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prefunctional nature of agriculture may be needed. In addition to techniques aiming at specific resources, the overall management of natural resources has become a concern in agricultural development.

1.3.4 Social equity

The sense of justice and injustice is a universal feature of human society; yet complexity, stratification and inequality are enduring hallmarks of social organization. Nowhere is this more evident than in agriculture, where patterns of land ownership, land tenure, social status, employment and division of labor have evolved in highly diverse ecological, social and cultural contexts.

     Social equity is intimately linked to a sense of justice both in terms of processes and outcomes. In its ideal form, it incorporates notions of equality, as in equal rights under the law, and of equivalence as in differentiated treatment that produces outcomes of comparable value or significance for beneficiaries in disparate circumstances. In legal terms, equity originated as a system of jurisprudence developed to correct injustices caused by inflexibility in the law. It was based on the principle of natural justice. In this sense, equity serves to bridge the gap between legality and legitimacy of outcomes, for example, when equal treatment would result in the perpetuation of injustice.

     Political, economic and cultural factors contribute to greater or lesser degrees of equity in society, sometimes mitigating, sometimes reinforcing inequality. Many sources of inequality are determined by the circumstances of birth. Sex, ethnicity, the wealth or poverty of parents, their educational status, birth in a rural or urban setting are among these. Other sources of inequality are cultural constructs. These include gender roles in the world of work; the rights and duties of family members as defined by age, sex or birth order; parental expectations of sons and daughters; the loci of decision-making power within households and in the wider community; and the formal and informal rules that determine access to land, water and other resources. Whether determined by birth or culture, these sources of inequality tend to widen or narrow the opportunities that individuals have to develop their inherent talents and their productive potential. Combating corruption can help improve equity, as corruption is undermining justice in many parts of the world. Corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for private gain; this may include material and non-material gain from political interference to bribery (TI, 2007). This will occur unless society develops institutions of governance, legal systems and social policy tools that tend to lessen disparities and equalize opportunities. With improved women's economic and social rights corruption is generally reduced.

     While economic forces tend to favor some to the detriment of others, it is common for social policy instruments to attempt to redress the balance in some measure by promoting equality of opportunity, ensuring that basic services are available to all and assisting vulnerable groups in meeting their needs. Equity concerns underpin efforts to eliminate discrimination, widen opportunities for social and economic advancement, increase access to public goods and services, such as education and health care, provide fairer access to resources and promote empowerment through participation


in decision-making (ILO, 1962). All of these are critical to reducing poverty and building a just society based on rights for all.

Rights-based approach. Since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, there has been a growing worldwide consensus that abject poverty, hunger, and deprivation are an affront to human dignity and that conditions must be created whereby all persons may enjoy basic human rights (UNICCPR, 1966; UNICESCR, 1966). Whether these rights are of a civil, political, economic, social or cultural nature, they are considered to be "universal, indivisible and interdependent and inter-related" (UN, 1993b).

     Civil and political rights-such as political voice and representation, freedom of association, and equal protection under the law-are important in themselves, but also in their function as enabling rights. Such rights enable individuals and groups to participate in public debate, influence the decisions that affect the life of their communities, defend their common interests, build more responsive economic and social institutions, and manage conflicts through peaceful, democratic means. Economic, social and cultural rights-such as the right to education, health care, food and an adequate standard of living-help to create the conditions under which civil and political rights can be freely exercised.

Social equity concerns and agriculture. Social equity concerns are gaining in importance in countries where large numbers of people are engaged in agricultural production and where productivity improvements are needed to keep pace with or exceed population growth, in other words, in most developing countries. Globalization has placed the agricultural sector in many countries under tremendous pressure as generally declining commodity prices, rising input costs, low levels of investment and lack of credit take their toll, particularly on small-scale farmers, their families and agricultural workers. Loss of status, uncertainty of income, indebtedness, unfulfilled needs and the deterioration in their economic and social condition are among the factors that have spurred able-bodied men and youth to leave rural areas in search of opportunities elsewhere. Many swell the ranks of the urban unemployed, lacking the skill sets needed to prosper in the new environment, subsisting through informal activities. Those remaining in agriculture-particularly, ethnic minorities, women, the elderly, children and youth-find themselves increasingly on the margins of economic, social, and political life. They form the majority of the world's poor.

     Potential beneficiaries of AKST are a heterogeneous group living in highly diverse social, economic and environmental contexts. Research, development and dissemination efforts need to take their capacities and constraints into account in order to ensure that innovations are practical, affordable and offer real benefits to the poor among them. Social equity concerns challenge policy-makers, researchers, practitioners and donors to work together across their respective disciplines to provide not only the technological means, but also the social support needed to encourage and enable uptake of new techniques by those who may not prefunctional