Agenda Item 9


Table of Contents



1. Agriculture has significant environmental, economic and social functions in addition to its primary role of food production and contributing to food security. The multiple functions of agriculture are intrinsic. However, policy and accompanying practice have only recently started to focus on the challenges relating to reinforcing and exploiting a range of functions, increasingly seen as critical to achieving sustainability in agriculture and rural development. The challenge for the future is to achieve the potential benefits that can result from an optimal combination of functions while minimising the negative impacts.

2. In order to assess global trends for developing and developed countries alike, the FAO/Netherlands Conference on the Multifunctional Character of Agriculture and Land (Maastricht 1999) provided a high-level international technical forum to identify the new practices and enabling environments necessary for increased agricultural sustainability and rural development (SARD). The overall normative context of the conference was provided by both the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) and the 1996 World Food Summit. The immediate objective at Maastricht was to assess the extent to which this perspective on agriculture and land could help key stakeholders, including producers and related land-users, policy-makers and other key decision-makers, to implement sustainable agricultural practices and land use.

3. Focus on the multiple functions of agriculture and land is of particular significance in Europe, given progressive transformations in the role of rural landscapes and communities in the regional economy and society. Although agricultural production remains important, a range of environmental, social, cultural and indirect economic benefits have become primary. Thus the watersheds, forests and soils are managed to absorb and recycle pollutants and regenerate the air and general environment. Sustainably managed agro-ecosystems are now valued for tourism, leisure, their implications for national cultural heritage, and as secondary or satellite residences for the city.

4. The multifunctional approach to agriculture builds on previous approaches to achieving sustainable agriculture and land use by:

5. It thus facilitates understanding of the complex interactions between agriculture and related land use, the multiple goods and services (food and non-food) produced by agriculture, the contribution that these goods and services make to the achievement of wider societal goals, and, in turn, the impacts on agriculture of the environmental, economic and social domains, including demography and the increasing globalisation of markets and trade. The two examples below illustrate the combination of benefits found in contemporary conditions in Europe.

Box 1 - Examples of multifunctional agriculture in Europe

Reviving the use of traditional breeds and range management practices (France)

Since the 12th Century the area astride Auvergne and the Pyrenees in Southwest France has been used as summer pasture by cattle herds from farms up to 50 km away in the surrounding valleys. Most of the cows were draft animals of the local Aubrac breed, whose milk was used to make Laguiole, a local pressed fresh cheese. Since the 1920s, the number of cows being milked dropped due to changes in the market and there was a reduction in the demand for draft animals. In 1960, the "Young Mountain Cooperative" was created to collect milk from small producers and produce the rare Laguiole cheese. Farmers first experimented with Holsteins, which did not thrive on the mountain pasture. The milk was low in protein resulting in much rejected cheese. The multi-purpose Simmentals which were introduced for draft, meat and milk, proved more adapted to the mountains and by 1998 represented over 85% of the livestock in the area. However, the farmers were not completely satisfied in product quality so in the early 1990s they decided to reintroduce the local Aubrac race, famed for the quality Laguiole cheese. With the help of the Laguiole Association and the Livestock Institute, the breed has been revived with economic, social and environmental benefits for the region.

Results: 1. Revival of a traditional breed, and conservation of agricultural bio-diversity; 2. Strengthening of the local economy , emphasising high market value for a traditional, local product (in this case, a cheese); and 3. Conservation of the mountain landscape.

Agricultural education for sustainable agriculture (the Russian Federation)

Since 1993, the Center for Citizen Initiatives (CCI) has made outstanding progress in promoting sustainable agriculture in Russia. CCI has sponsored 11 regional sustainable agriculture extension centres in Russia to train agriculture educators, managers and consultants. The "training of trainers" programme has provided much-needed technical and other information to the rural community in the Russian Federation. CCI's objectives included: (1) disseminating environmental knowledge relating to farming; (2) assisting small-to-medium scale agro-related businesses; (3) encouraging cooperation between agricultural groups of local communities to improve the social environment; (4) acquainting farmers with management and marketing techniques. All four objectives are being met. This programme is expanding in ways that CCI did not anticipate at the beginning, such as: (1) creating a central extension library with print publications and on the internet; (2) developing a database for remediation of polluted soils; (3) providing small, low-interest loans to farmers; (4) developing a curriculum in sustainable agriculture for agriculture colleges and extension agents.

