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– by Ellen Thalman
Kenyan cut flower farm – rural businesses can become included even in global supply chains.
Governments should put in place agricultural, nutrition and anti-poverty policies to “lift at least 600 million people out of hunger and undernutrition” and “cut youth underemployment at least by half “ by 2025, according to the Berlin Charter. One demand is that the G20 and the UN act accordingly.
The charter calls for “significant, quantified and time bound targets” for creating job opportunities in rural areas. Priorities include:
- ending the ongoing food crises in East Africa, the Horn of Africa and elsewhere,
- boosting agricultural support in areas affected by drought and other impacts of climate change,
- improving young people’s access to education and vocational training and
- expanding access to information and communication technology.
The charter is part of Germany’s 2017 G20 presidency. It is in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
To achieve the charter’s goals, stakeholders must cooperate with the grassroots communities they aim to help, paying particular attention to women and youth, who tend to be neglected in the rural areas of developing countries. Young people, the charter argues, should be supported as business entrepreneurs, for example in agriculture.
According to the charter, smallholder farms and small-scale fisheries have a big role to play, not least because of their indigenous local knowledge. A “bottom-up” approach to innovation requires local players and local governments to get a bigger say in decision-making. And youth organisations, women’s groups, farmer unions and civil society in general must be encouraged in holding government agencies accountable, the charter states. All too often, they are discouraged from doing so.
With many people leaving rural areas to seek jobs in cities, development strategies for rural areas must be integrated with those of urban areas. Cities and towns matter as intermediaries in rural development and can help to address regional inequality. The charter is in favour of infrastructure investments and business incentives that contribute to linking smallholder farms to markets. On the other hand, the document emphasises that those who are unable to support themselves must be protected and guaranteed access to the basic human rights of food, water and sanitation.
The private sector, in particular, needs to make investments that help lift people out of poverty in the long run. It must support socially viable businesses that serve rural areas and promote youth employment, providing access to financial services, reliable contracts and fair pay. Moreover, the charter wants it to consider environmental impacts. Innovative finance such as micro-venture capital and guarantee fund can help modernise rural areas and ensure sustainable investments.
To ensure a large-scale, long-term partnership between Europe and Africa, the Berlin Charter endorses the proposal of a “Marshall Plan with Africa”, as has been made by Gerd Müller, Germany’s federal minister for economic cooperation and development (see interview in our E+Z/D+C e-Paper 2017/05)
Berlin Charter, 2017: Creating opportunities with the young generation in the rural world.