I am pleased to send greetings to the International Conference on Food Security in Dry Lands, and I thank His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and the Qatar National Food Security Programme for organizing it. I also thank Qatar for hosting the forthcoming 18th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Climate change and food security are closely linked so I hope that the UNFCCC will consider food security in its deliberations. The effects of climate change are particularly evident in the drylands, which occupy more than 40 per cent of our planet’s land area. Dryland inhabitants are among the world’s poorest and most vulnerable to hunger, with little resilience to the intensifying cycles of extreme drought and flood that climate change is causing. We must address their needs to achieve progress on the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
Last year, famine struck parts of Somalia and 10 million people across the Horn of Africa needed emergency relief. This year 18 million people in the Sahel are struggling through their third drought in less than 10 years. The Sahel crisis also points to the broader threat climate change poses to development, peace and security. Diminishing water resources, degraded grazing grounds and declining agricultural yields increase the potential for conflict. Droughts, such as we have recently seen in the United States, Kazakhstan, Russia, Brazil and India, also raise prices in the marketplace -- with potential economic, political and security ramifications.
The impacts of climate change are with us already and will continue to intensify even as we develop mitigation strategies. We must therefore act as best – and as fast – as we can. Reversing land degradation and improving water security will be central to improving food and nutrition security for the 9 billion people who will inhabit the planet in 2050. This will entail reforming our current agricultural practices, which are not only hugely wasteful of water but are a significant contributor of greenhouse gases.
Making all food systems sustainable is at the center of the Zero Hunger Challenge I launched at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development in June. We must promote efficiency throughout the food chain, reduce inputs and waste and nurture the soil. We must increase investment in sustainable agriculture, and manage risk by improving our ability to forecast weather and by developing climate-resilient crops. And we must build innovative partnerships among farmers – small- and large-scale -- governments, businesses, academia, international organizations and civil society.
Let us work together to scale up nutrition and ensure food security for all members of the human family, especially the vulnerable inhabitants of the world’s drylands. I commend Qatar for its leadership on both food security and climate change, and for highlighting the link between the two. I wish you a productive meeting.