Transforming Agriculture for a Food Secure Future

Oslo, 7. mars 2016

Statssekretær Tone Skogens åpningsinnlegg på Norads seminar "Mat og utvikling - matsikkerhet og ernæring i norsk bistand".

  • First, I would like to thank the Director of Norad, Jon Lomøy and his team for arranging this week on the important topic of food security. I am very pleased to be here with you today.
  • We live in a time of dramatic global changes. Enough food is being produced in the world today. However, climate change, conflicts, migration and political marginalisation of the poor are all contributing to the hunger that exists in many areas. Persistent undernourishment and malnourishment constitutes a hidden crisis – a crisis affecting far more people than the 800 million living in extreme poverty.
  • That does not mean that global efforts to combat hunger have been in vain: the number of malnourished people in the world has been almost halved over the past 25 years.
  • However, more needs to be done. In some African countries, nearly half the children are stunted. This has serious long-term consequences for development. Investment in education and heath will not produce the results desired unless children have sufficient access to healthy food.
  • Relief organisations are warning us that millions of people around the world will suffer from hunger, inadequate access to water and various diseases as a result of climate change. And we cannot blame it all on El Niño.
  • The majority of the world's poor live in rural areas, where agriculture including forestry, is the main source of income. Agriculture will continue to be the dominant sector of employment for most young people in Africa in the coming decades. At the same time, it is a highly political sector. Strong interests are involved over which smallholder farmers in general, and women farmers in particular, exercise little or no democratic control.
  • Two major global agreements were reached in 2015: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with its 17 goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Norway played an active role in negotiating both these agreements.
  • The 2030 Agenda acknowledges that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions is the greatest global challenge of our time. Ending poverty is crucial for sustainable development. The universality of Agenda 2030 is at the heart of this international pledge.
  • However, the impacts of climate change could undermine all our efforts to achieve sustainable development. The declaration from Paris clearly reflects this challenge.
  • So how do we address this situation? The Norwegian Government is stimulating activity in the agricultural sector with strong focus on the linkages to other development priorities, such as food security, nutrition, health and education, and not least new business opportunities and job creation. Employment opportunities in agrobusiness will be of crucial importance not only for promoting economic development, but also for reducing conflicts and migration. Young people in particular will benefit from more jobs in this sector.
  • We are pleased to have very competent partners. Norwegian and international civil society organisations, research institutions and the private sector pay significant contributions to food security. We are pleased that many of you are here today. Your insights are valuable to us.
  • Education is a vital factor for improving livelihoods. Our commitment to education for all, with focus on education for girls, remains strong. Alongside our education efforts, we are also supporting programmes to provide school meals, for example in Malawi. This has proven to be an effective approach and is benefiting girls in particular.
  • We have a strong commitment towards global health. We support the realization of women's, children's and adolescent's health with the aim not only to survive, but also to thrive and transform the societies they live in. We do it by supporting several global partnerships, and particularly the Global Financing Facility in support of Every Woman Every Child. Better nutrition, water and sanitation policies are important determinants for improved health outcomes.
  • We work to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate related natural disasters. Access to good meteorological data is crucial for improving emergency preparedness. However, the most vulnerable populations have the least access to such information. Our long-term support to the Global Framework for Climate Services is an important response to this challenge.
  • The World Food Programme is a major partner for Norway in our humanitarian efforts. It plays a key role helping to stabilise conflict prone areas and fragile states, and we are increasing our funding to this agency. We also support the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on the basis of its normative role, in particular in the area of global food security. For example, it has done important work in developing norms for sustainable small-scale fishing. Norway's engagement in these efforts is based on our own experience, as small-scale fishing was an important contributor to Norwegian economic growth. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (Ifad) is the third leg in our partnership with the UN on food security. Ifad provides valuable support for small-scale farming. Norway attaches particular importance to strengthening the rights of women in this context.
  • Norway is also a long-standing supporter of the global agricultural research partnership CGIAR. CGIAR's research efforts have led to impressive achievements in the agricultural sector that have improved the lives of hundreds of millions. We know that investing in research and innovation is crucial if we are to be able to meet the challenges we are facing today.
  • We also know that support to agriculture and nutrition can have positive effects beyond increased food security. This speaks to the importance of supporting this sector. Food shortages in developing countries can destabilise governments and create internal and international migratory challenges that not only affect neighbouring countries, but also countries far away like Norway. Sustainable rural growth and development of the agriculture sector is therefore a precondition – not only for poverty reduction, but also for sustaining peace and stability in food deficient regions.
  • Norway's strategy Food Security in a Climate Perspective 2013-2015 focused on smallholders, the private sector and women farmers. It underlined Norway's commitment to addressing discrimination against women smallholders when it comes to land rights and financial services. The follow-up of this strategy is now being carried forward by Norad. I hope this week will bring to the table relevant ideas and initiatives that will further improve our joint efforts in the battle against global hunger and undernutrition.
  • I wish you a very fruitful week of deliberations on a topic of the utmost importance to all of us. Thank you.