"Agriculture is a corner stone in sustainable economic development"

Last changed: 24 October 2019

Kerstin Jonsson Cissé is the head of the Global Sustainable Economic Development Unit at the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). She visited SLU to give a welcome speech at the Agricultural Research for Development Conference, Agri4D 2019; and also, to take the advantage to listen to frontline research on food systems.

How does agriculture contribute to development? 

- I think that agriculture is a corner stone in sustainable economic development since it is about food, shelter, livelihood and nature biodiversity. All of this is crucial for poverty reduction, especially if we want to reach the Goal of Zero Hunger by 2030 that is stipulated in the Agenda 2030. 

Zero hunger is the theme for this conference. How can we reach that goal?

- It is complex, but I think that we need to join hands from different traditional sectors. Gender and women’s role in the food systems are areas that I think we need to focus on. The small-scale farming is still very important when it comes to food production in the world and a large percentage of the small-scale farmers are actually women. So to provide opportunities, funding, credit options and land rights for women farmers is important.

- There is also a need to restore the already de-forested landscapes and make better use of the soils that are in the beginning of being degraded. There is no either-or; climate change and agriculture are not two different disciplines, instead there should be a merged effort involving the two. They both need each other.

- The third thing that I want to underline is the issue of finance and funding. I see that there is private capital that could be useful in the development of food production. For example small- and medium-scale farmers could get access to credits or small funding (start-up funding). At Sida we are working for that there should be guarantees to cover the risks for the larger investors. If the big money, that actually exists out there, could be used into a farming that increases food production, then we increase our chances of reaching zero hunger in 2030.

With your background from SLU, a PhD in agroforestry and soil science with the focus on Tanzania and Burkina Faso, how do you see that SLU can contribute to reach the goal of zero hunger by 2030?

- Research, higher education and capacity building are of course key. I think that SLU should continue to train students and provide courses and opportunities to be exposed to other universities and scientists in other countries. Students and scientists can work in partnership and not only European students going to African countries, but also the other way around. People from low-income countries should be given the opportunity to come to Sweden, to use our facilities and learn about the Swedish approach to research.

- Finally; research, research, research and research in partnerships. And I of course hope that SLU will continue to have a high profile on the development agenda.

What is the main challenge for agriculture production and food supply in low- and middle-income countries in this era of climate change, and how can we best mitigate and adapt?

- First of all, as I said earlier on, it is a complex task and there is need for combinations of different initiatives. One part of the solution is to keep diversity – diversity in farming systems, seeds, techniques, and not put all the eggs in the same basket. Also, we should look for local solutions and scale them up.

- There is a need to combine conventional and agroecological methods and techniques in order to feed the whole population, but at the same time take the climate change into serious consideration.

- Finally, I think that general research, not only on technology, but on improved production, seeds and farming systems is needed to really show proofs and give incentives to the different actors – both private sectors and farmers involved in the actual production.

Do you have any final words?

- I am happy to be here and listen to these front-line-researchers.

Thank you Kerstin!

News article about the Agri4D 2019 conference.