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 57

Subject: Message 57 - Comment by Hari Eswaran on Comments by Kristen Suka lac on the Interventions of Hari Eswaran and Miguel Altieri (Message 54) Date: Sat, 24 Mar 2001 15:08:34 +0100 From: RIO10-Moderator To: "'RIO10-L@mailserv.fao.org'" Land resource information Kristen Sukalac is correct when she referred to the PAGE effort of IFPRI and WRI (I was also involved in it). However, this is a global effort and so of little use to the resource poor farmers we are trying to help. Satellite imagery can provide the farm level information. However, there is no institution in the developing part of the world that has the capability to access this information. In addition remote sensed info is land surface information. For this reason, when soil scientists make farm level maps, they do it the old fashioned way by auguring and digging pits. Between 1950 and 70, FAO and UNESCO had a monumental project and the product was the Soil Map of the World. This fantastic effort produced the database for all the global projections that we are making now. After this FAO slowly dismantled their staff and today there is only a skeleton staff left in the Land and Water Office. What we need today is an effort coordinated by an organization such as FAO to build up the data base on Land Degradation and the farm level information base. Local persons must be trained so that a standardized database can be developed. The Convention to Combat Desertification is in a sense going around in circles as they do not have or do not want to invest in this. If we do not do this and get our base-line data for all the countries, we will continue our "hit-and-run" activities in the name of implementing sustainable agriculture. The United Nations organizations spend millions of dollars in all the fancy programs. But the farmers of the tropics see little or no impact. I am more than ever convinced that much of the effort is misdirected or misplaced. Madison Avenue spends a lot of money to determine the needs of the customers so that they can implement targeted marketing. What do we know about the people and the land on which they live. We have stereo type images and we paint them all the same. In a year I will retire after 35 years of this business. I will retire frustrated and with the conviction that the part of the world I care about is a worse place than when I started working in it 30 years ago. It is not because that we technical people did not know what to do or where to do it. It is because of all those guys who would rather make a living by cheating the people of the tropics with their fancy policies and economic projections. So, ladies and gentlemen, sustainable agriculture is a farce for the poor farmers of the tropics. Unless you bite the bullet and approach the subject realistically, we are all wasting our time. It would be like teaching a pig to sing: you waste your time and annoy the pig! Dr. Hari Eswaran, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

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