Statement by the Swedish Minister for Rural Affairs, Mr Eskil Erlandsson, at the 37th session of the FAO Conference

Chairperson of the Conference,
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure for me to attend this thirty-seventh session of the FAO Conference. We gather here at an important occasion for the FAO. The Organization is in the midst of a comprehensive and vital reform process while we, the membership, have just elected a new Director General. I want to congratulate the Director General elect, Mr. José Graziano da Silva, and assure him that the Government of Sweden will do all it can to support him in his new task as Director General of this important institution.

I would also like to express the Swedish Government's gratitude to Director General Jaques Diouf for his tireless efforts aimed at raising global awareness about world hunger and agriculture during his time in office.

The challenges facing the international community today are many and diverse. However, the biggest challenges of our time remain those of global poverty and hunger. The fact that close to one of every six human beings does not have enough food to eat on a daily basis is clear testimony to the fact that we, developing and developed countries alike, have not done enough.

The gender dimension of agriculture is key to a sustainable solution and I am grateful to FAO for having dedicated the State Of Food and Agriculture report to this topic. By focusing more on the gender aspects of agriculture we could substantially reduce the number of hungry people in the world.

The facts as presented in the SOFA-report are clear:
" Women make up a substantial part of the agricultural workforce in many countries,
" Women are just as efficient as men in terms of agricultural production provided that they have access to the same level of inputs as men,
" Inputs are not only seeds, tools and fertilizers, but more importantly access to land and credit.

Swedish development cooperation is today performed within a framework of three overarching priorities. One of them is gender equality and the role of women in development.

In our ongoing development cooperation program, we have seen some clear positive results as a consequence of gender targeted agricultural programs. This was achieved by adopting affirmative action on selected training and promoting gender equity in resource allocation. The success that Sweden has had in this regard is not unique. But it proves that with the appropriately designed measures, sustainable results that benefit women as well as men can be achieved.

Mr/Mdm Chairperson,

This Conference takes place at a time when agriculture and food security remain high on the global political agenda. This, to me, constitutes a huge opportunity that we can not afford to let slip away. I therefore propose that we all, when the Conference is over, return to our individual posts and renew our efforts with the aim of better serving the global community by reducing global hunger and poverty and thereby achieving the first Millennium Development Goal.

Thank you for your attention.