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The purpose of this document is to provide a set of guiding principles for the integration of sustainable food security dimensions into the National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) research agenda. These guidelines are intended to provide input for both short- and long-term strategic planning efforts in institutions wishing to enhance their research programme. The guidelines are targeted specifically for research decision-makers, managers and scientists in the National Agriculture Research Systems along with their institutional partners.

1.1 Electronic Conference and Document Preparation

The mandate to develop these guidelines resulted from the United Nations World Food Summit (WFS) held in 1996. The Summit resulted in the Rome Declaration on Food Security and the WFS Plan of Action. World leaders pledged to achieve food security for all and to eradicate hunger with an immediate view to reducing the number of undernourished people to half their level by 2015. The WFS Plan of Action included several commitments to help promote sustainable food security. Commitment Three calls upon national agriculture research institutes to incorporate food security in their research agendas. In order to identify how this might be done, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) and the Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management Collaborative Research Support Program (SANREM CRSP) facilitated a dialogue among members of the international research and development community.

FAO considered that one of the most appropriate ways to address Commitment Three, Objective 3.4 was through the use of electronic conferences. E-conferences are viewed as one of the most effective and participatory means of gathering input and ideas from participants around the world who might not otherwise be able to join in such deliberations. These guidelines were developed during a six-week-long electronic debate structured by a set of questions (Appendix) and based on a participatory methodology.

Electronic consultation (3-21 April 2000)

FAO, in partnership with the SANREM CRSP and in collaboration with GFAR, hosted an E-consultation in preparation for an electronic-conference. During the e-consultation, about 30 experts representing diverse stakeholders identified expected outcomes, a conceptual framework, key issues and organizational aspects for the E-conference.

Electronic conference (5 June-14 July 2000)

The E-conference brought together 400 individuals from 50 countries. It included researchers, policy-makers, administrators and scientists involved in the management of the NARS and those concerned with the identification of research priorities, implementation and monitoring of agricultural research programmes at national and/or regional levels. Representatives from the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), non-governmental organizations (NGOs), producer groups, leading institutions in technology development and transfer and the donor community also participated.

The ideas, insights, dialogues and debates from the E-conference provide both the materials for the guidelines as well as the framework for the presentation.

Building upon these two events, recent literature and case studies were reviewed. A panel of external participants from the NARS Fora, the E-conference and FAO reviewed the guidelines. These guidelines outline general principles and provide references to useful approaches for addressing sustainable food security through a research programme. They are not intended to provide an in-depth treatise or a state-of-the-art review of the issue.

1.2 World Food Security: an Issue of Sustainable Development

Although there have been numerous definitions of food security, it generally refers to "access for all people at all times to enough food for an active and healthy life" (Food Consumption and Nutrition Division [FCND] 1999; FAO 1997a; World Bank 1986). In the WFS Declaration, heads of state and governments reaffirmed, "... the right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food, consistent with the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free of hunger". In turn, there was a pledge of political will and commitment " ... to eradicate hunger in all countries, with an immediate view to reducing the number of undernourished people by half their present level no later than 2015".

Heading towards the five-year review of the World Food Summit, it is clear that there is no single prescription for achieving sustainable food security. In the developing world, recent estimates indicate that 826 million people do not have enough to eat. Despite an overall reduction in the number of food insecure people, the current reduction does not indicate global uniform progress (FAO 2000a). Indeed, the data reveal that in the first half of this decade only 37 countries achieved a reduction in the number of undernourished people. In developing countries, the number of hungry people actually increased.

The Rome Declaration articulated seven commitments in order to address the multifaceted character of food security. Commitment Three states, "We will pursue participatory and sustainable food, agriculture, fisheries, forestry and rural development policies and practices in high and low potential areas, which are essential to adequate and reliable food supplies at the household, national, regional and global levels, and combat pests, drought and desertification, considering the multifunctional character of agriculture." This means that agricultural policies and programmes must be clearly articulated with measures to protect and restore natural resources, bolster the purchasing power of urban and rural populations and promote economic diversification and favourable integration in market circuits.

