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Sustainable rural development: progress and challenges

Posted March 1996. Based on the "Fourth Progress Report on the WCARRD Programme of Action" (FAO, 1995), the UN system's monitor of rural development worldwide. The report cuts across several dimensions of sustainable development - it examines the effects of liberalization on rural services, trends in access to land, inputs and markets, new opportunities for people's participation, the feminization of agriculture, and the effect of budget cuts on education, training and extension.

Towards sustainable food security

Posted November 1996. Levels of malnutrition are intolerably high. Agriculture must satisfy people's right to food, but in a manner which ensures that the natural resource base remains productive. Our Special reviews key issues and experiences in sustainable food security: the role of women and grassroots organizations, new approaches to land reform, challenges facing agricultual research, education and training, and policy options for ensuring food production within environmental limits. We also publish a presentation highlighting sustainable food security strategies: (in text-only and graphics-rich versions).

Potential impacts of sea-level rise on populations and agriculture

Posted March 1998. Under the "worst case" scenario, global mean sea-level is expected to rise almost one metre by the year 2100, affecting more than 140 million people in China and Bangladesh alone. Now, an interdisciplinary team of FAO experts has conducted a major study of sea-level rise (SRL) and its impact on people and agriculture. The authors - from FAO's Sustainable Development and Agriculture Departments - review SRL's demographic, physiographic and socio-economic setting, its direct and indirect effects, and lessons from extreme events of the recent past. They conclude that "in general, it is likely that the relative importance of coastal disasters will decrease."


"Preparation of a land cover database through remote sensing and GIS: Pilot study in Bulgaria"

Posted July 2002. This issue of the Remote sensing for decision-makers series (No. 21) illustrates recent satellite data and land cover maps specially devised for agricultural applications.
(Also available in French)

"Assessment of priority areas for trypanosomiasis control actions by satellite data and fuzzy logic: Pilot study in Togo"

Posted February 2002. This issue of the Remote sensing for decision-makers series addresses the control of vector-borne diseases and the management of rangeland resources.
(Also available in French)

Biological diversity for food and agriculture

Updated November 2000. Prepared by our Environment and Natural Resources Service, brings together a variety of FAO-wide resources on the subject, including a briefing on the role of biological diversity in feeding the world, details of FAO activities, including databases and links.

Remote sensing for decision-makers

Updated May 2000. "Inventory and monitoring of shrimp farms by radar satellite data" is the latest case study added to this Special on the use of remote sensing and geographic information systems in planning and management of renewable natural resources in agriculture, forestry and fisheries. Summaries of the case studies are adapted from the Remote sensing for decision-makers series, intended for heads and division directors of national and international organizations and administrations, as well as for project managers, planners and policy-makers of development institutions.

Organic agriculture and FAO

Updated September 1999. Organic agriculture is becoming increasingly important in the agriculture sector. Its environmental and economic benefits have captured the attention of many countries, while consumer demand for organically produced food and fibres products provides new opportunities for farmers and businesses around the world. It also presents new challenges for FAO.

Agroclimatic concepts

Posted May 1999. René Gommes, Senior Agrometeorologist with SD's Environment and Natural Resources Service, takes us on a guided tour of agroclimatic concepts, illustrating climate risk and vulnerability in agricultural production, the "fundamental differences" between developing and developed countries in terms of climate risk, and actual production losses caused by climate variability at national and global scale. Illustrated with charts.

Maps of the World Food Summit

Posted April 1999. An update to our existing Special on Geographic information systems. As part of the World Food Summit Summit, FAO prepared a Technical Atlas, consisting of 19 global maps covering key areas such as undernutrition, population growth, food production growth, soil degradation, trade and refugees. The maps are made available here for browsing and for downloading in two Geographic Information System formats (Note: Average map size is 45K; requires frames-capable browser and screen width of at least 832 pixels).

Integrated coastal area management and agriculture, forestry & fisheries

Posted October 1998. Based on newly published FAO guidelines. In the near future, population pressure and intensifying economic activity will add to overexploitation of coastal resources and the degradation of many coastal habitats. Integrated coastal area management (or ICAM) offers a means of balancing the competing demands of different users of coastal resources and optimizing the benefits.

