Head of Strategy Terje Tollefsen is the latest messenger spreading Yara's outlook on pressing global issues to top-level audiences.
Even for February, the weather was unusually rainy when industry leaders, government, donors, aid agencies and the research community discussed ways to deliver improved food security and sustainable agricultural development at the Economist's London conference, 'World Hunger: A Crisis Now and a Catastrophe In 2050?'.
Yara’s Head of Strategy & Business Development, Terje Tollefsen, spoke as part of the panel tackling the topic - 'An action plan for smallholder farmers' - along with Nestlé's Corporate Head of Agriculture Hans Jöhr, One Acre Fund Director of Policy and Outreach Stephanie Hanson, The Economist's Globalization Editor John Parker - and Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network CEO and Yara Prize laureate Lindiwe Majele Sibanda.
The agricultural sector holds the key
The panel focused on issues that have long been behind Yara's prize and long-term commitment to a green revolution in Africa: improving conditions for smallholder farmers, the majority of them women; building infrastructure, markets and access to inputs; adjusting to climate change; and the interplay of public and private efforts.
“On the positive side, the agricultural sector has been a global focus area ever since the food price spikes in 2007 and 2008. There are many good examples of collaboration and partnerships,” Tollefsen said.
“But there are dysfunctional parts in the value chain," he continued, "and it is important for Yara to focus on working to help smallholder farmers go from subsistence agriculture to commercial farming, and that requires successful partnerships.”
Even in the positive cases there is still too little integration of efforts and too little alignment. There was a call for food, nutrition, climate and development agendas to be aligned across sectors, and for agricultural growth to move to an inclusive approach, integrating those agendas into their perspectives.
Unlocking the value chain
"We need to unlock the value chain," Tollefsen argued. "Poor quality seeds and expensive fertilizer due to low volumes block increased yields. Investments are the key to creating virtuous circles."
Commenting on the overall conference topic of 'Feeding the World', Tollefsen explains that being part of the global dialogue on food, resources and environmental issues is important to promote Yara's solutions.
“To Yara, reversing the chronic lack of productivity growth in Sub-Saharan agriculture is clearly linked to the need to cope with the megatrends of growth, increased affluence and dietary changes. We see this combination of factors as a challenge to the global food system. As the planetary boundaries of freshwater use are reached, good agricultural land grows scarce, and increasing acreage expansion drives global warming creating 'an intersection of challenges',” Tollefsen argues.
“In such conditions, Yara's solutions can play an important role – promoting our business as well as adding value for society and customers,” he adds.
Yara's stance is that agriculture likely represents the cheapest avenue to substantially cutting emissions - through implementation of best practice farming - resulting in progress towards ending hunger and malnutrition. New technology, best practice implementation, R&D and innovation must be harnessed to engineer a second edition of the Green Revolution - a so-called 'Green Green Revolution'.