2 | IAASTD Global Report

Key Messages

1. Agriculture is multifunctional. It provides food, feed, fiber, fuel and other goods. It also has a major influence on other essential ecosystem services such as water supply and carbon sequestration or release. Agriculture plays an important social role, providing employment and a way of life. Both agriculture and its products are a medium of cultural transmission and cultural practices worldwide. Agriculturally based communities provide a foundation for local economies and are an important means for countries to secure their territories. Agriculture accounts for a major part of the livelihood of 40% of the world's population and occupies 40% of total land area; 90% of farms worldwide have a size of less than 2 hectares. Agriculture includes crop-, animal-, forestry- and fishery-based systems or mixed farming, including new emerging systems such as organic, precision and peri-urban agriculture. Although agricultural inputs and outputs constitute the bulk of world trade, most food is consumed domestically, i.e., where it is produced.

2. Agricultural systems range across the globe from intensive highly commercialized large-scale systems to small-scale and subsistence systems. All of these systems are potentially either highly vulnerable or sustainable. This variability is rooted in the global agrifood system, which has led to regional and functional differences around the world-the social, economic and ecological effects of which have not yet been assessed and compared. The global agricultural system faces great challenges today, as it has to confront climate change, loss of biological and agrobiological diversity, loss of soil fertility, water shortage and loss of water quality, and population growth. Sustainable agricultural production is dependent on effective management of a range of interdependent physical and natural resources-land, water, energy, capital and so on-as well as on full internalization of currently externalized costs. The sustainability of production also depends on the continuing availability of and generalized access to public goods. Finding ways of dealing with these challenges is a highly contested matter: strategies differ because they are based on different visions of agriculture, different interests and diverging values. However, while agriculture is a strong contributor to the most critical problems we face today; it can also play a major role in their resolution.

3. Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology (AKST) can address the multifunctionality of agriculture. It plays a key role in shaping the quality and quantity of natural, human and other resources as well as access to them. AKST is also crucial in supporting the efforts of actors at different levels-from household to national, sub-global and global-to reduce poverty and hunger, as well as improve rural livelihoods and the environment in order to ensure equitable and environmentally, socially and economically sustainable development. On the one hand, tacit and locallybased agricultural knowledge has been, and continues to be, the most important type of knowledge particularly for small-scale farming, forestry and fishery activities. On the other hand, the development of formal agricultural knowl-


edge has been enormously successful particularly since the 1950s, and forms a dominating part of agricultural knowledge today. Challenges ahead include the development and use of transgenic plants, animals and microorganisms for increased productivity and other purposes; access to and use of agrochemicals; the emerging challenges of biofuel and bioenergy development, and in a broader sense, the political, social and economic organization of agriculture as a component of rural development. All these challenges have implications (both positive and negative) on the environment, human health, social well-being and economic performance of rural areas in all countries. The combination of community-based innovation and local knowledge with science-based approaches in AKST holds the promise of best addressing the problems, needs and opportunities of the rural poor.

4. The majority of the world's poorest and hungry live in rural settings and depend directly on agriculture. Over 70% of the world's poor live in rural areas. These 2.1 billion people live on less than US$2 a day. This is not inevitable, and an improved economic environment and greater social equity at local, national, and global scales have the potential to ensure that agriculture is able to provide improved livelihoods. Inextricably linked to poverty are vulnerabilities relating to production and consumption shocks, poor sanitation, and lack of access to health care and deficient nutrient intake, placing many in agrarian societies at risk. AKST may help mitigate these negative effects by supporting appropriate interventions, but it may also increase the vulnerability of poor farmers if no attention is paid to the risks and uncertainties to which these farmers are exposed. The livelihoods of many poor farmers are oriented towards meeting basic needs, particularly food. With insufficient income, households have little money to invest in increasing the productivity or sustainability of their production systems. The global trend has been towards a decapitalization of poor farmers and their resources (as well as rural areas), as they experience declining terms of trade and competition with low-cost producers. AKST offers opportunities to contribute to recapitalization of such farming households.

5. A vicious circle of poor health, reduced working capacity, low productivity and short life expectancy is typical, particularly for the most vulnerable groups working in agriculture. All persons have a right to sufficient, safe, nutritious and culturally acceptable food. Good nutrition is a prerequisite for health. Although global production of food calories is sufficient to feed the world's population, millions die or are debilitated every year by hunger and malnutrition which makes them vulnerable to infectious diseases (e.g., HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis). In many developing countries hunger and health risks are exacerbated by extreme poverty and poor and dangerous working conditions. In contrast, in industrialized countries, overnutrition and food safety issues, including food-borne illnesses affecting human health as well as diseases associated with agricultural production systems, are predominant concerns. Notwithstanding, in industrialized countries there is also a significant incidence of undernutrition among the poor, and a higher burden of both infectious and noncommunicable