United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD)

Presentation of TST Issue Brief on Sustainable Agriculture
Statement by Carlos Seré, Associate Vice-President, International Fund for
Agriculture Development (IFAD), 22 May 2013
• The topic of this brief covers an issue of major importance to the agenda of the
Open Working Group, because sustainable agriculture plays a central role in
driving sustainable development in its three dimensions.
• Today, agriculture broadly speaking – including crop and livestock production,
fisheries, and forestry – provides jobs, food, and other goods and services, to
most of the women and men on our planet who live in poverty or just above the
poverty line. As we know, GDP growth from this sector is, on average, at least
twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth generated in other sectors, and
even more effective in resource poor, low income countries.
• Agriculture is also a critical engine of growth in its own right. And of course, it is
the sector from which the world at large – especially an increasingly urban
world - derives food, non-food products like feed, fiber, and fuels, and
environmental services – including services linked to climate change mitigation.
• Agriculture today is at a crossroads. It needs to become vastly more productive,
efficient in its use of natural resources, and resilient to a range of shocks and
pressures. It needs to provide decent incomes and employment opportunities to
rural people – especially youth. It also needs to reduce its GHG emissions and
provide other ecosystem services, such as water provision, maintenance of
biodiversity, flood and disease control and maintenance of soil fertility. And it
needs to result in less waste of produce.
• To do so, there is a need to shift to more sustainable agriculture, supported
with adequate policies, investments, and tools. Policies and investments in
agriculture R&D are key for this. Enhanced investment in conserving, using and
developing biodiversity and genetic resources for food and agriculture is also
critical. So are policies that provide incentives to farmers and agribusinesses to
adopt sustainable technologies and practices, and institutional capacity to
design and implement these policies. Everywhere, the risks confronted by
farmers need to be reduced. Ensuring secure land tenure arrangements –
including for women farmers – is essential for this. Investing in farmers’
education is also of major importance.
• Today there is broad consensus on the need for more sustainable strategies for
agriculture. Existing commitments include the outcome document from Rio+20
(“The future we want”), which: “reaffirm[s] the necessity to promote, enhance
and support more sustainable agriculture… that improves food security,
eradicates hunger and is economically viable, while conserving land, water,
plant and animal genetic resources, biodiversity and ecosystems and enhancing
resilience to climate change and natural disasters”.
• Under an SDG agenda, the issue of sustainable agriculture can be addressed in
its different dimensions, including increasing productivity, promoting decent
farm incomes and jobs, promoting healthy ecosystems, and improving
nutritional value and safety of food. To achieve this, the agenda should also
look at how to put in place the needed drivers and processes to foster a shift
towards sustainable agriculture globally and in different country contexts.
• What do we want to see come out of a comprehensive agenda for sustainable
agriculture? Increased agricultural productivity and efficiency of resource use;
increased incomes for agricultural households and decent rural employment
opportunities; healthy, sustainable and productive ecosystems; improved
availability and distribution of quality food; less post-harvest losses and waste;
agricultural commodity prices that reflect social and environmental costs; food
production systems that are more resilient to shocks and changes; food
security concerns addressed in trade regimes and trade policies; agricultural
policies that promote local and regional agricultural markets; and agricultural
policies that value and draw on indigenous and local knowledge.
• Achieving these multiple objectives will require a range of measures: inclusive
platforms for policymaking and programme design; secure land tenure
arrangements for rural people, particularly women; better mechanisms and
incentives for technology sharing; improved provision of public goods;
sustainability considerations and incentives mainstreamed into public planning;
integrated approaches to natural resource management; better markets for
ecosystem services; an end to policies that incentivize or permit unsustainable
use of natural resources; and universal access to sustainable energy.
• At the international level, it is also important to strengthen governance of
natural resources and to address trade‐distorting policies and protectionism
with negative impact on sustainable agriculture.
• In terms of formulating possible goals or targets in this area, the brief presents
a number of recommendations for the OWG.
o First, that the SDG framework should recognize the role of sustainable
agriculture as a driver of poverty eradication and development.
o Second, giving due consideration to the link between sustainable
agriculture and eradication of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition.
o Third, providing a platform where stakeholders can discuss to define
common goals around sustainable agriculture and various parts of the
SDG agenda. The Committee on World Food Security (CFS) and its high
level panel of experts may play an instrumental role in such a process.
o Fourth, articulating linkages between sustainable agriculture and food
security and nutrition or other goals (e.g. around the food/water/energy
nexus) through indicators or principles associated with relevant goals.
These principles could be used to guide the national development of
action plans for achievement of the SDGs, where sustainable agriculture
can play an important role towards achieving the goals
o Promoting an integrated approach is essential. This can be done, in the
case of a goal on sustainable agriculture, with indicators relating to
energy and water, or through principles facilitating integrated
decision‐making processes on the various elements of each cluster.
o Fifth, developing one or more global targets with a set of core indicators,
with timelines and additional indicators adaptable to national
circumstances in the area of sustainable agriculture