Results: The farmers were in danger of losing the newly privatised land that they had acquired, due to poor production and declines in income. The most important recent impact of the sustainable agriculture extension centres is not only that farmers connected to the centres have increased their production but they have even survived the severe drought of 1998 and the ensuing economic crisis. They are still in business.



6. The participants in the Maastricht Conference expressed different perceptions regarding the definition, scope, utility, added value and coverage of the multifunctional character of agriculture. Participants understood that agriculture has multiple objectives and functions within the framework of sustainable agriculture and rural development which through appropriate policies can all foster sustainable agriculture and rural development and which should be targeted, cost-effective, transparent and do no distort production and trade.

7. The principal objectives of the Maastricht conference were:

  1. to review progress, in the context of agriculture and related land-use, towards the principles contained in the Rio Declaration and Agenda 21; and
  2. to identify the main issues and tools to be addressed, taking into consideration the continuously evolving nature of agriculture, and related land-use.

8. A coherent analytical framework needs to be developed for measuring the economic, environmental and social costs and benefits of the interlinkages, taking into account the different circumstances in regions and countries and within countries. This analysis may contribute to a renewed awareness of and reflection on the interlinkages among different aspects of agriculture and could assist in the priority-setting of policies, processes and institutions, synergies and trade-offs involving all stakeholders. The participants also indicated the need to take stock of the lessons learned.

9. The participants identified the following conclusions, necessary for progress towards SARD:

Building on Maastricht

10. The 30th Session of the FAO Conference received the results of the discussions at Maastricht as an information document (C99/INF/20) in November 1999. For future work, The Strategic Framework for FAO 2000-2015 adopted at the Conference includes key references to the importance of assessing and acting upon the multifunctional character, notably in Paragraphs 69, 76 and 781.

11. As Task Manager for Chapters 10 and 14 of Agenda 21 regarding land resources, sustainable agriculture and rural development, FAO has had a crucial role in presenting the challenges and opportunities for the future at the meeting of CSD 8 in April 2000, and later at CSD 10 (Rio +10) in the Year 2002.

The implications for agricultural trade policy and WTO negotiations

12. Article 20 of the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) provides that negotiations to continue the reform process in agriculture should take into consideration, inter alia, WTO Members' non-trade concerns, in particular food security and the need to protect the environment. The new round of WTO negotiations on agriculture will likely focus on the major areas of the AoA, that is market access, domestic support and export subsidies, as well as Members' non-trade concerns, including special and differential treatment (SDT) for developing countries.

13. The "multifunctionality" concept has not been agreed as an issue for negotiation within the WTO. The views of countries relating to multifunctionality in the context of the WTO negotiations on agriculture are wide ranging and differ considerably. In particular, differences relate to the extent to which multifunctionality is perceived as being recognized under the AoA and to the focus which should be given to the concept in the forthcoming negotiations on agriculture.

14. A number of developed countries consider that the reference to non-trade concerns in the AoA encompasses "multifunctionality" and that agriculture, because of its unique role in serving multiple functions, should qualify for some degree of government support and the continuation of special treatment in the context of future WTO negotiations. Other countries consider that the existing "Green Box" provisions of the AoA provide sufficient flexibility to address legitimate non-trade concerns and that Article 20 calls for "fundamental reform" in agriculture so that national policies supporting the multiple functions of agriculture should not distort global markets. Finally, many developing countries consider that in the light of their experience with the implementation of the present commitments, and considering the generally under-developed state of their agriculture, a purely market-oriented approach to agriculture would not resolve their distinct socio-economic development concerns. Hence, they stress the need for allowing domestic policy flexibility, including modifications to the "Green Box", as well as special and differential treatment (SDT) for developing countries as an integral part of negotiations.

15. Despite the differences amongst WTO Members on these and other issues, negotiations on agriculture were launched at the first Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture (CoA) which met in Geneva, 23-24 March 2000. The Special Session agreed a programme of work which implies two phases to the negotiation process. The first phase, which will last for about a year, will be devoted to submissions and discussions of technical papers and negotiating proposals by participants within the framework of Article 20. This phase will end with a stocktaking meeting in March 2001. Thereafter, a second phase would involve the negotiations proper to reach a new agreement.


