Excellency, Professor Swaminathan, Vice Chancellor, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Agricultural Production Commissioner, Mr. Sandeep Saxena, Government of Tamil Nadu, Dear Friends
It is a great pleasure for me to be here in Chennai today to participate in the inauguration of the Clima-Adapt Program. This is also my first visit to India and I am very happy that this visit has brought me to Chennai. The distance between our two countries may be great in the geographical sense. However, the cooperation between Norwegian agencies and their Indian partners show that we are perhaps closer than we thought. I am especially happy to meet you, Professor Swaminathan. Your contribution to global research on food security is and has been considerable.
I have listened with great interest to the presentations made earlier this morning. The Clima-Adapt program, funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Norwegian Embassy in Delhi, has a special value in the way it links research, innovation and capacity building. It provides a unique opportunity where farmers, women and other key stakeholders can interact with the scientists in order to formulate the best adaption methods. This way both sides can learn from each other and sustainable solutions will stay with the local actors when the program is completed. This is also a very good example of international cooperation with a great potential to advance knowledge and capacity beyond the scope of the program. Public – Private Partnership is encouraged, something which is important to ensure up-scaling and continued work in the period after the program.
The Program Coordinator, Bioforsk is a national Research and Development institute under the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food. International co-operation is an important part of their work, and they have gained considerable experience from cooperation in the south and SE Asian region especially in India. I recently visited one of their research stations here in Norway. The object of that visit was to learn more about their important research on grain production under changing climatic conditions. Food grain production is also important for Norwegian food security like any other country. We have had several years now with low yield due to much rain. This is of great concern to me and Bioforsk performs important research in this regard.
Food security and sustainable development after Rio
In the Rio+20 Conference, we adopted the declaration “The Future We Want” and renewed our commitments to sustainable development 20 years after the first Rio Conference. The declaration underlines that there can be no sustainable development if people are hungry.
Food security is a pressing issue in our world today and will continue to be one of the most important topics in the years to come. Last year marked an important change as more than half of the world’s still growing population live in urban areas. But we also know that most of the poor people live in the countryside and depend in some way on agriculture for their daily bread and living. The effects of climate change are felt by more and more of us, and the most vulnerable populations are hit the hardest. Poverty and hunger are everyday realities for almost a billion people in this world. In the last years, food prices have remained high and volatile. This impacts the most on poor countries depending for a large part on food imports. There is a race for available land, be it for the production of food or energy crops.
One of the most important outcomes of Rio was the agreement to work towards common Sustainable Development Goals. We have supported the idea of SDGs as we believe they have the potential to become a key instrument to focus our commitment and galvanize action. We also believe that they will push us to handle the three dimensions of sustainable development in an integrated manner. The Millennium Development Goals have taught us how to measure progress. That successful experience should guide how we set up the SDGs.
The SDGs should be global and have implication for every country but in different ways. For instance, there could be a global goal on food security. For many developing countries, the implication would be to produce more food. For others - like Norway it could mean to change our consumption habits. In this way, the SDGs can help us all make progress in different areas, but towards a common goal.
Norway is currently establishing an initiative to support adaptation of the agricultural sector in developing countries to climate change. Climate-resilient agriculture will be vital if the global demand for food is to be met. In the short term this will provide greater predictability and improve earning opportunities for individual households. Strengthening the agricultural sector in developing countries will require a more innovative approach and new forms of partnership. More active cooperation with the private sector will be a key element of this work.
Global problems – local solutions
The global conferences and summits over the last decades, such as the Rio Conference and the World Summit on Food Security in 2009, have provided us with the analyses and suggested solutions to our common challenges. However, every country has a sovereign right to choose its own path to meet these challenges and contribute to our joint global responsibility to manage our resources in a sustainable manner. Global problems require local solutions.
In Norway, the state plays an important role in defining and shaping our agricultural policies. The state plays a proactive role with a clear democratic mandate through our Parliament in the management of national resources for food production. Ensuring food security through increased sustainable food production is one of the main goals for Norwegian agricultural policies. Only 3 percent of the total area in Norway is arable land. To preserve and protect agricultural land is therefore a high priority.
Another important aspect of agricultural policies in Norway is price stabilization. And this is especially important in a period where international prices are both high and volatile. Food security in a modern economy means, inter alia that people are able to afford to buy their own food. The state’s role should be to provide the necessary security of income for the farmers who produce the food and stability of prices for the people who shall buy the food. This is important not least to recognize the role of farmers in feeding the nation and their contribution to global food security.
Let me also emphasize the importance of gender equality. Gender inequality is holding back progress in agriculture and food security. Women provide most of the food for consumption in many countries, and are most often responsible for food processing and preparation of food. Despite their role as the backbone of food security, women`s access to critical resources such as land, water, technology, training and extension facilities, marketing services and credit is limited. A rights-based approach is vital to address this gender gap and security of tenure for women is especially important here. I understand that steps are being taken in India to empower women, for example through the Women Self Help Groups.
Norway is strongly committed to mainstreaming gender issues in development. We plan to increase support to female farmers and in particular access to knowledge and training on various farming techniques like conservation agriculture, as well as other services that can lead to improved productivity and income.
Rural areas must be a good place to work and live for both women and men. Measures must be targeted especially at young female farmers, who are often the key entrepreneurs for rural development. Gender related research and the strengthening of female participation in farm cooperatives is also part of the strategy.
Closing and special tribute to Prof. Swaminathan
It has been a great pleasure for me to meet all of you, but especially you professor Swaminathan and learn more about the important work you do both here in India and globally. We need leadership in this field and you have shown us how for decades now.
You received the first World Food Prize in 1987 for your leadership in the introduction of high-yielding wheat and rice varieties to India’s farmers. In your capacity as Independent Chairman of the FAO Council in 1981-1985, you played a crucial role in the establishment of the FAO Commission on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Norway is also strongly committed to promoting the importance of genetic resources for food and agriculture and we recognize your important contribution in that regard.
In June this year, the CFS High Level Panel of Experts under your leadership presented its report on food security and climate change. The Panel is a central part of the reformed UN Committee on Food Security. We have high expectations to the reformed CFS and hope that it will succeed in playing a vital role in shaping the agenda and providing good recommendations for food security in the years to come.
One of the recommendations in the HLPE report is to collect information locally, share knowledge globally and then refocus research to address a more complex set of objectives. The research cooperation between Bioforsk and its Indian partners is a good example of how that recommendation can be put into practice.
I am happy to see so many farmers here today and wish you the best of luck in your endeavours. It is also encouraging to see so many government officials present. This shows the importance of involving all relevant stakeholders to ensure sustainable food security.
I wish all of the involved the best of luck with the program in the years to come and look forward to learning more during my stay here in India.