Press Release 00/32
WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY
A MESSAGE FROM DR JACQUES DIOUF
UN FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION (FAO)
Rome, 2 June -- World Environment Day has a particular resonance for FAO
because our land and water environment and its protection and conservation
is vital to every area of the Organization's activity: be it agriculture,
forestry or fisheries.
Only through sustainable rural development and by developing sustainable
ways of using natural resources will it be possible to meet the challenge
to provide food security for the world's hungry millions: 790 million in
the developing countries.
A particular challenge for the new millennium is that sources of growth in
agricultural production, needed to meet the needs of a growing world population,
have to undergo a
change. The past pattern of expanding areas of land in use is already reaching
its limits. About 80 percent of agricultural production growth will now have
to come from sustainable intensification. Mechanisms for practical adoption
by farmers of existing technologies, followed by substantial agricultural
research, will be needed to make this shift economically attractive and
And growth in agricultural output will have to be achieved against a background
of increasing scarcity of fresh water. Already agriculture is the greatest
consumer of this previous resource, taking almost 70% of available water.
FAO believes in a future in which agriculture and other activities are carried
out in harmony with the environment, with clean water in streams, lakes and
aquifers, surrounded by and integrated with healthy natural ecosystems.
Successful management of water is vital to development. In Africa, for example,
only 8% of arable land is irrigated. This is a massive constraint to growth.
It was identified decades ago, but the solution chosen then - large costly
infrastructures of dams and major schemes - was not the answer. What was
required, and is still required, is manageable, environmentally friendly,
small-scale water harvesting, irrigation and drainage schemes that poor rural
communities can construct and maintain themselves. That is what FAO is
concentrating on in its Special Programme for Food Security, being implemented
in 60 countries around the world.
In this new millennium, resolving conflicts about land use is going to be
essential to the development of sustainable agriculture and a lasting solution
to hunger. Action is also urgently needed to reverse the degradation of
agricultural land and declining soil fertility. If investment is not made
in land rehabilitation and conservation today, the cost of doing so tomorrow
will be much greater.
Around the world, there are encouraging signs of progress. For the first
time in a millennium, more trees are being planted than cut down. There has
been good progress in institutional development in the area of plant and
animal genetic resources. Many countries have launched integrated pest management
programmes to cut the amounts of chemical pesticides they use.
Increasingly countries are adopting FAO's Code of Conduct for Responsible
Fisheries. Fisheries, including aquaculture, provide a vital source of food,
employment, recreation, trade and economic well-being for people throughout
the world, both for present and future generations and should be conducted
in a responsible manner. The Code sets out principles and international standards
of behaviour for responsible practices with a view to ensuring the effective
conservation, management and development of living aquatic resources, with
due respect for the ecosystem and biodiversity.
The FAO Forestry Programme addresses one of the most important, complex and
controversial issues of modern times - how to use trees, forests and related
resources to improve people's economic, environmental, social and cultural
conditions while ensuring that the resource is conserved to meet the needs
of future generations.
Overall, there is a growing awareness among both developed and developing
countries and economies in transition, of the need to integrate environmental
concerns in agricultural, forestry and fishery policies. It is a trend that
FAO will continue to encourage.
For more information please contact:
Chief, Media Relations Branch
tel: 39 06 57053276, e-mail: Nick.Parsons@fao.org