Food security concerns have shifted from the level of national and international food supplies and flows to the microlevel of access, vulnerability, entitlement and distribution across social groups (Sen 1981; Berry 1984). Maxwell and Frankenberger (1992) analysed assumptions in the definition of food security and found that there were four concepts implicit in the notion of "secure access to enough food all the time". These were:

  1. sufficiency of food, defined mainly as the calories needed for an active, healthy life;
  2. access to food, defined by entitlement to produce, purchase or exchange food or receive it as a gift;
  3. security, defined by the balance between vulnerability, risk and insurance; and
  4. time, where food insecurity can be chronic, transitory or cyclical.

It is widely recognized that food availability, accessibility and utilization are shaped by the overall level of development that characterizes the context in which individuals and households strive to make a living (USAID 1995). Food security depends not only on food production, imports and transfers but also on employment opportunities and income earnings, intra-household decision-making and resource allocation, health care utilization, childcare practices and gender relations (Johnson-Welch et al. 2000). Food security measures and impacts need to consider the particularly vulnerable within households (e.g. children, women, elderly) as well as differently endowed social groups and geographic areas. Therefore, food security must be addressed as a multidimensional development issue that requires interventions in an integrated fashion, taking into account the entirety, diversity of human needs and resource availability.

A recently developed holistic approach that seeks to bridge development, sustainability, equity and food security issues is the sustainable livelihood framework (Ashley and Carney 1999). In this framework, food security (defined as both quantity and quality) is one of the desirable outcomes of sustainable livelihoods, together with other dimensions of human and environmental well-being. Sustainable livelihoods withstand and recover from external shocks, reproduce themselves without being dependent on outside aid, maintain long-term productivity of natural resources and do not undermine the livelihood options of others. This concept incorporates several components of participatory approaches to research and development, but it is innovative in its emphasis on multilevel analysis of poverty and highlights the importance of working at both the policy and community levels. It also shifts the analytical attention away from a narrow focus on material resources to people and relationships, particularly the importance of cultural institutions, social capital and human capabilities in determining well-being. It also emphasizes the dynamic and diverse nature of livelihoods and how food security is more a function of portfolios of household strategies rather than of a fixed resource endowment (Scoones 1998).

1.3 Role of the NARS in Food Security

The Rome Declaration Plan of Action, Commitment Three, Objective 3.4 specifically mandates " ... decisive action in partnership with the public and the private sectors to strengthen and broaden research and scientific cooperation in agriculture, fisheries and forestry in supporting policy and international, regional, national and local action to increase productive potential and maintain the national resource base in agriculture, fisheries and forestry and in support of efforts to eradicate poverty and promote food security".

A component of Objective 3.4 states that "governments in collaboration with the international and scientific community, in both private and public sectors, as appropriate, will strengthen national research systems in order to develop coordinated programmes in support of research to promote food security". National agricultural research programmes were identified as one of the key mechanisms for responding to the Rome Declaration mandate to enhance sustainable food security.

Significant changes in the organizational structure of agricultural research are occurring due to various factors. These include the institutional diversification of agricultural research, the appearance of new institutional actors (e.g. NGOs, business and civil society) and the growing complexity and costs of agricultural research due to new scientific developments. We are witnessing a shift from an organizational model characterized by one large public research institution or National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) to one based on a diversified institutional infrastructure (Byerlee and Alex 1998). In this new scenario, a range of institutions play different but complementary roles in generating, adapting and disseminating technology to improve agriculture. This second model is referred to as the National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS).

The NARS as an ideal concept encompasses a wide range of public and private institutions and activities. Consequently, all institutions and entities in a given country actually or potentially involved in the generation, adaptation, validation, transfer and utilization of technology related to agriculture, forestry and fisheries comprise the NARS of that country. This includes national agricultural research institutes (NARIs), specialized commodity institutes, universities, industrial research laboratories, development organiza-tions, non-governmental organizations, extension services and technology end users.

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