The Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (SARD) Initiative was launched in 2002 at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) as a five year programme to promote sustainable agriculture and rural development--as outlined in Chapter 14 of Agenda 21 of the Millennium Development Goals-- and to support the ability of rural people to influence agricultural and rural development policies, processes and institutions affecting them.
The initiative functioned as a multi-stakeholder umbrella framework. It was comprised of civil society, governments and intergovernmental organizations and was facilitated by FAO in its capacity as Task Manager for Chapter 14. Besides contributing to SARD through its own programmes and projects, FAO fostered multistakeholder dialogues, facilitated two stakeholders platforms - the SARD Initiative and the Adelboden Group for SARD in Mountain Regions, and reported to the FAO Committee on Agriculture and to the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) on progress in the implementation of Chapter 14, on behalf of all the stakeholders.
The initiative achieved measurable improvements in the livelihoods and living conditions of the rural poor and the sustainability of their environments by helping development organizations and governments adopt a more people-centred sustainable agriculture and rural development approach and by supporting them to strengthen rural people’s participation in programme and policy development.
The initiative supported pilot efforts and capacity building for rural communities, disadvantaged groups and other stakeholders to improve access to resources (e.g. genetic, technological, land, water, markets and information), promoted good practices for SARD, and fostered fairer conditions of employment in agriculture. It also provided catalytic support to strengthen the capacities, initiatives and innovations of farmers, fisherfolk, pastoralists and other rural people to achieve SARD, and provided a framework through which local, national and regional initiatives related to sustainable agriculture and rural development could be analyzed, supported and, where appropriate, replicated to contribute to improving rural livelihoods. By promoting lessons learned and successful approaches, the SARD Initiative contributed to the promotion of wider access to, use of and benefits from existing resources.