Geographic Information Systems in sustainable development

Posted March 1998. Most sustainable development decisions require trade-offs between the often conflicting goals of different sectors. GIS technology helps cross-sectoral communication by not only providing very powerful tools for analysing multisectoral data, but also by integrating databases of different sectors in the same system. The Special provides a general introduction to GIS, explores some of its most common applications (in agriculture, forestry, fisheries), and supplies a page of links to digital datasets available worldwide. Note: For frames-capable browsers only.

Biodiversity for food and agriculture

Posted February 1998. Presents key chapters from "Human Nature", an independent study prepared for FAO by the Rural Advancement Foundation International. Until recently, agriculture and nature conservation were often seen as being in opposition. Today, there is growing recognition that food security and the conservation and sustainable use of agricultural biological diversity are inextricably linked. The Special covers biodiversity in crops, plants, farm animals, forests, fish and aquatic life, and soil.

Global Climate Maps

Posted October 1997. We present 53 global climate maps prepared by FAO's Agrometeorology Group, which is making the the original georeferenced maps - plus image analysis software - available for free download. The Group "gridded" IIASA climate data to create colour-keyed maps of global temperature, rainfall and sunshine fraction patterns. Derived products include a map of Koeppen's climate classification and estimates of biomass potential. The presentation requires a frames-capablebrowser and a screen width of at least 832 pixels. Users with smaller screens who wish to download the georeferenced maps and software should proceed directly to our downloading instructions.

Earth Summit +5

Posted June 1997. The UN General Assembly met in a Special Session from 23 to 27 June to assess progress in implementation of Agenda 21, the programme adopted by the 1992 Earth Summit. We publish a series of eight FAO progress reports on key Agenda 21 Chapters and broader areas of concern, including: planning and management of land resources, combating deforestation, combating desertification and drought, sustainable mountain development, sustainable agriculture and rural development, conservation of biological diversity, climate change and sustainable energy.

Agrometeorological crop forecasting

Posted December 1996. FAO agrometeorologists have helped develop a crop forecasting methodology that is an integral part of national systems for detecting harvest shortfalls in many developing countries. This special presentation uses satellite imagery, graphs and charts to illustrate the "agromet" approach: the information and data required, FAO's model for simulating plant-weather-soil interactions, and outputs such as crop condition and yield maps. Recommended for advanced browsers with fast connections.


Technical Consultation on Decentralization

Posted February 1998. The Technical Consultation on Decentralization, held in Rome from 16 to 18 December 1997, brought together policy-makers, practitioners and academics from the developed and developing world to review and discuss the contribution of decentralized and participatory strategies to rural development. All documentation is available here.


Agricultural knowledge and information systems (AKIS) in Hagaz, Eritrea

Posted October 2001. This study was carried out in Eritrea by the Eritrean Ministry of Agriculture with support form FAO and DANIDA. The study's objective was to reach a better understanding of the information needs of farmers and the sources from which they access available information. The Eritrean Ministry of Agriculture plans to use this information in order to implement demand-led extension and advisory services in the country.

The role of information and communication technologies in rural development and food security

Posted November 2000. In June 2000, FAO organized the First Consultation on Agricultural Information Management, aimed at exploring ways of improving the capacities of decision-makers, professionals and the public to access and use information essential for achieving sustainable agricultural development and food security. A two-day expert workshop on the role of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in rural development and food security was one of the activities held during the Consultation. The workshop report, as well as eight of the papers discussed at the event, which brought together twenty participants from NGOs, multilateral agencies, academia and the private sector, are presented here.

The first mile of connectivity

Posted April 1999. If rural communities are the "first mile," then the real challenge for enhancing rural telecommunications lies with the urban-centred governments, businesses and agencies that have for so long ignored the desires of rural people to get connected to the world. The challenge is not technical or financial, but political and ideological. This Special brings together practitioners, perspectives and lessons-learned to add new understandings and knowledge for the advancement of telecommunication technologies for rural development.

