Context, Conceptual Framework and Sustainability Indicators 3

diseases associated with metabolic syndromes. AKST has an important role to play in both moving towards food security and food sovereignty, and breaking the malnutrition- poor health-low productivity cycle.

6. A range of fundamental natural resources (e.g., land, water, air, biological diversity including forests, fish) provide the indispensable base for the production of essential goods and services upon which human survival depends, including those related to agricultural ecosystems. During the last 50 years, the physical and functional availability of natural resources has shrunk faster than at any other time in history due to increased demand and/or degradation at the global level. This has been compounded by a range of factors including human population growth, and impacts have comprised unprecedented loss of biodiversity, deforestation, loss of soil health, and water and air quality. In many cases, such negative impacts can be mitigated; and in some cases, they are. Given the multifunctional nature of agriculture, it is critical to consider links across ecosystems in which agricultural systems are embedded, as these have important implications for the resilience or vulnerability of these systems. Linkages between natural resource use and the social and physical environment across space and time are an important issue for AKST, with significant implications for sustainable development and the mitigation of adverse impacts.

7. Social equity issues, including gender, are major concerns in agriculture, as they relate to poverty, hunger, nutrition, health, natural resource management and environment, which are affected by various factors resulting in greater or lesser degrees of equity. As a majority of the world's poor and hungry live in rural settings and are directly dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods, political, economic, cultural and technological factors contribute to mitigating or reinforcing inequality. Women and men have differing roles and responsibilities in productive households, and they can derive varying degrees of benefits from AKST and innovations. Gender-based patterns are context-specific, but a persistent feature is that women have a key role in agricultural activities, yet they have limited access to, and control of, productive resources such as land, labor, credit and capital. Agricultural development sometimes strengthens patterns that are unfavorable to women, such as male bias of the agricultural extension system in many countries. Societies can develop governance institutions, legal systems, social policy tools, and social/ gender sensitive methods (e.g., gender analysis) that seek to minimize disparities and even opportunities out among women and men.

8. Agriculture today is faced with several emerging challenges and opportunities; the evaluation of those relating to climate change, land degradation, reduced access to natural resources (including genetic resources), bioenergy demands, transgenics and trade require special efforts and investments in AKST. About 30% of global emissions leading to climate change are attributed to agricultural activities. Climate change in turn affects all types of agricultural production systems, from


farming to forestry, livestock production and fishery; it particularly affects resource-poor agriculture. Current as well as future damage due to temperature increases and more extreme weather events and their consequences on the hydrology of watersheds and groundwater resources are yet to be detected in detail. Agricultural households and enterprises need to adapt to climate change but they do not yet have the experience in and knowledge of handling these processes, including increased pressure due to biofuel production. Bioenergy is seen as a potential to mitigate the impact of using fossil fuels as a source of energy, thereby mitigating the impact on climate. While on-farm bioenergy production is emerging as a possibility to make better use of farm residues and excrements, the substitution of fossil fuel through biofuel plantation for transport and mobility is under contention and thus a matter of concern for AKST. The development and use of transgenics is seen very differently by the different stakeholders, ranging from a purely positivist view of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as the solution to the problems of agriculture, to a purely negativist view that considers GMOs to be uncontrollable and life threatening. Finally, agricultural trading conditions, rules and standards are changing; together with emerging alternatives, they offer challenges and opportunities.

1.1 Setting the Scene

1.1.1 The IAASTD

IAASTD, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, comes at a time of rapid change that is affecting both rural and urban areas, as well as the climate and other natural resources-in ways that present unprecedented threats. However these changes also provide opportunities for sustainable development and poverty alleviation, and require increased knowledge, science and technology in conjunction with appropriate policies, institutions and investments.

     The main goal of IAASTD is to provide decision makers with the information they need to reduce hunger and poverty, improve rural livelihoods, and facilitate equitable, environmentally, socially and economically sustainable development through the generation of, access to and use of agricultural knowledge, science and technology (AKST). IAASTD uses a conceptual framework that enables systematic analysis and appraisal of the above challenges based on common concepts and terminology.

     The development and sustainability goals of the IAASTD are to:

(1) reduce hunger and poverty,

(2) improve rural livelihoods, human health and nutrition, and

(3) promote equitable and socially, environmentally and economically sustainable development.

Sustainable development is crucial to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (see WCED, 1987). Using AKST to achieve development and sustainability goals will depend on the choices of different actors related to AKST development and application.

     Agriculture plays a prominent role for human welldiseases