Some clarifications on the multifunctional character of agriculture and land

16. All human activities are multifunctional, i.e. they contribute to a varied set of needs and values of society in addition to fulfilling the primary function which is their "raison d'Ítre". So does agriculture, the rationale of which is to provide food and raw materials for society, and is thus the basis for farmers to earn their living. There are no internationally agreed definitions of the multifunctional character of agriculture. However, as shown above, there exist several internationally agreed references to the term. The reasons to consider the multifunctional character of agriculture and related land-use are:

17. While the multiple functions of agriculture are intrinsic, policy agendas have only recently started to focus on the challenges relating to reinforcing and exploiting a range of functions. The broadening of the policy agenda has resulted in part from the slow rate of progress towards sustainable agriculture and in part from a reassessment, in many countries and regions, of the role of agriculture in economic development (See Box 2).

Box 2

There is increasing policy awareness of the continuing role of agriculture and land use in development for high as well as low-income countries in all regions.

  • In Eastern and Central Europe, the dominant focus of agricultural policy during the past decade has been on privatisation of land and rural enterprises and preparations for entering the European Union. At the same time, millions of small family farms are struggling to survive and sustainable agricultural practices remain to many a luxury.

  • In Western Europe, North America, the Asian-Pacific Rim and highly industrialised countries elsewhere, relatively few people rely directly on agriculture or land resources. In these countries, priority is given to a complex combination of functions, including food production, environmental, recreational and cultural.

In other regions:

  • In Africa, the contribution of agriculture to meeting food needs and economic development has been a major global concern for at least two decades. With few prospects for rapid industrialisation, most African countries will continue to rely on agriculture as an engine of development for the foreseeable future.

  • In Asia, there were high expectations that agriculture would play a declining role in national development as countries rapidly industrialised. With the Asian economic crisis, many countries are reconsidering the role that agriculture can play in meeting domestic consumption requirements, providing agro-industrial inputs, and serving as a cushion for rural employment. Agriculture can play the role of an economic "buffer" in times of crisis for employment and food supply.

  • In Latin America, critical issues are the vertical integration of agriculture in the economy and the shift from primary production to agro-industries, for which Latin American countries have a long-term comparative advantage. At the same time, countries continue to have dual-sector agricultural economies with large pockets of resource-poor farmers and rural poor who need better and more secure land-based livelihoods.

18. Thinking in terms of the multiple functions of agriculture and land has particular relevance to Europe given the importance of the following cross-cutting issues:

Food security

19. The first and foremost function of agriculture remains the production of food and other primary goods and contributing to food security.

20. Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life (World Food Summit Plan of Action). Food security as an overarching requirement is interrelated with many factors, including sustainable management of natural resources (agriculture, fisheries, and forestry), increased production, policies at different levels, international trade, maintenance of biodiversity, protection of the environment, investment, peace and stability. Political support for achieving food security is high: 112 Heads or Deputy Heads of State and Government, and over 70 high-level representatives from other countries adopted the Rome Declaration on World Food Security and the World Food Summit Plan of Action in 1996.

21. Achieving food security is a complex task which requires an enabling environment and policies that ensure social, cultural, political and economic stability and equity. Understanding the economic, social, and environmental functions of agriculture and using this understanding to guide policies can help to attain the goals of food security. Food security applies to the national level - in part for strategic and sovereign interests - but also at the local and household levels. The multifunctional perspective incorporates the mix of activities needed to ensure the revenues and resources necessary for community and household viability in rural areas. Indeed, food security is a prerequisite for future productivity and local stability.

The environmental function

22. As actor and guardian, humanity plays a dynamic role in the maintenance and viability of any ecosystem. As all agricultural and land-use systems directly affect the components and operations of local ecologies, nearly all ecosystems have progressively become managed systems.

23. Agriculture and related land use can have beneficial or harmful effects on the environment. The direct environmental benefits of agriculture include: pollution abatement through management of soils and vegetation; increases in biomass and nutrient fixation with mixed cropping, land use and fertiliser application; and increasing ecosystem resilience with techniques that control erosion. Box 3 presents some of the ways in which agriculture is relevant to specific global environmental problems.

