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Role of FARMERS in sust. dev.

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The following chapter from Agenda 21, negotiated by governments at the
Earth Summit, makes recommendations for strengthening the role of farmers
in sustainable development.  It may be useful for groups wishing to evaluate
progress since Rio, and in planning for future activities in achieving
in agriculture.

Agenda 21, Chapter 32:  Strengthening The Role Of Farmers

Programme Area

Basis for action

32.1 Agriculture occupies one third of the land surface of the Earth, and is
the central activity for much of the world's population. Rural activities
take place in close contact with nature, adding value to it by producing
renewable resources, while at the same time becoming vulnerable to
overexploitation and improper management.

32.2 The rural household, indigenous people and their communities, and the
family farmer, a substantial number of whom are women, have been the
stewards of much of the Earth's resources. Farmers must conserve their
physical environment as they depend on it for their sustenance. Over the
past 20 years there has been impressive increase in aggregate agricultural
production. Yet, in some regions, this increase has been outstripped by
population growth or international debt or falling commodity prices.
Further, the natural resources that sustain farming activity need proper
care, and there is a growing concern about the sustainability of
agricultural production systems.

32.3 A farmer-centred approach is the key to the attainment of
sustainability in both developed and developing countries and many of the
programme areas in Agenda 21 address this objective. A significant number of
the rural population in developing countries depend primarily upon
small-scale, subsistence-oriented agriculture based on family labour.
However, they have limited access to resources, technology, alternative
livelihood and means of production. As a result, they are engaged in the
overexploitation of natural resources, including marginal lands.

32.4 The sustainable development of people in marginal and fragile
ecosystems is also addressed in Agenda 21. The key to the successful
implementation of these programmes lies in the motivation and attitudes of
individual farmers and government policies that would provide incentives to
farmers to manage their natural resources efficiently and in a sustainable
way. Farmers, particularly women, face a high degree of economic, legal and
institutional uncertainties when investing in their land and other
resources. The decentralization of decision-making towards local and
community organizations is the key in changing people's behaviour and
implementing sustainable farming strategies. This programme area deals with
activities which can contribute to this end.


32.5 The following objectives are proposed:

     (a) To encourage a decentralized decision-making process through the
     creation and strengthening of local and village organizations that
     would delegate power and responsibility to primary users of natural

     (b) To support and enhance the legal capacity of women and vulnerable
     groups with regard to access, use and tenure of land;

     (c) To promote and encourage sustainable farming practices and

     (d) To introduce or strengthen policies that would encourage
     self-sufficiency in low-input and low-energy technologies, including
     indigenous practices, and pricing mechanisms that internalize
     environmental costs;

     (e) To develop a policy framework that provides incentives and
     motivation among farmers for sustainable and efficient farming

     (f) To enhance the participation of farmers, men and women, in the
     design and implementation of policies directed towards these ends,
     through their representative organizations.


(a) Management-related activities

32.6 National Governments should:

     (a) Ensure the implementation of the programmes on sustainable
     livelihoods, agriculture and rural development, managing fragile
     ecosystems, water use in agriculture, and integrated management of
     natural resources;

     (b) Promote pricing mechanisms, trade policies, fiscal incentives and
     other policy instruments that positively affect individual farmer's
     decisions about an efficient and sustainable use of natural resources,
     and take full account of the impact of these decisions on household
     food security, farm incomes, employment and the environment;

     (c) Involve farmers and their representative organizations in the
     formulation of policy;

     (d) Protect, recognize and formalize women's access to tenure and use
     of land, as well as rights to land, access to credit, technology,
     inputs and training;

     (e) Support the formation of farmers' organizations by providing
     adequate legal and social conditions.

32.7 Support for farmers' organizations could be arranged as follows:

     (a) National and international research centres should cooperate with
     farmers' organizations in developing location-specific
     environment-friendly farming techniques;

     (b) National Governments, multilateral and bilateral development
     agencies and non-governmental organizations should collaborate with
     farmers' organizations in formulating agricultural development projects
     to specific agro-ecological zones.

(b) Data and information

32.8 Governments and farmers' organizations should:

     (a) Initiate mechanisms to document, synthesize and disseminate local
     knowledge, practices and project experiences so that they will make use
     of the lessons of the past when formulating and implementing policies
     affecting farming, forest and fishing populations;

     (b) Establish networks for the exchange of experiences with regard to
     farming that help to conserve land, water and forest resources,
     minimize the use of chemicals and reduce or reutilize farm wastes;

     (c) Develop pilot projects and extension services that would seek to
     build on the needs and knowledge base of women farmers.

(c) International and regional cooperation

32.9 FAO, IFAD, WFP, the World Bank, the regional development banks and
other international organizations involved in rural development should
involve farmers and their representatives in their deliberations, as

32.10 Representative organizations of farmers should establish programmes
for the development and support of farmers' organizations, particularly in
developing countries.

Means of implementation

(a) Financing and cost evaluation

32.11 The financing needed for this programme area is estimated in chapter
14 (Promoting sustainable agriculture and rural development), particularly
in the programme area entitled "Ensuring people's participation and
promoting human resource development for sustainable agriculture". The costs
shown under chapters 3 (Combating poverty), 12 (Managing fragile ecosystems:
combating desertification and drought), and 13 (Managing fragile ecosystems:
sustainable mountain development) are also relevant to this programme area.

(b) Scientific and technological means

32.12 Governments and appropriate international organizations, in
collaboration with national research organizations and non-governmental
organizations should, as appropriate:

     (a) Develop environmentally sound farming technologies that enhance
     crop yields, maintain land quality, recycle nutrients, conserve water
     and energy and control pests and weeds;

     (b) Conduct studies of high-resource and low-resource agriculture to
     compare their productivity and sustainability. The research should
     preferably be conducted under various environmental and sociological

     (c) Support research on mechanization that would optimize human labour
     and animal power and hand-held and animal-drawn equipment that can be
     easily operated and maintained. The development of farm technologies
     should take into account farmers' available resources and the role of
     animals in farming households and the ecology.

(c) Human resource development

32.13 Governments, with the support of multilateral and bilateral
development agencies and scientific organizations, should develop curricula
for agricultural colleges and training institutions that would integrate
ecology into agricultural science. Interdisciplinary programmes in
agricultural ecology are essential to the training of a new generation of
agricultural scientists and field-level extension agents.

(d) Capacity-building

32.14 Governments should, in the light of each country's specific situation:

     (a) Create the institutional and legal mechanisms to ensure effective
     land tenure to farmers. The absence of legislation indicating land
     rights has been an obstacle in taking action against land degradation
     in many farming communities in developing countries;

     (b) Strengthen rural institutions that would enhance sustainability
     through locally managed credit systems and technical assistance, local
     production and distribution facilities for inputs, appropriate
     equipment and small-scale processing units, and marketing and
     distribution systems;

     (c) Establish mechanisms to increase access of farmers, in particular
     women and farmers from indigenous groups, to agricultural training,
     credit and use of improved technology for ensuring food security.

      Provided by:   [Agenda 21] [Alternative Treaties] ["Rio Cluster"]

Linda L. Elswick
Washington Office
World Sustainable Agriculture Association, 2025 I Street, NW#512, WDC, 20006
Phone: 202-293-2155
Fax: 202-293-2209
Email: wsaadc@igc.apc.org
Web Site:  http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/wsaa