Against the backdrop of climate change, food crises, and market turbulences, bilateral cooperation to exchange experiences and jointly promote sustainable agricultural development is more important than ever, the 2022 Agricultural Policy Dialogue (APD) held in Berlin on 20-21 June concluded. The event marked the resumption of regular on-site exchanges amongst APD project teams following three years of pandemic-related restrictions.
Organized by GFA Consulting Group—the general agent in charge of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) and its Bilateral Cooperation Program, the event brought together bilateral ag projects from key partner countries, including Brazil, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, the Western Balkans, and Ukraine to discuss current opportunities and challenges in agricultural cooperation. DCZ successfully participated in the event, sharing insights and experiences from China.
In charge of the ministry’s Bilateral Cooperation Program, Dr. Andreas Gramzow (GFA) and Dr. Andreas Täuber (BMEL) highlighted the importance of APD projects to stimulate technical dialogue and further mutual understanding. New strategies for regional and cross-project cooperation will further strengthen the impact of Germany’s bilateral ag projects. Future cooperation, the experts emphasized, will be shaped by topics such as climate change, sustainability, and digitalization.
Participants also discussed the EU Green Deal and its impact on agricultural policy in Germany and its partner countries. Following a presentation by Prof. Sebastian Lakner from Rostock University on the opportunities and challenges of the Green Deal, conversations centered around issues such as the need to balance the “greening” of the agricultural sector with food security goals.
The policy package’s ambitious goals such as reducing the use of fertilizers and pesticides while increasing biodiversity resonate in partner countries such as China—DCZ experts Dr. Jürgen Ritter and Dr. Eva Sternfeld reported—but are overshadowed by current concerns around increasing agricultural output and yields.
Other approaches such as changes in consumer behavior towards reducing meat intake might play a role in transforming Germany’s agriculture sector, but, so far, have failed to gain traction in many of the partner countries, team members noted.
Discussions also revolved around compensation mechanisms to drive the sustainable transformation of food systems in Germany and its partner countries. Carbon farming as a mechanism to pay farmers for improving soil health as well as blockchain-based technology allowing farmers to charge higher prices for sustainably produced food received much attention. At the same time, transformation strategies must be tailored to the specific conditions in the partner countries, participants insisted, rejecting a one-size-fits-all approach.
In addition to technical discussions, the event provided a platform for project teams to learn from each other’s experiences and share ideas on how to deepen the impact of bilateral ag cooperation by integrating new formats of (digital) communication, sustainable project management strategies, and mechanisms of evidence-based policy advice into the project.