Members of the jury, sponsors, friends and colleagues, I am honored to be with you tonight to receive the Gothenburg Award for Sustainable Development.
It was under the auspices of one of the recipients of the Gothenburg Award, Gro Harlem Brundtland, that in 1987 the challenge of sustainable development was first elaborated: to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own.
Realizing sustainable development has become more pressing since the work of the Brundtland Commission: we have still to answer the call for integrated policies that address economic, social and environmental objectives.
The current state of the world economy and growing threat of man-made climate change are proof positive that we can no longer continue with business as usual.
The recent negotiations in Durban have only highlighted the urgent need for, and potential of, concerted action on a global scale to tackle the threat of climate change.
Perhaps I need not remind this audience of the impact of extreme and unpredictable weather on lives and livelihoods, and particularly on global food security.
The flooding in Thailand, which will have a likely consequence of a 25% drop in rice production, and the crisis in the Horn of Africa, which has thrown over 13 million people into famine, are only two examples of the growing threat the changing climate poses to food security.
Ladies and gentlemen, it was only 13 years ago when I held the world’s 6 billionth person, Adnan, in my arms at a Sarajevo hospital; and only a few weeks ago, we witnessed the birth of Nargis, the world’s 7 billionth person, in Mall village, India.
Of these 7 billion now living in our world, one billion goes to bed hungry every night.
This figure is set to grow unless we lay the foundations for sustainable food and nutrition security- the FAO forecasts that food production will need to increase by at least 70% by 2050 to meet the needs of a world of 9 billion people, while a changing and unpredictable climate reduces global average yields.
Nowhere are the challenges of food security, and the opportunities for the future, more obvious than in Africa, where I have focused my efforts through the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.
Africa is the continent where the biggest future growth in population is projected, and it is already failing to produce enough food to feed its peoples.
And yet, it is blessed with 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land. Moreover, 4 out of 5 Africans depend on farming and related activities for their livelihood.
These factors make African smallholder-led agriculture the key to food and nutrition security for current and future generations; Africa would not only be able to feed itself, but also make a significant contribution to world food supply.
This is why AGRA, whose work you have heard much about during today’s seminar, is committed to fostering the development of efficient and climate-smart agriculture by investing in Africa’s breadbaskets, where good soil, water and infrastructure hold the most potential to increase productivity.
Climate-resilient agriculture will help Africa adapt to the effects of climate change, and climate-smart agriculture will enable the continent to contribute towards mitigation efforts.
Soil fertility enhancement initiatives combined with the use of carbon-absorbing seed strains will also go a long way to help capitalize on the mitigation potential of investments in African agriculture.
However, realizing Africa’s potential contribution to world food supply and climate change adaptation and mitigation requires the engagement and expertise of scientists, multilateral institutions, governments and businesses; it requires concerted action.
With the right knowledge, enabling policy framework, resources and infrastructure to support the hard work of smallholder farmers, most of whom are women, Africa can transform its agriculture to grow enough food to meet its own needs, and produce surpluses to meet growing demands across the globe, whilst responding to the realities of a changing climate.
I am proud to share this cause, and this award, with the Tigray project, which is also empowering small-scale farmers to provide sustainable solutions for global food security and make a difference in the lives, and livelihoods, of millions.
And I am delighted to see that Sweden has taken a leading role in promoting and realizing sustainable development goals at home and abroad.
The future of 9 billion plus people depends on us putting in place the right policies and systems to deliver food security in an environmentally-sustainable manner within a few decades.
This is the challenge of our time.
Thank you again for the honour you have given me tonight.