24. Examples of practices with negative effects include excessive use of chemical inputs, irrigation and mechanised tillage. The main negative effects are pollution, the loss of resilience and diversity of the cultivated ecosystems, and the non-renewal of soil structure, which makes the land much more vulnerable to external shocks and reduces its capacity to recover.

25. Recognition and analysis of the environmental functions can help to optimise the linkages between agriculture and the biological and physical properties of the natural environment. The reinforcement of the capacities of local institutions to ensure the sustainable management of local resources is crucial. In order to stimulate investment and longer-term planning, farmers must be confident that they have adequate rights of ownership, managed access or other tenure arrangements.

Box 3 - Food security in Europe

Food security and forestry: the effective protection, sustainable development and utilisation of forest and range resources (Turkey)

Initiatives under a FAO-managed project contributed to training, extension and field demonstration of improved techniques as well as institutional, policy and legislation development and activities in three pilot forest villages between 1992 and 1998. The project aimed at contributing to household food security through promoting agricultural products and diversifying incomes. Degraded forest land was rehabilitated with the support of the terracing and new plantations of cherry, apple, pear and grape trees. Changes in water reservoirs, storage and irrigation decreased erosion and assure regular supply. More effective protection, sustainable development and utilisation of forest and range resources was achieved through strengthening local capabilities and institutions, the introduction of suitable agroforestry approaches and creation of environmental awareness among the rural population as well as in the general public.

Results: 1) Training for the development of knowledge, experiences and skills of technical expertise and villagers in community forestry and participatory approaches; 2) Development of appropriate participatory-integrated natural resource management models; and 3) Development of an efficient institutional framework, policies and legislation. As a pilot effort for fragile lands in Turkey, 1378 persons in 219 households have more income, more food secure and more regular food supplies throughout the year.

26. Many of the case studies presented at the Maastricht Conference illustrate a wide range of ways of exploiting the multiple functions of agriculture and land and addressing their environmental impacts by making better use of available natural resources.

The economic function

27. Agriculture remains a principal force in sustaining the operation and growth of the whole economy, even in highly industrialised countries. Investment can generate economic effects both upstream and downstream of agriculture. On the demand side, agriculture requires inputs in the form of labour, services and capital. As outputs, it supplies products which are processed, transported, marketed and distributed. Valuation of the various economic functions requires assessment of short, medium and long-term benefits. Important determinants of the economic function include the complexity and maturity of market development and the level of institutional development. In order to contribute to economic development, there must be the accumulation of financial capital through the returns on sales of produce and services, through attracting new sources of money (like credits and grants) and an increase in economic activity achieved through a wide range of multiplier effects for the region as a whole.

28. Several case studies illustrate the wide range of benefits that can result from a better understanding, analysis and exploitation of the economic functions of agriculture. These include improvements in food security and nutrition standards, social cohesion, job creation, the status of women, and the local and national economy as well as significant environmental and resource benefits.

Box 4 - Cultivating the environment

Nature and agriculture: conservation and wildlife habitats in intensively farmed areas (Germany)

In this programme, strategies and measures have been developed to preserve and further expand habitats for wildlife in intensively farmed areas. Once the physical resources secured with sustainable farming methods, the biotic resources become the main focus. The aim is to preserve site specificity and regional variation in species. Detailed scientific research on biodiversity and ecological balances has been conducted over time on five farms in different agro-ecological zones of Germany to monitor and evaluate the results.

Results: 1) Positive findings on the state of biodiversity and productivity; 2) Farmer acceptance of nature conservation strategies, with rising awareness of the importance of agricultural areas for wild habitats for wildlife; and 3) Gains in knowledge about biodiversity in agricultural areas of Germany, shared frequently in publication and the media. Practical experiments have introduced patches of wild plants into associations with crops, with intensive monitoring on 30 research plots over 6,785 hectares during four to five years.


Box 5 - Agriculture and economic development

Agriculture in Prespa National Park, Greece

Farmers in the Prespa region in Greece produced primarily beans for trade, with some livestock and fishing to supplement incomes. The traditional land management system has been important to maintain natural capital, as livestock graze the wet meadows and keep down the reeds, so creating valuable habitats for the birds and fish. The national park was created to protect the unique habitat, home to the largest nesting colony of Dalmatian Pelicans (Pelecanus crispus) in the world.

