TAKING STOCK OF THE MULTIFUNCTIONAL CHARACTER OF AGRICULTURE AND LAND
Paper prepared for FAO/Netherlands Conference on : " The Multifunctional Character of Agriculture and Land", Maastricht, Netherlands, September 12-17, 1999
Sources of Information
IntroductionVarious analytical approaches have emerged during the past decade that help to capture the complexity and continuing importance of agriculture and assess its relationships with other sectors of the economy and society. In particular, the "Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development" (SARD) approach aims to foster sustainable development (in the agricultural, fisheries and forestry sectors) that "conserves land, water, plant and animal genetic resources, is environmentally non-degrading, technically appropriate, economically viable and socially acceptable."
Initiatives to develop the MFCAL concept are occurring at a range of scales, with possible applications from farm through community to region, and across a range of sectors. There have been many innovations in process, technology and practice, and these have benefited both agriculture and related land-use and other economic sectors.
This paper draws upon several sources of information to investigate the multifunctional character of agriculture and land across developing and developed countries and at different scales. The process was designed to draw on the experiences of different stakeholder groups from practitioners to policy makers.
The three key sources of information were:
- The 1999 FAO/Netherlands "Multifunctional" Case Studies (MCS) database;
- The 1999 FAO/Netherlands Electronic Conference;
- Country Reports to the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) and other reviews;
2.1 The MCS DatabaseThe MCS database is now a unique information source that has sampled a wide range of global experiences at various levels, from farm to national and covering a wide range of technical, social and economic areas. It has become a key part of the process of understanding the nature of MFCAL, and a sound foundation for analysis.
In general, more substantive evidence has emerged from the local to regional level, where thousands of farm families and businesses are experimenting with new approaches that illustrate the benefits of MFCAL. But what distinguishes the current material from that of a decade earlier is the spread of some initiatives to much larger scales. Some of these have received significant national policy support. Most, though, could spread much further, delivering considerably more food and non-food benefits, if given greater policy support.
The case-study questionnaires constitute the basis of the database analysis. They were designed both to explore the conditions and processes associated with the multifunctional character of agriculture and land, and to document both food and non-food outcomes. The MCS database incorporates 130 case study questionnaires.
The questionnaires covered: initiating and resources-providing parties, geographic location and agro-ecological zone, types and scale of impact, driving factors influencing the impact, methods used for monitoring multifunctional impacts, factors affecting replicability of the case and sustainability of the impact, lessons learned, contact addresses and follow-up material, and a structured case summary.
The geographic distribution of the case study contributions is shown in Figure 1.
2.2 The Electronic ConferenceThe Electronic Conference was held in early 1999, and involved some 1300 respondents from more than 80 countries sharing their experiences and perspectives. Contributions came from farms, universities, the private sector, NGOs, governments and international and other organisations. The majority of participants provided examples from local and farm level. Many participants also completed questionnaires for the MCS database, described above. A team from FAO, the Sustainable Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Management (SANREM) Program at the University of Georgia, and the Wageningen University and Research Centre managed and analysed the results.
The purpose of the Electronic Conference was to:
- gather examples of the multifunctional character of agriculture and land, building up an empirical base of information;
- identify key issues for debate to be included in the Taking Stock process, as well as for the main FAO/NL Maastricht Conference;
- catalyse networks, relationships and on-going dialogue on these issues.
The Electronic Conference was conducted in three phases:
Phase I to create an inventory of examples of the multifunctional character of agriculture and land, and to discuss basic concepts;
Phase II to analyse the information collected during Phase I, to improve understanding of those functions which are complementary and those which are in conflict;
Phase III to draw conclusions on the key enabling factors and/or constraints for multiple functions in agriculture and land, and the roles of different stakeholder groups in facilitating different functions.
2.3 National Reports to the CSDEvidence at the country level relevant to the MFCAL concept has been obtained through National Reports to the United Nations Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD). The majority of countries provided reports on natural resource aspects of sustainable development to a special session of the CSD convened in 1997 to assess progress towards Agenda 21. Two sections of these reports relate to agriculture and land management. The special session found that the progress to date had not met expectations. The CSD set out to identify ways and means to accelerate progress in the future.
The National Reports were also made in the context of the 1991 Den Bosch Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (SARD), which called for the attainment of three essential goals:
- food security by ensuring an appropriate and sustainable balance between self-sufficiency and self-reliance;
- employment- and income-generation in rural areas, particularly in order to eradicate poverty;
- natural resource conservation and environmental protection.
These goals were further elaborated as the blueprint for SARD in Chapter 14 of Agenda 21 on Promoting Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development. The challenge was to satisfy the demands of the growing population by creating the conditions for SARD that will increase food production in a sustainable way and enhance food security. It was recognised that this would require major adjustments in agricultural, environmental and macro-economic policy, at both national and international levels, in developed as well as developing countries. Success would depend largely on the support and participation of rural people, national governments, the private sector, and international co-operation.
As discussed in the Issues Paper, the MFCAL concept is closely related to and grew out of the SARD approach. Since the Country Reports were prepared in the context of SARD, the analysis of these reports by country groupings in the next chapter is in these terms.
In addition to the Country Reports, some regional level information was obtained through questionnaires, regional and literature reviews. The reviews include information on Small Island Developing States and OECD countries.