Sunday, July 13, 2008

Farming sustainably

Des Moines Register: …On April 15, while news reports shook the quiet around food and agriculture, the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development presented the results of four years of thorough work by representatives of 61 countries. This assessment was spearheaded by a number of international organizations, including the World Bank, UNESCO, the World Heath Organization and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and was funded by countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Leadership included both civil-society and private-sector organizations.

The assessment analyzed how agricultural knowledge, science and technology have shaped agriculture over the past 50 years and outlined what may be needed in the next 50 years. Farmers, civil-society groups, scientists, policymakers and representatives of the private sector from around the world identified major challenges needing solution - hunger and poverty, livelihoods in rural areas, poor nutrition and health, inequity and environmental decline. The assessment process also kept in mind the constraints of a growing population, land degradation, climate change and increasing disparity between the haves and have-nots.

…Farmers' knowledge was a very important part of the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development. Knowledge has always been important in agriculture and needs to be part of the future. New science builds on that experience, and new technologies are developed. There are many lessons to be learned from the past.

The assessment's strongest message is that the future of agriculture lies in developing new approaches to increase productivity sustainably. We must take into account and promote the many aspects of agriculture in terms of its ecosystem, social and economic functions.

…Unless agriculture is done with sustainability in mind, not only will food prices increase, but also water scarcity, land degradation, erosion of biodiversity, hunger, poverty and inequity. The challenges ahead must not be underestimated nor left to the flawed quick fixes that failed in the past and that some are touting again.

Organic cultivation of mixed vegetables on an organic farm in Capay, California. Photo by "Hajhouse," who has generously released it into the public domain via Wikimedia Commons. Thank you, Hajhouse

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