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

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Message 55

Subject: Message 55 - Interventions by Arthur Getz-Escudero on Questions 3 , 4, 5 & 6 Date: Fri, 23 Mar 2001 18:17:45 +0100 From: RIO10-Moderator To: "'RIO10-L@mailserv.fao.org'" Dear Colleagues: The exchanges of information have been most intriguing and helpful for evaluating the way forward on SARD at many levels. As can be seen from several who have contributed as NGO/farmer participants in the processes leading to SARD from the early 1990s, to efforts at implementing SARD from 1992 up through to the present, there are many observations to make in response to the questions of this E-Conference. Because of the limits on time and space, these remarks will be brief. For a more complete representation of some of the positions reflected here, I refer to the document, the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Caucus input to the FAO Task Managers for SARD in January, 2001 entitled "The Perspective on SARD From the Ground Up" (sent to be attached to the record of contributions) as well as to the NGO Paper on SARD for CSD8 which can be found in the background documents for this E-Conference. Having not yet made an intervention, it is be appropriate in this last week of the E-Conference on SARD to work from this week's questions backward to the questions of earlier weeks. Cooperation among stakeholders on technical and policy areas of SARD (Question 6): There are indeed many examples of efforts to coordinate human and financial resources to better manage natural resources for SARD at local community levels. They can be found on every continent and probably in every country. Many remain intact as resilient and complex traditional agroecological systems, and as such, are the foundation for local food security in most developing countries. Many combine practices based on a mix of traditional, indigenous and new technologies. As has been mentioned there are technical successes that are 'islands in a sea of rural deprivation'. In many rural areas of both developing and developed countries the crisis of economic survival is so pronounced however, that these successes must first surmount a tremendous barrier of scepticism and despair, and then achieve recognition for their potential and their replicable elements. The best, most comprehensive technical solutions from on-the-ground experience are those which are not just responsive to the local conditions, but that are in fact generated by local farmers, allied organizations, and local governing authorities. They are evolved from direct experience with local market and social contexts, rather than being merely 'responsive' to local conditions. The difference is one of decision-making authority and the specific allocation of risk and benefit for the most vulnerable, especially the landless, indigenous peoples and women food producers. Assistance for technical support, in addition to financial and policy support, most often are the crucial contributions from outside local communities. But the right questions are: Who decides? Who takes the risk? Who benefits? These are questions of political, social and financial equity. And they are questions that are often most elusive and confused in the national and international debates over the future of land management, agriculture and rural development. The FAO Task Managers Report does point to multistakeholder cooperation on SARD as the most significant development since Rio (Part II, paragraph 24, iv.). In fact, the practice of multistakeholder policy development processes in SARD is still very new. The experience from the April, 2000 Multistakeholder Dialogue on SARD during CSD-8 has been the most far-reaching policy dialogue yet held among major groups of civil society and governments. The opportunity is strong to move beyond sharpening the differences among regions and major groups, toward achieving bold policy initiatives that overcome the obstacles to resolution of critical issues on land and agriculture management, trade, technology and land tenure. But it will indeed take a level of understanding, compromise, and political will that has not yet been seen. Effective and integrated use of human, financial and natural resources (Question 5): The best practices for SARD are first and foremost local expressions; they are applicable across agroecosystems at larger scales only with the active adoption and adaptation by their corresponding local farm, rural and urban communities. Examples of local-to-local dissemination of best practices for SARD in North America include new cooperative market structures linking urban populations directly to farm communities. Variously called "community supported agriculture", "local food system" development or "community food security", these private voluntary efforts of farmers and allied civil society groups first started with little policy or public agency support. This new regional and local food marketing development occurs in the context of dramatic stress in the food system: small scale producers face the lowest prices for their products in wholesale markets, consumers face new fear of industrial food product safety and food-borne disease, and communities face the complete loss of small farms in nearby rural areas. Comprehensive approaches to integrating human, financial and natural resources for sustainable agriculture include: 1. the re-integration of crop and livestock agriculture on farms; 2. education of consumers for seasonal and locally available foods; 3. developing partnerships between farmers associations such as marketing cooperatives, with supportive procurement policies from institutional food buyers such as schools and colleges, development NGOs, etc.; 4. new policy initiatives and the promulgation of local and state land use and food safety regulations that promote small scale, and local processing of food; 5. development of alternative credit programs and new sources of community-based ownership of productive lands for agriculture; 6. education and technical assistance for producers using sustainable land management practices (such as organic, reduced pesticide and other ecological management); 7. integration of open space and land conservation policies with farm preservation policy. Proposals for the way forward on SARD (Question 4): It is important to note that SARD is a framework that attempts to address very different food production and food security strategies as multiple local and national strategies meet at the regional and international level. Technology transfer and trade policy have been among the subjects of intense debate on SARD. Current food safety alarms related to food technology and trade have brought a critical spotlight back to the fundamentals. The model of export-driven, industrial production of commodities for world markets championed by the major exporting nations is being questioned today by many government and even agribusiness interests. This model is the source of the many "biases" limiting progress towards SARD, as mentioned by one E-Conference participant. Numerous other comments confirm the need for greater attention placed on the structure of agriculture itself - the global production strategies of multinational corporations, the patterns of concentrated ownership in the food and agriculture sector, inequitable access to land, the consequences of trade and pricing mechanisms that dislodge entire rural populations in regions around the world - this is the proper context for debating the way forward on SARD. Root causes of current trends and challenges (Question 3): >From this context it is clear that civil society, government and the private sector must wrestle with the difficult root questions. Ten years ago only civil society was willing to talk of the possibility that the dominant model of agricultural development was flawed. A few years ago there was some discussion of a difference between "deep" and "shallow" SARD in discussion between civil society and government. Today, there is considerably more access and opportunity to broaden this debate in the places where important policy and resource decisions are made. The problem is that there are few intergovernmental institutions willing to go beyond just listening, and to actively examine and advocate for solutions that address root causes of hunger and poverty. In this E-Conference, there have been voices calling on FAO to take greater leadership in advancing the interests and rights of the majority of people working the land as small holders, the landless and farm workers. Agricultural policy designs are dominated by the powerfully linked but narrower interests of industry, urban markets and trade, as mentioned in paragraph 9 of the Task Manager's Report, Part II. Yet over the past ten years the voices of civil society have grown stronger and clearer that a more inclusive and holistic framework is vital for the sustainability of agriculture and balanced rural development. They call for a more equitable structuring of interests with real consequence in land and agriculture management as essential prerequisites to solve problems of poverty, hunger and the future of the world food supply. Arthur Getz-Escudero Associate, Biological Resources Program World Resources Institute

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