A Working Definition
Agriculture and rural development are sustainable when they are ecologically sound, economically viable, socially just, culturally appropriate, humane and based on a holistic scientific approach.
An Evolving Concept
The concept of sustainable development was introduced in the 1987 report of the Brundtland Commission on Environment and Development as a means of shifting attention away from narrow sectoral interests and towards an approach that comprehensively embraced environmental, social and economic goals. The SARD concept emerged in the early 1990s as a framework for focusing greater attention on sustainability issues within agricultural and rural development processes in both developed and developing countries.
After Rio, early efforts to develop a consensus amongst concerned stakeholders on the conceptual framework for implementing SARD met with some difficulty. However, since the Earth Summit+5 in 1997, a number of approaches which seek to implement parts of the SARD agenda have been mainstreamed by FAO and other development practitioners. Today, SARD is seen as both a paradigm for holistic development and an overarching goal, achievement of which would also bring success with respect to the Millennium Development Goals and related targets.
A Set of Principles and Good Practices
SARD provides an umbrella that encompasses the principles of sustainable development including economic viability, cultural appropriateness, social justice, environmental soundness, and long-term productivity. The means to achieve SARD are many and are associated with good practices related to, inter alia, people centred development, sustainable livelihoods, sound agroecological practices, sustainable forestry systems, community based natural resources management, participatory policy development, indigenous farming systems, fair labour conditions, Good Agricultural Practice, equitable access to water, among many others.