See our Photo of the Week (and archive of more) books we recommend

Opinion Advertize Permission
To be notified of new articles Survey Store About Us
Basic Information
about the SARD Initiative

Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development

Learn about SARD and the SARD Initiative on the Web at:
The SARD Website
The SARD Initiative Website

What is SARD?
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. SARD inherently addresses multiple sectors encompassing not just agriculture, but also water, energy, health and biodiversity. In the ten years since Rio, when SARD Chapter 14 of Agenda 21 first outlined programmes and actions to enhance food security in a sustainable way, the concept of SARD has evolved to include social, institutional, and economic sustainability, as well as environmental sustainability. This means that sustainable agriculture and rural development, including forestry, and fisheries must meet the nutritional requirements and other human needs of present and future generations, provide durable and decent employment, maintain and, where possible, enhance the productive and regenerative capacity of the natural resource base, reduce vulnerability and strengthen self-reliance.

What is the SARD Initiative?
The SARD Initiative is a multi-stakeholder umbrella framework designed to support the transition to people-centred sustainable agriculture and rural development and to strengthen participation in programme and policy development. 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. The 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 achievement of the Millennium Declaration goals.

Who is involved in the Initiative?
This is a Civil Society-led, Government-supported and FAO-facilitated initiative. Some 55 organisations of farmers, indigenous peoples, workers and trade unions, women, youth, non-government organisations, the scientific and technological community, business and industry, interested consumer and media groups, along with Governments and Inter-Governmental Organisations have already voiced interest in and support for the Initiative.

Why do we need an Initiative for SARD?
Poverty, limited resources and political and social constraints have restricted the ability of rural people, in particular disadvantaged groups, to exchange and learn about, test, adapt, and replicate environmentally and socially appropriate approaches of sustainable agriculture and rural development. Disadvantaged groups, including small farmers/producers, agricultural workers, and indigenous peoples, are often unable to secure or improve their own livelihoods due to resource constraints or lack of influence over the policies, processes, and institutions that affect them, such as, in the context of globalization. Nevertheless, since Rio, significant progress has been made in the development of more equitable and effective policies, approaches, methods, and technologies for SARD, resulting in successful experiences in rural communities. This initiative offers all stakeholders, particularly governments, an opportunity to reinvest in rural development to promote more equal benefit-sharing, reduce poverty, enhance livelihoods, and promote sustainable development.

What is new about this Initiative?
The SARD Initiative 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 recognised, supported and if appropriate, replicated to contribute to improving rural livelihoods as called for in Agenda 21. The Initiative will link resources, expertise, knowledge and technologies to demands of rural communities and disadvantaged stakeholders. By upscaling lessons, successful endeavours, and approaches, the SARD initiative will help to promote wider access to, use of, and benefits from existing resources.

How has the Initiative evolved?
The SARD Initiative emerged from the CSD-8 Dialogue on land and agriculture and subsequent SARD Forum at the FAO Committee on Agriculture (COAG) meeting (2001). The Initiative builds on experiences, inputs and priorities for action from the annual review of Agenda 21 at the CSD, the 1996 World Food Summit and the 2002 World Food Summit: five years later, and the International Conference on SARD in Mountain Regions (Adelboden, June 2002), among others. During the WSSD preparatory process, the SARD Initiative has been refined and a voluntary process of action-oriented ... ... commitments is commencing to secure the resources, experience, expertise, knowledge, and technologies to accelerate progress in SARD. Regular monitoring would allow for iterative improvements to the Initiative.

How will the Initiative develop?
The Initiative is currently in a consultative design phase, has developed working terms of engagement, and different stakeholders' views, proposals, perspectives, experiences, good practices and projects, corresponding to the aims of SARD, would be welcome, to shape its design. Implementation will depend upon the availability of resources and is expected to begin with a focus on Mountain Regions. The Initiative is iterative in design and therefore will allow for critical refinements throughout its life. Periodic reports will be made available to participating stakeholders, donor governments, and the FAO Committee on Agriculture.

How would the Initiative work?
A facility is expected to be established and consist of the following components:

1. A co-ordination team and resource centre (location to be determined) designed to serve the following functions in response to specific requests from rural communities and defined stakeholder groups (possibly at local, regional, national and global levels):

  • supply training (formal/informal), information, technologies, participatory methods, or other resources targeted to overcome specific problems associated with developing more socially, economically and/or environmentally sustainable policies, practices and programmes.
  • promote information sharing through learning and training exchanges between communities and stakeholder groups, school programmes, rural radio, TV, and news bulletins, and where possible Internet or a help-desk system.
  • build capacity of the poor and others to develop, implement, monitor and evaluate policies, programmes and practices for SARD.
  • strengthen civil society institutions, including the representation, consultation, and negotiation processes within their organizations, and facilitate the development of new fora for dialogue between Governments and Civil Society Organizations, by organizing training activities, regional, national and international workshops, conference calls, rural encounters, and experimentation with innovative information and communication technology to reinforce their participation at all levels. foster sustainable access to and use of resources by the disadvantaged.

2. Funding/Seed money to support small farmers, agricultural workers, indigenous peoples, rural communities and other disadvantaged stakeholders to undertake innovations, pilot tests, experimentation and, when appropriate, replication/upscaling of new technologies, good practices, and participatory approaches that achieve the transition to sustainable agriculture, rural development, and improved livelihoods.

3. Decision support tools, guidelines and training based on longer term lessons derived from 1 and 2 (above) to improve legal, regulatory, policy, and market frameworks by:

  • strengthening the knowledge and choices of policy makers derived from lessons obtained from local experience.
  • improving global knowledge about the significance of SARD for the environmental, economic, and social well being of human kind.

What happens next?
The WSSD is one important occasion to revitalize SARD as an integral part of sustainable development. The consultative process will culminate in a stakeholder design workshop, planned for October 2002, to finalize the design, outcomes and mechanisms for the SARD Initiative.

Contact person for more information, comments or proposals?

Name: Eve Crowley,Task Manager Chapter 14, SARD
Published in In Motion Magazine, November 23, 2002.