Joachim von Braun: The future of rural innovation

Professor Joachim von Braun, co-chair of the Malabo Montpellier Panel and co-chair for an international advisory group to the ‘One World – No Hunger’ conference, which is to be held in Berlin from 27-28 April 2017, highlights the importance of rural areas and the youth in combatting world hunger.

Professor Joachim von Braun outlines this importance of sustainable rural development © IFPRI

The introduction to the G20 ‘One World – No Hunger’ conference states that, “The future of humankind will be decided in rural areas.” How do we ensure that rural areas do not get left behind in a rapidly urbanising world?

Building infrastructure, access to markets, and finance are essential components of a strategy that connects urban and rural areas better. Attention to agriculture plays a key role. Young entrepreneurs including next generation farmers must be supported through strengthening education and vocational training. This is not all for governments, but the youth need to be agents of change.

Youth employment is critical to achieve dynamic rural development and help eradicate poverty. But what, in reality, are the prospects for the rural youth, and in particular young women? And how can we ensure they have access to the opportunities they need?

The number of young people in rural sub-Saharan Africa doubled between 2010 and 2015, and many are unemployed. As young people from rural areas migrate to cities, urban labour markets are unable to absorb them. The urgently needed rural jobs can come from innovation in agricultural value chains and rural businesses. In addition, large-scale public works programmes should be implemented, like in rural China in the 1980s, and today in India.

Instead of simply discussing the opportunities and roles that youth can play in sustainable rural development, how do you intend to involve youth at this summit in the discussions? What can we learn from young people in rural areas?

It is a conference with youth, not just about youth. A large youth forum with young business leaders from Africa, and elsewhere is integrated with the conference. Across Africa, there are many examples of brilliant and innovative small businesses, run by young people. We need to listen to them.

One of the key outputs of the G20 conference will be the ‘Berlin Charter’. What are the primary aims of this charter and how do you envisage it being implemented?

We do not want more declarations that are not implemented. The G20 governments, including Germany, and African governments need to be accountable for implementation, together with business and civil society organisations. The Berlin Charter will specifically call on the G20 countries to act in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, i.e. lift millions of people out of hunger, take concerted political and humanitarian actions to end the acute food crises situations in Eastern Africa, support agriculture actions that address droughts and climate change, cut youth underemployment at least in half by 2025, and provide equitable and affordable access for all to information and communication technologies, especially for youth in rural areas.

You are also the co-chair of the new Malabo Montpellier Panel which will be launched at the Summit. How will this differ from its predecessor, the Montpellier Panel, and what do you intend to achieve with this new panel?

The Malabo Montpellier Panel, which consists of 17 African and European experts who specialise in agriculture, ecology, nutrition, public policy and global development, provides high-quality research that equips decision-makers to effectively design and implement country policies and programmes that benefit people living in hunger and relying on the land to make a living. The Malabo Montpellier Panel builds on its predecessor, the Montpellier Panel, and puts greater emphasis on African initiatives, such as the African Union’s Malabo Declaration on agriculture and improved livelihoods.

* Professor Joachim von Braun is also the director of the Centre for Development Research at the University of Bonn

Susanna Cartmell-Thorp

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The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.