Part II: Current Conditions, Challenges and Options for Action


Writing team: Inge Armbrecht (Colombia), Nienke Beintema (Netherlands), Rym Ben Zid (Tunisia), Fabrice Dreyfus (France), Shelley Feldman (USA), Ameenah Gurib-Fakim (Mauritius), Hans Hurni (Switzerland), Janice Jiggins (UK), Kawther Latiri (Tunisia), Marianne Lefort (France), Lindela Ndlovu (Zimbabwe), Ivette Perfecto (Puerto Rico), Cristina Plencovich (Argentina), Rajeswari Raina (India), Niels Roling (Netherlands), Elizabeth Robinson (UK), Neils Roling (Netherlands), Hong Yang (Australia)

This assessment of the ways in which knowledge, science and technology contribute to development goals offers a chance to reflect on how people engage their environment to secure healthy lives and livelihoods. Growing concerns with the effects of long-term climatic and ecological changes, which require global as well as national and local responses, make the IAASTD especially opportune. We are, in short, in need of a shared approach to sustainability. This realization is at the heart of the objectives of the IAASTD: how can we reduce hunger and poverty, improve rural livelihoods and facilitate equitable environmentally, socially and economi­cally sustainable development.
     This opportunity for stocktaking coincides with the widespread realization that despite significant achievements in our ability to increase agricultural productive capacity to meet growing demand, we have been less attentive to some of the unintended social and ecological consequences of our technological and economic achievements. We are now in a better position to reflect on these costs and to outline policy options to meet the challenges ahead of us, perhaps best characterized as the need for food security under increas­ingly constrained environmental conditions and globalized economic systems. The IAASTD recognizes the importance of the multiple functions of agriculture and their intersection with other global concerns, including loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services, climate change and water scarcity. Some of the findings from recent assessments conducted by the international community that coincide with those of the IAASTD include:
•   Recognition that current social and economic inequi­ties, across and within regions and states, are a signifi­cant barrier to achieving development goals.
•   Uncertainty about the ability to sustainably produce sufficient food for a continually expanding and demo-graphically changing population where new demands for food and ecosystem services challenge current pro­duction systems.
•   Uncertainty about the future of world food prices under the impact of climate change, emerging trade regimes,


changing dietary patterns and the increased interest in biofuels.
•   The end of cheap oil and the need to factor energy ef­ficiency and dependence on tractors, fertilizer, pumped water and transport into food security strategies.
•   The emergence of fast-growing economies as additional competitors for resources in the wake of their phenom­enal economic growth.
•   The increase in chronic ailments, including obesity in poor and rich countries, that increase rates of morbidity and mortality and are partially a consequence of poor nutrition and poor food quality.
•   Projected changes in the frequency and severity of ex­treme weather events in addition to increases in fire haz­ards, pests and diseases will have significant implica­tions for agricultural production and food security, e.g., for the location of food production, concentrations of human settlements, and water availability.
•   The growing awareness of human responsibility for the maintenance of global ecosystem services, and of the changes in global, national and local governance mech­anisms required to meet the responsibilities associated with sustainable growth.

We cannot escape our predicament by simply continuing to apply methodological individualism, i.e., by relying on the outcome of individual choices to achieve sustainable and equitable collective outcomes. The IAASTD takes a unique integrated approach to these urgent global problems: the de­velopment and deployment of human ingenuity to enhance agriculture, which is defined most broadly to include man­aging ecological processes in ways that capture and sustain human opportunity. We refer to this as agricultural knowl­edge, science and technology (AKST). AKST explicitly refers not only to technology but also to the economic and social science knowledge that informs decisions about policies and institutional change required for reaching IAASTD goals. Further, AKST not only refers to "formal" science processes, but also very much to the local and traditional knowledges that still inform most farming today.
     IAASTD recognizes that multiple perspectives exist on the nature and role of AKST. For many years, agricultural science focused on delivering component technologies to increase farm-level productivity where the market and insti­tutional arrangements put in place by the state were the pri­mary drivers of the adoption of new technologies. In order to benefit from productivity gains farmers had to continu­ally innovate, reduce farm gate prices and externalize costs.