Integrated Planning and Management of Land ResourcesFAOCSDUNEP
World Summit on Sustainable Development, South Africa 2002

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Looking Forward to Rio+10: Reporting Progress on Land and Agriculture

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Message 54

Subject: Message 54 - Comments by Kristen Sukalac on the Interventions of Hari Eswaran and Miguel Altieri Date: Fri, 23 Mar 2001 18:17:09 +0100 From: RIO10-Moderator To: "'RIO10-L@mailserv.fao.org'" I would like to thank the many participants for the stimulating discussion we have enjoyed in recent weeks. To begin, I would like to come back to the plea of Dr. Hari Eswaran for better data on the state of land resources. IFPRI and the World Resources Institute have recently published a joint "Pilot Analysis of Global Ecosystems (PAGE): Agroecosystems" which includes exactly this kind of study. The authors do point out the imperfections in the data, but note that their report is a starting point and that satellite data should be greatly improved in coming years as military restrictions on the precision of satellite images available to the public have been greatly reduced. Those who wish to have more information or download a copy of the report should navigate to: http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/books/page.htm . I would like to refer to Miguel Altieri's message posted on March 20. There were many points I agree with in this message, especially the need to combat rural poverty, to take into account traditional knowledge as a base, to manage natural resources wisely, to adopt participatory, bottom-up approaches, and so on. His intervention does raise many questions in my mind as well. As he states, traditional methods are persistent in many, often marginal, farmlands. But is this a testament to their success or to the lack of access to inputs and thus lack of choices of these farmers? I suspect that the answer varies from case to case. I also wonder if this persistence is a sign of success of this strategy? Do we know what proportion of farmers using solely these methods have been unsuccessful? As many of these leave rural areas, they perhaps eliminate the proof of their failed attempts. What is the time frame for the output levels quoted by Mr. Altieri? Of the long-term studies I am aware of, the best performing systems over the long-term were integrated farming systems that incorporate traditional practices but use modern inputs as needed. Indeed, in the above-cited PAGE report, it is interesting to note that land degradation correlates largely with areas of low agricultural inputs. I suspect this is because of the unbalanced use of available inputs and a lack of access to others. It is also probably related to the fact that these zones do use more marginal lands which may not really be appropriate for agricultural production. In my view, part of natural resource management should be seeking to optimize production on good agricultural lands, being ever mindful to maintain soil fertility, and to avoid, where possible, the use of marginal lands for agriculture I look forward to continuing our debates in Rome next week. Sincerely, Kristen E. Sukalac

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