146 | IAASTD Global Report

Key Messages

1. Agriculture is multifunctional and goes far beyond food production. Other important functions for sustainable development include provision of nonfood products; provision of ecological services and environmental protection; advancement of livelihoods; economic development; creation of employment opportunities; food safety and nutritional quality; social stability; maintenance of culture and tradition and identity. However, the promotion and achievement of multifunctionality is hindered by a lack of systematic quantitative and other data that allow a complete assessment of the impacts of wider functions. Nevertheless, enhanced recognition of the wider functions of agriculture has prompted efforts towards developing integrated land use systems that deliver a diverse set of social, economic and environmental functions, and address the tradeoffs between them.

2. Advances in AKST have enabled substantial gains in crop and livestock production, which have reduced levels of hunger and malnutrition. World cereal production has more than doubled since 1961, with average yields per hectare also increasing around 150% in many high- and low-income countries, with the notable exception of most nations in sub-Saharan Africa. Substantial gains in crop and livestock production are due to advances in many types of AKST, including biotechnology (e.g., genetic gain, stress resistance), physical (e.g., fertilizer, irrigation, mechanization), policy (e.g., intellectual property rights, variety release processes), microfinance (e.g., credit, provision of inputs), education and communication (e.g., farmer-field schools), and market and trade (e.g., demand, incentives). More recently, modern biotechnology is starting to have an impact on production. Advances have also been made in fish breeding, tree improvement and in crop and livestock husbandry. All of these advances in agricultural production have contributed to the improvement of many farmers' livelihoods and to economic growth in developed countries, although large deficiencies remain. In real terms food has become cheaper and calorie and protein consumption have increased, resulting in lower levels of hunger. On a global scale, the proportion of people living in countries with an average per capita caloric availability of less than 2200 kcal per day dropped from 57% in the mid-1960s to 10% by the late 1990s.

3. AKST has made some substantial positive contributions to different dimensions of livelihoods. These include:

  • increased incomes, reduced hunger and malnutrition, improved health and cognitive development, improved levels of education and increased employment opportunities, reducing vulnerability to drought, pest and disease outbreaks.
  • increased access to water for domestic and productive uses with positive impacts on health, food and nonfood production and environmental sustainability.
  • improved relevance of AKST for different producer and consumer groups, through participatory approaches to research, extension and market assessment.
  • improved support and integration of social and envi-


ronmental sustainability (e.g., watershed management, community forestry management, integrated pest management (IPM) and strengthening of local seed systems) through participatory and community-based approaches to NRM at different scales.

  • improved integration of gender and diversity concerns within AKST institutions, which has contributed to gender sensitive planning and awareness in AKST processes.
  • 4. Despite much progress in agricultural development, persistent challenges remain.These include:

    • Uneven distribution of livelihood impacts: The benefits from AKST have not been evenly distributed, varying between regions and agroecological zones, as well as between social groups. Industrialized regions have gained the most from innovations in AKST, while agroecological zones with severe biophysical constraints and marginalized social groups have benefited least. Levels of poverty, hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity still affect millions of people, particularly in SSA as well as parts of Asia, Latin America and Melanesia. Three billion people earn less than the purchasing power equivalent of US$2 per day. In some circumstances, especially in Africa, many of the poor have become ensnared in "poverty traps" without sufficient financial resources to improve or sustain their food security or livelihoods. The distributional impact of AKST has been affected by rights and access to assets-land, water, energy resources, markets, inputs and finance, training, information and communications. Despite advances in gender awareness, access to AKST products and participation in AKST processes remain limited for women and for other marginalized groups. Only limited attention has been paid to issues of vulnerability and social exclusion, or to the interaction of AKST related opportunities with social protection policies.
    • Health and human nutrition: Globally, over 800 million people are underweight and malnourished, while changes in diet, the environment and lifestyle worldwide have resulted in 1.6 billion overweight adults; this trend is associated with increasing rates of diet-related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Another cause of acute and long-term human health risks arises from the misuse of toxic agrichemicals.
    • Environmental sustainability: Agricultural use of natural resources (soils, freshwater, air, carbon-derived energy) has, in some cases, caused significant and widespread degradation of land, freshwater, ocean and atmospheric resources. Estimates suggest that resource impairment negatively influences 2.6 billion people. In many poor countries (and in marginalized communities within countries), many farmers lack access to the appropriate management interventions required to restore and sustain productivity. In addition to forest clearance and burning, the growing reliance on fossil fuels in agriculture has increased emissions of "greenhouse gases."
    • 5. In many instances, AKST has begun to address sustainability challenges with strategies that recognize the production, livelihoods, and ecosystem service