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Poster for self-catering in the UK (1942), Grow your own food (German: Build your own food at )

To self-sufficiency (or self-sufficiency ; English self-sufficiency ) is, in the economy , if economic agents their needs on agricultural products , consumer goods other food or energy from our own production completely cover can.


Self refers primarily an autonomous - from other people , communities , institutions or states independent - living or subsistence example, in which producers and consumers are identical. In everyday practice, one speaks of self-sufficiency when people create the material foundations of daily life ( food , clothing , apartment , etc.) for themselves to a large extent and do not just use the products offered on the market . This applies in particular to self-cultivation and the production of food and its preservation as well as the production of everyday objects of all kinds.

For self-sufficiency in the narrower sense, the producers and consumers of a certain market must be identical. In a broader sense, self-sufficiency means that consumers and companies of a state are not dependent on imports . The smaller the size of an economic entity, the more likely it is to be self-sufficient. While it can be achieved in private households (private households with electricity from self- generated solar energy ) and on farms (own agricultural production ) in sub-areas, full self-sufficiency in large companies is very unlikely. For a long time, self-sufficiency with renewable energy was neither feasible nor affordable in Germany. In the past, this was only possible temporarily at the level of a private household, as, for example, they could only use solar energy completely for their own electricity consumption in summer. With the increasing development of battery storage technologies, a higher degree of self-sufficiency can now be achieved; up to self-sufficiency through the additional use of a pellet CHP unit . In the case of companies, the degree of self-sufficiency can also be read from the capitalized personal contribution .

As soon as several self-suppliers interact in a targeted manner ( coordinating production processes , exchanging goods , sharing work, etc.) one speaks of subsistence farming . The term self-sufficiency is basically synonymous, but is used more in connection with the own supply of goods and the economic independence of entire states.

Historical origin of self-sufficiency

In prehistoric cultures, hunters and gatherers as well as arable farmers and nomads lived in subsistence farming until the end of the Neolithic or beyond; in many regions of the Third World it is still the primary basis of life and survival. The marginal barter was probably more prestigious than livelihood. During the further development of the agricultural economy, self-sufficiency always remained an important economic aspect in addition to market production and gainful employment until the Industrial Revolution .

Also on the part of the life reform movement and of social revolutionary movements (eg. As the anarchist Gustav Landauer ), building on ideas of Leo Tolstoy and Peter Kropotkin (later Mahatma Gandhi ) the disposal of land and soil to self-determined production was demanded of food and partly implemented in rural communities (e.g. Eden Charitable Fruit Growing Settlement ).

The garden designer and settlement planner Leberecht Migge developed the concept of self-sufficiency for everyone during and after the First World War . This concept demanded that everyone should have enough garden land to grow the food they need for their own nutrition. He also developed concepts for circular economy and cultivation methods in order to improve soil fertility in the long term.

In the 1920s, so-called self-sufficiency settlements with street-oriented settler houses were built on large, elongated garden plots by settlement cooperatives and state housing subsidy programs of the Weimar Republic . This type of settlement ties in with the settlement layout of the bog colonies, but develops it further in the sense of an urban grid development. The aim of these settlements was the independent production of food on their own parcel within a (small) urban form of settlement.

Towards the end and after the Second World War , the term “self-sufficient” acquired a specific meaning in food management in Germany: as a rule, self-sufficient farmers were those who were not entitled to food cards . In addition, there was partial self as those by agriculture sideline got allocations only for those goods which they could not produce themselves. In order to promote partial self-sufficiency, many housing estates were laid out in the 1940s and 1950s with large kitchen gardens , some of which are now to be used as a building land reserve for redensification , but some are also to be preserved as allotment gardens .

Self-sufficiency with garden products is still - especially in rural areas - a popular subsistence strategy alongside the market economy

While the at least partial self-sufficiency in the countryside, in villages and rural towns was a matter of course for broad sections of the population, their situation in the towns and cities changed, especially during industrialization . Since the remuneration for gainful employment in industry was on the verge of and below the subsistence level in Europe in the 19th century, supplementary forms of supply in cities became necessary. In order to reduce poverty and hunger in the cities, industrialists and politicians with a social reform stance looked for ways in which the wage-dependent classes could produce their necessary food themselves. One solution was seen in the garden city and in the works settlement , another in the allotment garden , which should serve to supplement the gainful employment.

In the recent past, the idea of ​​self-sufficiency has been taken up by the eco-anarchists Murray Bookchin and Colin Ward and, within the debate on subsistence farming, by Maria Mies and Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen . A well-known self-sufficiency in the 1970s was the Englishman John Seymour , who started a worldwide self-sufficiency movement in the developed countries with his books in the 1970s and still serves many people as a model for an independent lifestyle. In Germany, YouTubers Ralf Roesberger and Florian Rigotti are current examples.

In connection with current resource bottlenecks, supply crises, food competition and food prices, the idea of ​​self-sufficiency in the city is again gaining increased attention (e.g. transition towns ). The euro crisis is working in the same direction with falling wages and rising unemployment, which make self-sufficiency appear as an economic alternative or supplement again. Niko Paech requested as part of the sustainability debate a partial return to self-sufficiency through community gardens or Urban agriculture as a means of solving social and environmental problems.