Managing agricultural research

Posted April 1998. Based on the FAO publication, "Management of agricultural research: a training manual", by V.N. Asopa and G. Beye (FAO, 1997). The manual, aimed at helping national trainers conduct their own courses at institute level, is based on four structural functions of management: planning, organizing, monitoring and controlling, and evaluating. Our Special, based on the manual's introductory module, provides an overview and sections on management orientation and decision making, the case method, course contents, management training, and planning and management of short executive development programmes.

Agricultural education and training: issues and opportunities

Posted May 1997. SD's Agricultural Education Group has carried out an exhaustive review of agricultural education and training in developing countries. Its report - the result of two expert consultations, a survey of educational institutions worldwide, and eight regional round tables - warns that agricultural education and training have failed to adapt to environmental concerns, advances in science and technology, the changing role of women in society and the increasing marginalization of rural life.

Development communication and Internet

Posted September 1996. SD's Electronic Information Systems working group and Canada's University of Guelph recently explored the potential role of Internet in linking rural people and sharing local knowledge. We publish the exhaustive final report of Guelph's Don Richardson, with its recommendation that FAO "take leadership to ensure that rural and agricultural communities link electronic 'village trails' to the information super-highway". It includes an extensive list of development-related World Wide Web sites.

Wiring the South: Internet and the developing world

Posted May 1996. Is Internet the solution to the South's information and communications needs? This Special reports the opinions of Southern journalists and NGOs, proposals for "Communications Utilities" privately run for public benefit, and UN experience in establishing computer networks in Africa. A Nigerian health worker describes what it's like "stuck in the ruts on the information superhighway", while an FAO specialist reminds us that, in many countries, "the old ways of communicating remain the most effective".


Asian women in agriculture, environment and rural production

Posted February 1999. Based on fact sheets prepared by FAO's Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, this Special provides a general profile, plus an analysis of women's roles in agriculture, environment, rural production and food security, in 10 countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Lao PDR, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Viet Nam. The original fact sheets are also available as full-colour PDF files.

Population, poverty and environment

Posted January 1999. How can the UNFPA Technical Support Services system enhance the contribution of population programmes to poverty alleviation and to the promotion of sustainable development? That was the critical question addressed by an FAO/ILO Thematic Workshop on Population, Poverty and Environment, held in Rome from 26-30 October 1998. This Special includes four documents from the said Workshop.

Gender and participation in agricultural development planning

Posted February 1998. Draws on the experiences of 12 FAO projects that tested various approaches aimed at making agricultural planning more participatory and responsive to the needs of both male and female farmers. From these experiences, FAO prepared 10 case studies and an issues paper focussing on four areas: producing gender disaggregated information, training agricultural staff in participatory methods, linking farmer's priorities with policy-making and planning processes, and promoting institutional change.

Participation in practice

Posted November 1997. Starting in the early 1980s, the FAO People's Participation Programme (PPP) used small-scale projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America to develop strategies for organizing grass roots rural people. It created small, informal, self-reliant groups that allowed members to work together on income-generating activities, served as receiving mechanisms for development services, and provided a voice in dealings with local authorities. We present here details of lessons learned from the PPP experience.

Empowering the rural disabled in Asia and Pacific

Posted July 1997. Asia and Pacific countries have designated 1993-2002 the "Decade for the Disabled" - ten years to raise awareness of the problems of millions of disabled men, women and children. An estimated one to three percent of the region's adult population are disabled and 80% of them live in rural areas. We publish seven papers presented at a recent FAO Round Table on the Integration of Disabled People in Agricultural and Agro-industry Systems, held in Bangkok. The papers review the status of the disabled in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam and propose income-generating activities in agroindustry and horticulture.

Gender: the key to sustainability and food security

Posted May 1997. This Special presentation describes FAO's conceptual framework for analysing gender's implications for sustainable agriculture and rural development. It shows how FAO is transforming these ideas into strategies and action in the areas of natural resources management, agricultural support systems, food and nutrition, and improved policy-making and planning.

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