What is the SARD Initiative?
The Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (SARD) Initiative is a multi-stakeholder umbrella framework that engages civil society, governments and intergovernmental organizations in a joint effort to make rapid progress toward achievement of the Agenda 21 vision for SARD.
How did the Initiative evolve?
The SARD Initiative emerged from the Dialogue on Land and Agriculture at the Eighth Session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-8) in 2000 and the subsequent SARD Forum that was organized as a side event at the FAO Committee on Agriculture (COAG) in 2001. In the run-up to the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), CSD decided to give much greater emphasis to implementation processes involving stakeholder partnerships. FAO, in its capacity as Task Manager for Chapter 14, facilitated preparation of the SARD Initiative, with active participation of civil society.
Launch of the Initiative
The SARD Initiative was launched in Johannesburg at a series of side events during the WSSD in September 2002. Representatives from 65 governments, 5 UN agencies, and 80 civil society organizations from the nine CSD Major Groups plus Media and Consumer interest groups, participated and expressed their interest in continued involvement. FAO has since designated the SARD Initiative as a High Visibility Programme through which it seeks to mobilize resources and provide technical support for multi-stakeholder action at global, regional and above all, national level.
Why do we need an Initiative for SARD?
In many parts of the world most rural people are relatively disadvantaged and lack adequate opportunities to exchange information and learn about, test, adapt and replicate environmentally and socially appropriate approaches that would improve their livelihoods and achieve sustainable agriculture and rural development. Often they also have little possibility to influence policies, processes and institutions that affect them, especially in the context of globalization. Since Rio, many successful experiences have been recorded in specific localities. These experiences urgnetly need to be assessed, shared, adapted and scaled up, and complementary public sector investments in physical and institutional infrastructure for viable, equitable and sustainable rural development need to be programmed and implemented. It is because of this that the SARD Initiative has emerged.
What are its aims and how does it work?
The Initiative aims to achieve concrete and measurable improvements in the livelihoods and living conditions of the rural poor and the sustainability of their environments over the next 5 years, thus contributing to the implementation of Chapter 14 of Agenda 21 and achievement of the Millennium Development goals. It has been designed to support the transition to people-centred sustainable agriculture and rural development and to strengthen participation in programme and policy development.
It is led by civil society, facilitated by FAO and supported by governments. A multi-major group mechanism has been established to guide the Initiative and FAO has created an FAO-SARD team to manage the full range of FAO's Chapter 14 responsibilities, including facilitation of the Initiative.
What does it do?
The Initiative helps to achieve SARD by supporting pilot efforts and building the capacity of rural communities, disadvantaged groups and other stakeholders to improve access to resources (e.g. genetic, technological, land, water, markets and information), promote good practices for SARD, and foster fairer conditions of employment in agriculture. It provides catalytic support to strengthen the capacities, initiatives and innovations of farmers, fisherfolk, pastoralists and other rural people to achieve SARD and provides a framework through which local, national and regional initiatives related to sustainable agriculture and rural development can be recognized, supported and, if appropriate, replicated to contribute to improving rural livelihoods, as called for in Agenda 21. The Initiative links resources, expertise, knowledge and technologies to demands of rural communities and disadvantaged stakeholders. By upscaling lessons, successful endeavours and approaches, the SARD Initiative helps to promote wider access to, use of and benefits from existing resources.