Legal issues

The Self-Protection Act of September 1965 (in force since January 1968) introduced the civilian population's obligation to protect themselves. According to Section 7 of the Self-Protection Act, each head of the household was obliged to have an emergency supply (including drinking water) that was sufficient for 14 days for himself and the people belonging to the household . This legal obligation to stockpiling for emergencies ended when the Civil Protection and Disaster Relief Act came into force in March 1997, which no longer provides for emergency stockpiling .


The Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) knows the synonymous legal term "self-sufficiency". Self-supply represents a specially regulated sub-case of final consumption of electricity that is not supplied by an electricity supply company. According to § 3 No. 19 EEG, self-supply is "the consumption of electricity that a natural or legal person consumes in the immediate spatial context of the power generation plant if the electricity is not passed through a network and this person operates the power generation plant himself". The end consumer is any natural or legal person who consumes electricity (Section 3 No. 33 EEG).

The prerequisites are the strict personal identity of the system operator (not necessarily the owner) and the electricity consumer, electricity consumption in the immediate spatial context of the system (e.g. the same building, the same property or company premises without disruptive obstacles), and the electricity is not routed through a public power grid. The economic advantage of self-sufficiency is based on the fact that network usage fees, network fee-related charges, concession fees and electricity tax as well as the EEG surcharge are partially or completely eliminated.

In accordance with Section 61 (1) EEG, the network operators are entitled and obliged to demand the EEG surcharge from end consumers for self-supply. According to Section 61a EEG, this entitlement does not apply to self-supply if the electricity in the electricity generation system or in its ancillary and auxiliary systems for generating electricity in the technical sense is consumed at the same time (power plant own consumption) if the electricity generation system of the self-supplier is neither directly nor indirectly connected to a network is if the self-supplier fully supplies himself with electricity from renewable energies and does not claim any payment for the electricity from his system that he does not use himself or if electricity is generated from electricity generation systems with an installed capacity of no more than 10 kilowatts for a maximum of 10 megawatt hours of self-used electricity per calendar year; this applies from the commissioning of the power generation system for a period of 20 calendar years plus the commissioning year.

Specially regulated special self-supply categories are therefore completely exempt from the EEG surcharge: simultaneous power plant self-consumption, self-supply from stand-alone systems (which do not supply electricity to the grid and do not draw electricity from the grid), complete self-supply with electricity from renewable energies and small self-sufficient systems up to a de minimis limit (Section 61 (2) EEG).

economic aspects

Self-sufficiency presupposes that there are no excess demand and no supply gaps , so that there is an absolute clearing of the market . There must also be no delivery bottlenecks or other bottlenecks . Part of the self-sufficiency is also the storage through the storage of emergency supplies , at the federal level through the civil emergency reserve . Self-sufficiency is measured by the degree of self-sufficiency , which indicates how much consumption is covered by domestic production . In the case of strategically important goods such as agricultural products, other foodstuffs, energy or drinking water, self-sufficiency aims to achieve security of supply or energy security in order to reduce or avoid disadvantageous import dependencies. Experience has shown that one-sided monostructural import dependencies ( oil price crises 1973, 1979/1980) can lead to supply crises with serious macroeconomic effects.


Self-sufficiency is also a legal term which , according to Section 14 (2) No. 4 SGB ​​XI, is one of the exclusion criteria for the need for care .

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: self-sufficiency  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1., 1.2. Subsistence farming . , accessed June 29, 2014.
  2. Gustav Krüger, The Energy Turnaround: Desire and Reality , 2013, p. 83 f.
  3. pv magazine: Market overview of battery storage systems for photovoltaic systems. April 4, 2017, accessed on February 23, 2020 (German).
  4. Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen, subsistence economy, global economy, regional economy, in: Maren A. Jochimsen / Ulrike Knobloch (eds.), Lebensweltökonomie in times of economic globalization , Kleine Verlag Bielefeld, 2006. pp. 65–88
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  7. Inge Meta Hülbusch, 'Jedermann Selbstversorger'. The colonial green Leberecht Migges , in: Review of Freiraumplanung , Kassel, 1991, pp. 1–16. Ulrich Linse, Ökopax and Anarchy. A history of ecological movements in Germany , dtv Munich, 1986, pp. 85 ff, ISBN 3-423-10550-X .
  8. Leberecht Migge, Jedermann Selbstversorger , Jena, 1919. Ders., German internal colonization , Berlin-Friedenau, 1926.
  9. Tilman Harlander / Kathrin Hater / Franz Meiers, Siedeln in der Not: Upheaval in housing policy and settlement construction at the end of the Weimar Republic , Christians, Hamburg, 1992, ISBN 3-7672-1053-3 (= city, planning, history , volume 10 ).
  10. Marcus Rohwetter: "I want to show what is possible". In: The time . October 16, 2017, accessed November 1, 2017 .
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  12. Federal Network Agency, Guide to Self-Sufficiency , July 2016, p. 36