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Looking Forward to Rio+10: Reporting Progress
on Land and Agriculture
Record of Contributions
Message 57 - Comment by Hari Eswaran on Comments by Kristen Suka lac on the Interventions of Hari
Eswaran and Miguel Altieri (Message 54)
Sat, 24 Mar 2001 15:08:34 +0100
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