landscapes. We are all aware of the sector’s impact on resource degradation and climate change. At the same time, we need to recognize its dynamic growth as part of a worldwide agricultural economy, and its significant contribution to both the food security and incomes of the rural poor – particularly in Africa.
Responsible livestock production systems recognize the efficient and sustainable use of resources, as well as the protection of forests, ecosystems, and biodiversity. So those systems need to be regionally adapted. This may include appropriate rangeland management, fodder quality improvement or small-scale stationary animal husbandry systems with cut-and-carry forage production as part of restoration-relevant, sustainable forest and land management practices. Generally speaking, better productivity per animal must be the goal to allow the regulation of stock size in order to reduce GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions without compromising the livelihoods of livestock keepers.
Register to join a GLF digital summit with Stefan Schmitz on Scaling up forest landscape restoration commitments: from local to regional level on Sept. 11, 2018 at 11:00 a.m. CEST (9:00 a.m. GMT).