United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development


FAO Main Message on Agriculture: Policy Options to Expedite Implementation
The Commission on Sustainable Development Seventeenth Session (CSD-17)
Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting (IPM) (23-27 February 2009, New York)
1. Production of food must be doubled by 2050 in order to meet the growing demand for
food security needs in developing countries. The majority of future increases in food and
agriculture production in some 80 percent of developing countries will have to come from
production system intensification based on higher yields and often with multiple cropping.
Such production intensification will continue to rely on the use of adapted integrated croplivestock
systems involving improved and traditional varieties and animal breeds, combined
with soil, crop and animal husbandry practices that can make the most efficient and optimal
use of production inputs, while protecting the supporting ecosystem services and biodiversity.
The integration of biofuel cropping into the existing food production systems must be done
with careful policy planning so that local and national food security is not jeopardized and
natural resources do not suffer from degradation.
2. Agricultural development policies need to be underpinned by production practices that
are competitive and sustainable, and production systems and supply chains are supported by
cost-saving policies and institutional support to encourage private sector engagement. On the
production and output marketing side, policies must encourage and reward those producers
who form producer associations to capture economies of scale in production and in input and
output markets, and those who adopt good farming practices. In this regard, payments to
farmers for ecosystem services may often merit increasing policy consideration.
3. Many developing nations have food security policies but their focus on the needs and
roles of smallholders should be strengthened. There are very few situations in which full
household food security can be attained simply by raising national food production: income
distribution measures, especially targeted cash transfers (or other social security programmes)
must be part of the solution, even in rural areas. Raising national food output does, however,
contribute to lower food prices and hence increase the amount and possibly the quality of
food that poor families can afford to buy.
4. Biotechnology represents a broad collection of tools that can be used for a variety of
purposes, such as the genetic improvement of plant varieties and animal populations to
increase their yields, or the genetic characterization and conservation of genetic resources.
FAO considers that biotechnology provides powerful tools that can be of significant
assistance to the sustainable development of agriculture, fisheries and forestry, as well as the
food industry, when appropriately integrated with other technologies for the production of
food, agricultural products and services. However, despite their promise, many applications of
biotechnology have not yet met their full potential to deliver practical solutions to the farmers
in developing countries. This is due to a number of reasons, including the lack of sufficient
research funding, human and institutional capacities and adequate infrastructure. There is a
need for greater political and financial support to overcome these obstacles.
5. Inadequate national and international attention to agriculture and rural development
over the past three decades has led to deterioration in the public sector capacity in agricultural
research, extension and training. Productive agriculture requires capital investments in all
kinds of asset development - natural, physical, social, scientific and in education,
communication, machinery, etc. Capital investment and its wise use is a major determinant of
agricultural growth. Creation of a favourable climate to attract public and private capital to
raise agricultural production and bring about the needed structural and organizational changes
should be a major policy goal. This should be fostered through national policies and strategies
for long-term development of large agro-ecological areas, thus offering investment
opportunities in linking good production practices and their technical considerations to
stakeholder engagement from public, private and civil sectors.
6. Land productivity is based on complex management practices and knowledge bases
that include the management of soil-water-crop-livestock systems in which the functioning of
agro-biodiversity is an important contributor to system efficiency and ecosystem services, and
therefore to cost-effectiveness and sustainability. Agro-biodiversity provides ecosystem
services such as nutrient cycling, pest regulation, pollination, soil porosity and rainfall
capture, and nutrient mobilization and storage, sustains agricultural productivity and water
resources. Gradually, some payment may be appropriate to farmers for their good practices,
such as conservation agriculture for reducing carbon emissions, sequestering carbon into
soils, reducing run-off and soil erosion, and those protecting agro-biodiversity and enhancing
water resources. Sustainable agricultural development policies must consider such
opportunities when formulating incentives to promote production intensification.
7. Growing knowledge of the wide distribution and negative impact of chemicals in the
environment and the human body has underscored the need for their regulatory control and
careful management. Agricultural pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, while essential for
ensuring food security, are an important subset of chemicals and pose specific challenges. The
most effective way of reducing the negative impact of pesticides and fertilizers is by
promoting integrated production practices, which reduce the need for pesticides and optimise
fertilizer use. In the case of pesticides, effective legislation provides governments with tools
to control their import, trade, management, use and disposal and IPM practices deploy nonchemical
methods to suppress pests without harming agro-biodiversity and ecosystem
8. During the last three decades, a rapid global expansion in production and consumption
of animal products led to a so-called ?livestock revolution?, driven by population and income
growth coupled with urbanization. Cheap, often subsidized feed grain, cheap fuel and rapid
technological change, particularly in poultry, pork and dairy production, accelerated the
sector?s growth significantly in the developed and rapidly growing developing countries.
Large-scale commercial production, based mostly on feed grain and often globally connected,
emerged to supply growing urban markets. Today, the livestock sector is faced with new
challenges and risks. Climate change, resource scarcity, increased grain and fuel prices and
emerging diseases have raised costs and disrupted markets. Demand for livestock products is
decreasing in rich countries. At the same time, the world?s rural poor, whose livelihoods
depend on livestock, have not benefited from the livestock revolution and still lack access to
animal protein in their diets and markets in which to sell livestock products. Yet, responsibly
managed livestock has much to contribute to sustainable development. Grassland-based
systems can supply environmental services, while biogas from intensive mono gastric systems
can contribute to energy supplies. National policies should support efforts in these areas.
Small-scale herds and flocks provide an invaluable safety net to poor households and poor
women, contributing to their diverse livelihoods portfolios. National policies should ensure
that they continue to exist within local markets, and this includes supporting the conservation
of local breeds, which are generally well adapted to low-external input systems.
9. The livestock sector?s vigorous growth and its related structural changes have resulted
in a range of significant challenges that require governance and policy action at national and
international level. These challenges relate to the role of the global livestock sector in
economic development and rural poverty alleviation, the accelerated (re)emergence of
diseases affecting animals and humans (and thus economic and social development) and the
natural resource base used in animal production. Currently, animal-related public health risks
are being viewed with increasing urgency and importance. This disease emergency is closely
linked to changes in the livestock production environment and in the sector structure
including increased animal densities and mobility of people and livestock. National policies
are needed to monitor and reduce public health risks.
10. Livestock impact on the environment is substantial. However, it has been largely
under-emphasized given its crucial importance for livelihoods and food security in the
developing world. Approximately 26 percent of the earth?s terrestrial surface is used for
livestock grazing and 33 percent of global arable land is used to grow feed grain. This pasture
use and the production of feed grain are associated with land and habitat degradation, and
with substantial greenhouse gas emission. For example, the expansion of pasture is a major
factor in deforestation in Latin America. Policies to support good practices of pasturelivestock
systems, conservation agriculture, introduction of forage legumes and crops as well
as agroforestry can reduce pressure on forest, enhance carbon sequestration, improve income
and ecosystem services and reduce water pollution in areas of high animal densities.