Welcoming Remarks by Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director to 2nd World Agroforestry Congress
Nairobi, 24 August 2009—The Vice President of Kenya, Honourable ministers, Nobel Prize laureate Wangari Maathai, Director General of the World Agroforesrtry Centre, co-host and neighbour, Dennis Garrity, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
Welcome to the 2nd World Agroforestry Congress being held here at the UN Office at Nairobi and jointly hosted by the World Agroforestry Centre and UNEP.
The theme 'Agroforestry-The Future of Global Land Use' echoes to the challenges but also opportunities of our time.
How do we, in a world of more than six billion people rising to perhaps over nine billion, feed everyone while simultaneously securing the ecosystem services such as forests and wetlands that underpin agriculture, and indeed life itself in the first place?
And how do we achieve all this while also overcoming poverty, generating decent jobs for the 1.3 billion under-employed or unemployed and combating the greatest challenge of this generation—climate change.
Sometimes you have to think small to think big.
Humanity all too often thinks in boxes rather than in complexity—thinks keeping it simple rather than using a systems approach is the best way forward.
There are those who look for silver bullets—nuclear power and genetically modified organisms, might be two examples.
Others might wish to consign modern scientific and technological knowledge to the dustbin and seek to turn back the clock to some kind of ideological or mythical rural idyll.
Ladies and gentlemen,
the sustainability challenges we are confronted with today will not be amenable to such polarized approaches.
We must take the best of the indigenous, traditional and farmers knowledge, forged over centuries of trial and error, and submit it to empirical, scientific and rigorous evaluation.
We must also put our modern, technological prowess under a fresh lens and more wide-ranging scrutiny.
It must be subject to broader cost benefit analysis alongside delivering a wider suite of societal and environmental goals.