Adoption of intensive cultivation methods to increase beans yields led to the conversion of meadows to tilled land, with a big increase in fertiliser and pesticide use. There was a negative impact on aquatic resources, and the consequent loss of spoonbills, glossy ibis and other wildlife. In 1993, various organizations began to promote organic bean cultivation, diversification of agricultural production, and development of the wildlife tourism potential of the park.

Results: higher bean yields and premium prices from organic production; eco-tourism throughout the year generated local employment; education in sustainable agriculture and the environment has benefitted both local young people and visitors; collaboration is established between communities, government and the private sector on decisions on infrastructure, investment, social issues, and the environment.

The social function

29. The maintenance and dynamism of rural communities is basic to sustaining agro-ecology and improving the quality of life (and assuring the very survival) of rural people, particularly of the young. On another level, the exploitation of local knowledge and the forging of relationships between local and external sources of expertise, information and advice are fundamental to the future of rural communities. Social viability includes maintenance of the cultural heritage. Many societies still identify intensely with their historical origins in agrarian communities and rural lifestyles.

30. Several case studies illustrate that the social functions of agriculture and land encompass many areas including human organisation, mechanisms for collective action, development of human capital, appropriate technology and local knowledge, and collective management. Human resources are crucial to sustainability in agriculture. There are many ways to encourage people's capacity to learn about and act upon their own environments more effectively, including non-formal education (for example through farmer field schools) and formal training programmes. The private sector can play a useful role in developing and exploiting improvements in local capacity, technology and organisation.

31. Recent years have seen an extraordinary expansion in collective management programmes throughout the world, described variously as community management, participatory management, joint management, decentralised management, indigenous management, user-participation, and co-management. These initiatives have centred on participatory and deliberative learning processes for watershed and catchment management, irrigation systems, micro-finance delivery, forest conservation and use, and integrated pest management.

Box 6- Agriculture and urban population

COBRAGOR Cooperative Farm: An urban oasis (Italy)

The COBRAGOR farm, run by a cooperative on land leased at the borders of Rome, provides city-dwellers with a range of services. The farm produces wheat, olives, summer fruits, and vegetables, meat and eggs with environmentally friendly methods. The farm shop sells the fresh produce as well as various processed products such as home-baked bread, olive oil, vinegar, and wine that is bought from another farmer. On weekends there is a farm restaurant, and people can walk and play in the fields and orchards. There are swings and slides for children and party facilities. Local schools visit on day trips to learn about the farm and the animals, a summer school for school-age children allows them to harvest vegetables, feed the animals and sell the produce; and a hands-on course for young adults with learning disabilities was run recently.

Results: The farm offers a vital recreational and educational resource to urban residents and their children; the quality of the soil has improved and biodiversity is protected; high-quality agricultural produce is marketed; recognition by local politics of the social value of the enterprise in fulfilling the needs of the local people has led to extension of the lease of the land by the province.

∑ Interactions between functions

32. The multiple functions of agriculture and land use are clearly inter-related. They may be relevant at many scales, from local, through national and regional, to global. Different functions and their implications may operate over different time horizons - indeed some innovations and transformations may have short-term disadvantages, such as lower productivity, before leading to longer-term, overall economic and environmental benefits. At a further level of complexity, multiple functions may have various impacts that vary in time and space. An examination of the debates in various international fora demonstrate that values and goals for agriculture and land use are not the same across regions or even among countries within regions. This is most apparent in various negotiations relating to international trade.

33. Given the wide range of inter-relations and interactions between the various functions, informed decision-making requires a transparent assessment of the advantages of possible synergies as well as trade-offs between options. In each case there may be many potential benefits and disadvantages. The choice of measures should always be subject to debate, negotiation and compromise among local communities, local and state government, technical agencies and external partners. Measures and actions can then be based on common agreement, joint evaluation of probable results, and periodic reassessment and re-negotiation. The importance of having better methods for assessing the likely consequences of major decisions and transparent mechanisms for public evaluation and choice is thus patent. However, a planning process need not imply centralisation of authority and resources. Public agencies and fora can, however, serve to facilitate negotiation of various, sometimes conflicting, interests and to co-ordinate combined efforts.

