This week, I joined my colleagues from all over the world for the 37th Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome. This bi-annual conference brings together world leaders in food and agriculture to discuss important issues related to agriculture, forestry, and global food security. This year’s conference is of particular significance as delegates elected a new Director-General, Jose Graziano da Silva of Brazil, to replace Jacques Diouf of Senegal, who has served in the position since 1993. The United States thanks Dr. Diouf for his hard work and dedication during his time as the Director General. We are confident that Dr. Graziano da Silva will continue the ongoing reform effort to ensure that FAO is a strong, vibrant organization capable of tackling the challenges before us.
At this year’s meeting, ‘Women in Agriculture’ is the central theme and I am joined here by Melanne Verveer, U.S. Department of State’s Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, and Ertharin Cousin, Ambassador, U.S. Mission to the U.N. Agencies, as part of the U.S. delegation. In 2009, I had the great honor of being the first woman to chair this meeting. This year, the conference focused on the important role of women in agriculture. FAO reports emphasize that closing the gender gap in agriculture would greatly benefit the agriculture sector and society as a whole. If women had the same access to knowledge, resources, and leadership roles as men, they could increase yields on their farms by as much as 30 percent. Production gains of this magnitude could reduce hunger for as many as 150 million people. Obviously, women play a key role in the fight against hunger and poverty.
We look forward to working closely with Dr. Graziano da Silva to ensure that the FAO continues to reform and push for more sustainable agricultural development, greater access to nutritional crops and more opportunities for women, particularly small-holder farmers, to receive the technical capacity and training support that are required to participate in the agricultural sector. As FAO begins a new era in its history, we remain committed to supporting the organization, its continuing reforms, and its critical work combating hunger around the globe.