World experts agree on agricultural development blueprint for 21st century
Policies to reduce poverty and conserve ecosystems urged
19 September 2005, Rome -- World experts have agreed for the first time on a blueprint on sustainable agricultural development to reduce hunger and poverty and improve environmental protection in developing countries.
Experts in agriculture, the environment and economics have called on governments to "give priority to public expenditures on public goods for rural areas such as roads, information technology and other rural infrastructure as well as research, extension training and education," according to a consensus published by FAO today.
The Beijing Consensus on the future of global agriculture and rural areas urges governments to recognize the vital role of agriculture and rural communities in overall economic growth and sustainable development. With the majority of the poor and hungry living in rural areas, the statement calls for investment in agriculture and rural development calling it "absolutely crucial to improve their lives and livelihoods."
Urbanization cuts small farmers out of the supply chain
The consensus warns that globalization and the emergence of supermarkets could lead to de-linking food consumption from local production, creating a risk of that would exclude small farmers from contributing to the food supply in urban areas. It says: "Urbanization leads to a rapid shift in food consumption, in terms of quantity, quality and product diversity" and calls for public and private efforts to "lower obstacles preventing small farmers from integrating into modern supply chains" effectively locking them out of economic growth opportunities.
The consensus says there is an urgent need to give higher priority to agricultural research. It calls for an "ever-green revolution, which combines cost reduction with resource conservation and enhanced production".
On the environment, the consensus calls for rural societies to be the primary custodians of local ecosystems. "Conservation and sustainable management of eco-systems is the best insurance for the continued supply of eco-system services, such as biodiversity, carbon sequestration, pollination and water purification." The consensus says a plan should be developed that would allow the poor to benefit from "selling" environmental services.
Scientific breakthroughs needed on biomass fuels
The consensus says scientific breakthroughs on converting biomass to commercial fuels are urgently required to avoid a trade-off between fuel for the rich and food for the poor. "The potential for using agricultural products and waste as sources of bio-energy has increased with higher energy costs and should be exploited."
The consensus reaffirms the Doha Development Agenda, which recognizes the food security and rural development needs of low-income countries. The consensus urges that poor countries be allowed adequate flexibility to deal with sudden and significant import surges.
Sub-Saharan Africa needs strong agriculture science base
Recognizing the serious problems in sub-Saharan Africa, the Beijing Consensus urges African countries to build a strong agriculture science base in order to guarantee food security for their people. "For most of Africa, agriculture will have to be the engine of economic growth. The experience of India, Brazil, and China shows that it takes time to build human capital and effective scientific institutions."
The Beijing Consensus says marginal rural areas and marginalized people who rely on agriculture for their livelihoods have not received their fair share of public resources. The consensus says that improvements in agricultural productivity and greater access to markets are essential if the standard of living for these people is to be improved. The blueprint calls for a twin-track combination of investment in income earning opportunities with social safety nets to promote a better future for marginalized people.
Agriculture and global warming
Finally, the consensus recognizes that agricultural practices contribute to global warming and that this will adversely affect agricultural productivity in most developing countries. It calls for the development and implementation of agricultural practices that will reduce the impact of the sector on climate change.
The Beijing Consensus on the future of global agriculture and rural areas was initially developed at a meeting of the world's top experts in agriculture, the environment and economics held in Beijing 9-10 September 2005.
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