34. In any planning that seeks to optimise the multiple functions of agriculture and land, achieving food security, which includes ensuring reliable supplies for ever-spreading urban areas, must remain the dominant theme. There is a convergence of the functions around this issue, given the economic imperative to sustain production, the need to address environmental issues to sustain agriculture and the land, and the social dimensions of securing access and distribution of food to all groups including the most vulnerable and insecure.

35. A better framework for understanding the multiple functions of agriculture and land, their interactions, trade-offs and potential synergies is needed if progress is to be made towards sustainable agriculture and land use. Progress towards developing such a framework and using it to guide planning and decision-making is discussed in the next section.

Relevance of the concept to Europe

36. The approach has potential value given:

Other perspectives on the multiple functions of agriculture

37. A range of perspectives have emerged on the multiple functions - or for some the "multifunctionality" - of agriculture. In one view currently proposed in a paper for the OECD, "Multifunctionality, refers to specific characteristics of the agricultural production process and its outputs. The key elements of multifunctionality are: (i) the existence of multiple commodity and non-commodity outputs that are jointly produced by agriculture; and (ii) the fact that some of the non-commodity outputs exhibit the characteristics of externalities and/or public goods, with the result that markets for these goods do not exist or function poorly."2 This definition presents the multiple functions as a characteristic of an economic activity, in this case agricultural, and emphasises the public goods aspects of the activity. This view is distinguished from a "normative" approach to the concept as a policy objective.

38. A complementary and essential aspect to consider for agriculture and rural development is "rural amenities", referring " a wide range of natural and man-made features of rural areas, including wilderness, cultivated landscapes, historical monuments, and even cultural traditions. Amenities are distinguished from more ordinary features of the countryside as having special societal and economic value."3 Appreciation of such amenities also depends on assessment of their characteristics as public and private goods.

39. Such views do not conflict with the description and definitions offered above, insofar as the effort is to better describe the contemporary state of agriculture and land in the global economy with a view to better informing public debate and decision-making processes. These processes are at the heart of governance and public accountability, as well as at the sustainability of economy and society in Europe or elsewhere.


40. The evidence and arguments demonstrate the value of the multi-functional perspective. In relation to the SARD approach, the concept of the multiple functions adds to the understanding of the factors crucial to achieving greater sustainability in agriculture. Appreciation of the inter-relations between and impacts of different functions builds on the understanding of the complexity and scope of agricultural and land-use systems and helps to identify potential synergies and trade-offs.

41. The ability to distinguish the functions of agriculture in precise contexts offers insights into possible directions for future policy and activities. Contribution to the overall objective of sustainable development encompasses improving food security and strengthening the synergies between the environmental, economic and social functions of agriculture and related land use. National priorities, and processes for establishing these priorities will vary, and choices between options will depend on public decision-making processes. Choice also requires assessment of the inter-relationships, trade-offs and potential synergies between the agricultural and other sectors.

42. Perhaps the greatest challenge to the development of sustainable agriculture and related land use is to reconcile the primary objective of achieving food security with the environmental objectives. Both have an inherently international character. Given annual fluctuations and comparative productive and distribution capacities, co-operation and collaboration between states and at local and sub-regional levels is needed to ensure food security. Many aspects of the environment are also supra-national, given the temporal and spatial scales associated with conservation of biological diversity, open bodies of water, watersheds and the atmosphere. Appreciation of the essential role of larger ecosystems - eco-regions - makes sustainability clearly a regional issue.

43. An improved description and analysis of multiple functions results in a better appreciation of the many benefits of the diverse production and non-production aspects of agriculture and land use and the importance of the balance between them. Distinguishing economic, social and environmental functions constitutes a tool for monitoring and evaluating the results of specific choices.

44. However, the analyses based on the multi-functional perspective and the conclusions to date remain tentative and preliminary. There is a need to test the ideas against more fine-grained analysis of empirical examples, and to develop both the tools for description and the conceptual framework to make sense of the massive amount of data on a topic subject to rapid, radical change.

