ROME, 17 September 2002 --
The State of Food and Agriculture 2002 (SOFA
2002), released today by the FAO, includes sections
that review the current global and regional agricultural
situation and look at the world economy and agriculture,
including world trade, commodity prices and the implications of
the fourth World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference for
The report features two
special chapters on timely issues: The Role of
Agriculture and Land in the Provision of Global Public
Goods and Harvesting Carbon Sequestration
Through Land-use Change: A Way Out of Rural Poverty?
In the special chapter on harvesting carbon
sequestration through land-use change, the report says that
agriculture is of key importance in the issue of climate change
- both as one of the sources of the problem and as a recipient
of its impacts.
Scientists estimate that
about 80 percent of global carbon stocks are stored in soils or
forests and that a considerable amount of the carbon originally
contained in soils and forests has been released as a result of
agricultural and forestry activities and deforestation.
Agriculture and forestry practices sequester and fix carbon into
the soil, plants and trees through photosynthesis, reducing
atmospheric greenhouse gases.
the report, agriculture and forestry activities have the
potential to counteract the impact of emissions made elsewhere
by reducing deforestation, generating increased forest stocks by
expanding forestry plantations, adopting agroforestry schemes,
reducing soil degradation and rehabilitating degraded forests.
Whether poverty alleviation would improve
the environment, or improved environment could reduce poverty is
unclear. The report cautions that research and experience over
the past ten years have shown that there are no clear and
unambiguous correlations or causal links between poverty and
resource degradation. However, according to the report, paying
farmers to adopt carbon-sequestering land-use methods can play a
role in promoting sustainable development among the poor. It
may also represent an important new way to finance such efforts.
"On the other hand, it would be wrong to believe that
poor land-users will necessarily benefit from such payments
unless programmes and policies are carefully designed to ensure
they do," said Hartwig de Haen, FAO Assistant
Director-General, Economic and Social Department.
"For example, the report cites a project in
Chiapas, Mexico aimed at promoting forestry activities by
communities of small farmers. Other forestry projects in Ecuador
and Tanzania have also had some success in reducing poverty. I
think it comes across loud and clear in SOFA 2002 that both
equity and efficiency criteria should be fundamental in
designing mechanisms to provide environmental goods and services
such as carbon sequestration."
Examining the role of agriculture and land in the
provision of global public goods, the report says that
agriculture, fisheries and forestry have an importance beyond
that of providing the world with food and raw materials
necessary for our survival and well-being and ensuring the
livelihoods of farmers, fishermen and foresters worldwide.
People employed in these sectors of the economy play a role in
managing resources that benefit the world at large.
"Through proper management of these resources, farmers,
fishermen and foresters provide a range of benefits to others,
such as landscape conservation, watershed protection,
biodiversity conservation, ecosystem stability and maintenance
of fish stocks."
public goods are widely recognized as benefiting large numbers
of people, they cannot be expected to be provided for free, the
report says. Some public goods are global in nature, benefiting
all humanity, like biodiversity conservation and carbon
sequestration provided by forests and agriculture through the
adoption of more sustainable land-use practices. Because so
many people benefit from these public goods without paying, the
report concludes that "mechanisms for compensating the
providers are necessary to ensure that socially desirable levels
of the good will be provided."
According to the report, "One important means
of increasing political will and financing commitments to
agriculture and rural development would be the recognition of
the important potential role of agriculture and rural areas in
the provision of global public goods."
Though the report calls for increased international
financial flows towards agriculture and rural areas in order to
promote the provision of global public goods, it questions
whether such increased financing can also contribute to global
poverty alleviation, saying this depends on specific
circumstances and on "the design of the mechanisms
compensating the providers."
option, says the report, would be to link additional Official
Development Assistance flows to the effective mobilization of
domestic resources for the provision of global public goods.
"A particular challenge is to design mechanisms in such
a way as to also ensure an important contribution to poverty
SOFA 2002 also
contains a CD-ROM, with time series data for about 150
countries, country groups and regions in English, French and
Spanish, with FAOSTA TS, the necessary PC DOS-based software to