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World Summit on Sustainable Development, South Africa 2002

SARD Initiative

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Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (SARD) Initiative gathers support from 65 governments at WSSD

ROME, 18 September 2002 -- Amidst a hectic schedule of meetings and roundtables at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) launched the SARD Initiative with expressions of interest and support coming from 65 governments and 80 civil society organizations.

The groundswell of government interest in the SARD Initiative builds on the International Conference on Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development in Mountain Regions, hosted by Switzerland in Adelboden in June 2002, where some 20 governments originally pledged their support for SARD in mountains. The FAO convened three major meetings at the Johannesburg Summit to gather additional government support for the Initiative while engaging them in consultations with civil society and intergovernmental organization partners that emerged during preparatory process leading up to the Summit. The SARD Initiative was presented to delegates at an official side event as well as a plenary partnership announcement - both were convened at the summit conference centre - while a parallel event was hosted at the offsite Ubuntu Village.

FAO Director-General addresses a full-house at official side event for SARD Initiative
At the official SARD Initiative side event, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf welcomed the Governments of Nigeria, Philippines and Switzerland to express their support for the SARD Initiative. In the midst of a full capacity crowd, Mr. Diouf expressed FAO's deep appreciation to major group focal points and other civil society actors who have led the Initiative through the preparatory process and to the Governments of Germany, Switzerland and United States who have contributed initial funding to bolster the effort. Mr. Diouf reminded governments and stakeholders of the importance of financial support for SARD projects and the people who depend on that support. He said "Funding and seed money will be required to enable small farmers, agricultural workers, indigenous people, rural communities and other disadvantaged stakeholders to adopt new technologies, good practices and participatory approaches that facilitate the transition to sustainable agriculture."

Mr. Diouf further recognized the importance of the multi-stakeholder consultations that have taken place under the SARD Initiative and encouraged the dialogue to continue with the full support of the FAO. "This WSSD Side Event is but one important opportunity to realize SARD as an integral part of sustainable development - this consultative process will culminate in a stakeholder design workshop planned for October 2002 to finalize the design, outcomes and mechanisms for the Initiative before moving into the implementation phase. Your contributions today will help to ensure its ownership by a broad array of stakeholders and thereby its success as a concrete outcome of this Summit."

Ango Abdullahi, Special Advisor on Agriculture to President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, expressed Mr. Obasanjo's strong support sending the message that "most of the world's poor and disadvantaged people live in rural communities and the most realistic strategy for poverty reduction and its eventual eradication must be anchored on sustainable agricultural and rural development."

The Government of the Philippines honoured the FAO in its achievement of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources and its partnership with Integrated Pest Management programs. Ambassador Delia Domingo Albert wished to thank the FAO "for providing technical assistance to the Philippine's Integrated Pest Management program, and we therefore look forward to further partnership with the FAO under its effective SARD Initiative - a laudable effort to bring together the three sectors of civil society, government and FAO itself."

Martin Khor, Director of the NGO Third World Network, echoed support and emphasized the importance of ecologically sustainable farming and rural development. During his presentation, Mr. Khor suggested that governments and intergovernmental organizations could do more to contribute to sustainable agriculture by redirecting support to specifically organic agricultural practices and rural communities who engage in such methods. He asserted that "were 10% of research grants and food project financing to go towards funding organic farming, it would be concluded that ecologically sustainable farming can feed the world. This is the job of the FAO for the next ten years," he challenged, "and I hope that the SARD Initiative is the beginning."

FAO strengthens relationship with major groups at first parallel event of Summit
Gathering under the theme - People Shaping their Sustainable Futures - the FAO hosted civil society partners at a SARD Initiative parallel event on the first day of the official Summit. Nine major groups of stakeholders that include Farmers, NGOs, Indigenous Peoples, Workers and Trade Unions, Business and Industry, Local Authorities, the Research and Technological Community, Women and Youth - along with representatives from Media and Consumer interest groups - came together to discuss the ways and means to build capacity among rural communities to achieve ecologically sound, economically viable, socially just, culturally appropriate, holistic and scientific - in a word, sustainable - agriculture and rural development. The discussion addressed three overall themes: 1) Improvement of people's access to genetic, technological, land, water, market and information resources; 2) Fostering fair conditions of employment in agriculture and rural development; and 3) Promoting good practices for SARD.

In the presence of some 200 civil society participants, representatives from the United Nations International Labour Organization and the Governments of Australia, Finland, France, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa contributed statements to the discussion. Overwhelming support was expressed for the SARD Initiative as a concrete means of achieving better access to land and agricultural resources for disadvantaged groups, championing fairer labour standards for the rural poor, promoting grass roots sustainable agriculture and upscaling successful pilot projects.

Germany's commitment to SARD Initiative announced at press conference
Prior to the conclusion of the Summit, the Government of Germany held a joint press conference with FAO to demonstrate its support for the SARD Initiative. The Parliamentary State Secretary in the Ministry of Consumer Protection, Food and Agriculture, Mr. Matthias Berninger outlined his Government's financial and capacity building support during the preparatory process leading up to Johannesburg and declared that Germany would continue to support SARD in the future.

Mr. Jacques-Paul Eckebil, Assistant Director-General of FAO responded to Mr. Berninger's expression of support, emphasizing "SARD is about rural people and their empowerment, particularly disadvantaged groups such as indigenous peoples. Capacity building will therefore be an essential objective to the Initiative."

Ms. Eve Crowley, Task Manager for Chapter 14, Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development and facilitator of the SARD Initiative, outlined future steps. She affirmed that "Through the creation of a resource centre, the SARD Initiative will link resources, expertise, knowledge and technologies to the demands of rural communities and disadvantaged stakeholders. By upscaling lessons, successful endeavours and approaches, the SARD Initiative will provide catalytic support to initiatives of poor rural communities and promote wider access to, use of, and benefits from existing resources."

The SARD Initiative is expected to result in concrete and measurable improvements in the livelihoods and living conditions of the rural poor over the next 5 years, thus contributing to the implementation of Chapter 14 of Agenda 21 and the achievement of the Millennium Declaration Goals. In particular, SARD contributes to achieving Millennium Goal One - To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; Goal Three - To promote gender equality and empower women; Goal Seven - To ensure environmental sustainability; and Goal Eight - To develop a global partnership for development.

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WSSD Related documents


- Major Groups

For further information, contact:
Eve Crowley. Task Manager Chapter 14, SARD
Email: /
Tel: +39 06 5705 5325
Fax: +39 06 5705 3250
Address: SDAR, FAO, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, Rome, Italy 00100

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