45. The main areas where further work is required are as follows:

Further collection of evidence and development of the concepts

46. Although there is general agreement on the nature of the various functions of agriculture, there are differing perspectives on their relative importance and the inter-relations between them. There is thus a need to increase the breadth of information and further refine the ideas developed in preparation for the Maastricht conference, in collaboration with the partner organisations most active in this field. Joint efforts with partner institutions and countries would include:

Development of methodologies and instruments

47. A major task will be to improve and develop methodologies and instruments that can contribute to policy and planning. Of particular importance is a method for the valuation of goods and services outside of primary production. For example, there have been considerable advances in recent years in assessing the economic implications of environmental change for biological diversity, biotopes and ecosystems. Improvements in assessment have a direct impact on the design and application of international agreements relating to agriculture and the environment, including the different trade accords and conventions on biodiversity, climate, desertification and waters. There is also greater appreciation of the growing economic importance of other services furnished in rural areas, such as tourism and leisure pursuits. Assessment of the value of other services - including the aesthetic dimensions of rural landscapes - is still at an embryonic stage.

48. The information will initially have implications mainly for public policy and decision-making at the national level. Analysis will suggest criteria for distinguishing between the public and private dimensions of rural goods and services. There are therefore implications for improvements in legislation, governance, investment and regulation.

Development of guidelines: regional and national initiatives

49. In order to make the methodology, tools and analysis effective, there will need to be practical experience (and experiments) at the regional and national scales. Activities should serve to test and adapt concepts, instruments and methodologies to the needs of developed and developing countries, and should be of relevance to a range of stakeholders participating in joint exercises in planning and decision-making.

50. To develop guidelines useful to decision-makers and stakeholders at the national level, representatives of government, non-governmental, private sector and community organisations will need to consult and work together to develop practical methodologies and policies best adapted to their own conditions. Methodologies must be of use and accessible to developing countries with limited human and financial resources.

51. The aim would be to improve the quality of public debate, the availability of alternatives for public choice and - ultimately - measurable progress towards sustainability from appropriate combinations of functions adapted to national and regional conditions. In order to make the results applicable globally, an initial stage would focus on several regions representative of post-industrial, highly industrialised, industrialising and essentially agrarian economies to establish models applicable to other national and regional situations.

Other areas for future attention

52. Better appreciation of the relative importance of the multiple functions in specific circumstances has possible implications for a number of other topics, including:

53. Recognising the environmental, economic and social functions of agriculture and land already adds significantly to the ability of agriculture to fulfil its traditional roles. Further progress towards sustainability will require closer collaboration between institutions responsible for agriculture and land use, the economy, public policy and overall planning. As a neutral platform for international debate, FAO will continue to dedicate its efforts to issues critical to the future of food and agriculture.


1  P. 69 - "With competence in agriculture, forestry and fisheries (policy, resources, production, processing and marketing), FAO is a major source of independent advice on policy in these sector. ... It is well placed to advise on potential trade-offs and synergies between the productive and other functions of agriculture and land use."

P. 76 - "The well-being of present and future generations is threatened, particularly in developing countries, by land degradation, water scarcity and pollution and salinization, destruction of forests, overexploitation of the world's marine resources, growth in emissions of greenhouse gases and loss of genetic resources and biological diversity. Fragile ecosystems in particular are on the front line of danger. The challenge is to strike an appropriate balance between conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. This implies adopting policies and actions that contribute to efficient and socially desirable management of land, water, fisheries and forest resources, and which, considering the multifunctional character of agriculture, enhance its positive and mitigate its negative impacts on the environment and natural resources. However, as FAO's Members have noted that there is currently no consensus on the meaning of the concept of the multifunctional character of agriculture, nor on a role for FAO with respect to work on it, they agree that the Organization should pursue and further develop its work on sustainable agricultural and rural development."

P. 78 - "Programmes and policies directed at conserving and developing natural resources often fail or only partially succeed, owing to competing developmental requirements for scarce resources. As competition for resources intensifies, it is increasingly necessary to take into account the positive synergies among the various functions of agriculture as well as the multiple uses of resources, including conservation for the benefit of future generations. The integrated management of natural resources aims to achieve both conservation and development objectives in the context of ongoing population change (growth and urbanization in particular)."


2  "Production, externality and public good aspects of multifunctionality: summary and conclusions", OECD (March 2000), COM/AGR/APM/TD/WP(2000)3/PART4, p. 3.

3 Cultivating Rural Amenities: an economic development perspective, OECD 1999, p. 7.