Toespraak van staatssecretaris Dijksma bij de conferentie The Future of Farming and Food Security Africa

Toespraak van staatssecretaris Dijksma (EZ)  bij de conferentie The Future of Farming and Food Security Africa in Utrecht op 22 juni 2015. De tekst is alleen in het Engels beschikbaar.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Fifteen years ago, the world united itself behind the Millennium Development Goals. They were noble and necessary ambitions to provide hundreds of millions of people with a more dignified and productive life. In the area of hunger we have made good progress: the overall number of undernourished people decreased by 216 million, in spite of two recessions, rising food and energy prices and increasingly extreme weather.

But we cannot rest on our laurels. Some 795 million people remain undernourished and some 2.5 million children die of hunger every year. This is inhuman and unacceptable and FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva has rightly challenged us to become the Zero Hunger Generation. To realise that worthy vision, we need to put nutrition and sustainable food systems at the forefront of the Post-2015 Development Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Netherlands sees eradicating hunger in the broader context of providing food security to a world that will host 9 billion people by 2050. To feed this many people, we need to integrate three approaches in which farmers play a key role.

First, we need to eradicate hunger and malnourishment, particularly by focusing on children and young women. In the coming years we will promote sexual and reproductive health among adolescent girls, which is the foundation of healthy nutrition in children. In addition we want to increase the resilience of communities against shocks like extreme weather and price fluctuations. To this end we will work with humanitarian aid programmes to focus on risk management, insurance, social security and other strengthening measures.

The second thing we need to do is to encourage inclusive and sustainable growth in the agricultural industry. We will stimulate co-operation across the entire chain, encourage the development of local markets and invest in programmes that strengthen national agricultural and trade policies. Female farmers are of particular importance in all of this, because, as the World Bank recently found, they contribute on average 40% of agricultural labour in Africa.

The third and last thing we need to do is realize food systems that are ecologically resilient. To deal with the triple threat of climate change, degradation of ecosystems and the depletion of water sources, we need to sustainably intensify food production through climate smart agricultural practices. The Netherlands is a global leader in this area and in the coming years we will focus on livestock and areas where key raw agro materials are grown.

By integrating these three approaches, we can change the fortunes of Africa. Because while Northern Africa has met its Millennium Development Goal targets, Sub-Saharan Africa still has a long way to go in spite of a number of encouraging successes. But Africa’s has tremendous economic and agricultural potential. If this vibrant continent manages to increase food production substantially - as some experts believe is possible - the effects would resonate in every African family, community and economy.

Smallholder farmers hold the key to this better future. It is these hard-working men and women who are the heart and soul of a food chain that connects us all. And what they need is fertile soil that can yield a bountiful harvest over long periods of time. Cultivation technologies that adapt to climate changes. Reliable sources of water, which are managed sustainably. And breeding material that is adequately adapted to the local environment and that secures their freedom from multinationals.

To meet these needs, we need an integrated approach that unites all stakeholders. Local governments need to work closely with the FAO and UN bodies such as the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the World Food Programme and the World Health Organisation. And the co-operation of private sector is indispensable, because they bring entrepreneurial drive, innovative technologies and sustainable business models. By pooling these resources we can do more with less. Together we make the sizeable investments needed to imbed sustainable farming practices.

The Netherlands is an enthusiastic champion of partnerships that focus on action in Africa. We are one of the drivers behind the Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture, which takes an integrated approach to food security and climate change. We pioneered the Global Action Network for Blue Growth and Food Security, which aims to secure the oceans as a source of food. We also supported the Access to Seeds index, which aims to improve the availability of quality seeds to smallholders. And only last week, we hosted a global conference against food loss and waste, together with the FAO and UNEP. We are also strengthen the capacity of smallholders to adapt to climate change, for example through IFAD’s Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme and the CGIAR’s Climate Change, Agriculture and Food security Programme.

But the Netherlands is not just a catalyst of organizational change, we also apply our knowledge, expertise and funding on the ground in Africa. We do this through our trademark Dutch Diamond Approach, which sees the government work closely with the private sector, academia and civil society.

Recently, for example, we entered into a partnership with the World Bank Group and the International Finance Cooperation, that will provide both organisation access to Dutch agricultural knowledge and networks. And our private sector is also actively engaged in Africa, attracted by the continent’s market opportunities and room for doing good. Heineken, for example, is helping farmers in Rwanda to increase their yields and market reach. Nutreco, an animal nutrition company, is working with Oxfam Novib and local governments in Nigeria to set up a local fish feed factory.

In our experience, the involvement of the private sector is key. Which is why I call on FAO to engage the private sector in partnerships for development more often. FAO has proven increasingly capable of doing this. It has supported the Committee on World Food Security and become a more results-driven organisation that can be held accountable. I also call on FAO to take action at regional, national and local levels to mitigate risks posed by antimicrobial usage and resistance in food, agriculture and the environment. This is key to Africa.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The eradication of hunger would mark a triumph of human ingenuity and compassion. For hundreds of millions of people, it would mean a significantly better life. It would also boost the prospects of communities and economies worldwide. The Netherlands wholeheartedly supports this ambition and will continue to work closely with our partners in government, the private sector, academia and civil society. Together we can leave Africa and the wider world in better hands than we received it.

Thank you.