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Agriculture at a Crossroads: Global Report

International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, April 2009


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Resource information:
Resource IDiaastd2009
Resource titleAgriculture at a Crossroads: Global Report
Author(s)Beverly D. McIntyre, Hans R. Herren, Judi Wakhungu, Robert T. Watson
Publication/ sourceInternational Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development
Date publishedApril 2009
Summary text/ abstractThe IAASTD is a multidisciplinary and multistakeholder enterprise requiring the use and integration of information, tools and models from different knowledge paradigms including local and traditional knowledge. The IAASTD does not advocate specific policies or practices; it assesses the major issues facing AKST and points towards a range of AKST options for action that meet development and sustainability goals. It is policy relevant, but not policy prescriptive. It integrates scientific information on a range of topics that are critically interlinked, but often addressed independently, i.e., agriculture, poverty, hunger, human health, natural resources, environment, development and innovation. It will enable decision makers to bring a richer base of knowledge to bear on policy and management decisions on issues previously viewed in isolation. Knowledge gained from historical analysis (typically the past 50 years) and an analysis of some future development alternatives to 2050 form the basis for assessing options for action on science and technology, capacity development, institutions and policies, and investments. The IAASTD is conducted according to an open, transparent, representative and legitimate process; is evidencebased; presents options rather than recommendations; assesses different local, regional and global perspectives; presents different views, acknowledging that there can be more than one interpretation of the same evidence based on different worldviews; and identifies the key scientific uncertainties and areas on which research could be focused to advance development and sustainability goals.
Library categoriesClimate Change, Economics, Food & Agriculture, Land Rights, Vegans/Vegetarians
Download file(s):

file iconAgriculture at a Crossroads: Global Report [16.3 megabytes]

file iconAgriculture at a Crossroads: Global Summary for Decision Makers [3 megabytes]
The IAASTD's governance structure is a unique hybrid of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the nongovernmental Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA). The stakeholder composition of the Bureau was agreed at the Intergovernmental Plenary meeting in Nairobi; it is geographically balanced and multistakeholder with 30 government and 30 civil society representatives (NGOs, producer and consumer groups, private sector entities and international organizations) in order to ensure ownership of the process and findings by a range of stakeholders. About 400 of the world's experts were selected by the Bureau, following nominations by stakeholder groups, to prepare the IAASTD Report (comprised of a Global and five Sub-Global assessments). These experts worked in their own capacity and did not represent any particular stakeholder group. Additional individuals, organizations and governments were involved in the peer review process.

file iconAgriculture at a Crossroads: Synthesis Report [5.4 megabytes]
All countries present at the final intergovernmental plenary session held in Johannesburg, South Africa in April 2008 welcome the work of the IAASTD and the uniqueness of this independent multistakeholder and multidisciplinary process, and the scale of the challenge of covering a broad range of complex issues. The Governments present recognize that the Global and Sub-Global Reports are the conclusions of studies by a wide range of scientific authors, experts and development specialists and while presenting an overall consensus on the importance of agricultural knowledge, science and technology for development they also provide a diversity of views on some issues. All countries see these Reports as a valuable and important contribution to our understanding on agricultural knowledge, science and technology for development recognizing the need to further deepen our understanding of the challenges ahead. This Assessment is a constructive initiative and important contribution that all governments need to take forward to ensure that agricultural knowledge, science and technology fulfils its potential to meet the development and sustainability goals of the reduction of hunger and poverty, the improvement of rural livelihoods and human health, and facilitating equitable, socially, environmentally and economically sustainable development.

file iconAgriculture at a Crossroads: Executive Summary of the Synthesis Report [1.2 megabytes]
This Synthesis Report captures the complexity and diversity of agriculture and agricultural knowledge, science and technology (AKST) across world regions. It is built upon the Global and five Sub-Global reports that provide evidence for the integrated analysis of the main concerns necessary to achieve development and sustainability goals. It is organized in two parts that address the primary animating question: how can AKST be used to reduce hunger and poverty, improve rural livelihoods, and facilitate equitable environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable development? In the first part we identify the current conditions, challenges and options for action that shape AKST, while in the second part we focus on eight cross-cutting themes. The eight crosscutting themes include: bioenergy, biotechnology, climate change, human health, natural resource management, trade and markets, traditional and local knowledge and community-based innovation, and women in agriculture.

file iconAgriculture at a Crossroads: Bioenergy and Biofuels – Opportunities and Constraints [1.5 megabytes]
Given how crucial small-scale farmers are to efforts to decrease hunger and poverty and improve health and nutrition, it is important to identify options that promote sustainable livelihoods for small-scale producers and contribute to environmental sustainability. Increasing energy efficiency, reversing deforestation, and developing and using cleaner, sustainable energy sources are key approaches to addressing climate change. Bioenergy has emerged as an alternative to fossil fuels and is being promoted as a cleaner source of energy.

file iconAgriculture at a Crossroads: Food Safety, Plant and Animal Health – Human Health and Sustainability Dimensions [1.5 megabytes]
In order to help meet development and sustainability goals, food must be safe and wholesome to consume. Effective, coordinated and proactive national and international food safety systems can improve plant, animal and human health. Agricultural knowledge, science and technology (AKST) can play an important role when used within effective regulatory frameworks with sufficient resources. Among the requirements for achieving human health and sustainability goals are greater investments in adequate food safety infrastructure, public health and veterinary capacity; legislative frameworks for identification and control of biological and chemical hazards; and farmer-scientist partnerships for identification, monitoring and evaluation of risks. The agricultural component of bilateral assistance for developing countries grew 16% in 1985, but had declined to 4% by 2003. Recently, however, there has been a renewed interest among donors to use agriculture to promote economic growth and poverty reduction.

file iconAgriculture at a Crossroads: Food Security in a Volatile World [1.4 megabytes]
The underlying causes of the most recent increases in food prices are complex and include factors such as increased demand from rapidly growing economies (especially China); poor harvests due to an increasingly variable climate (e.g., the Australian drought); the use of food crops for biofuels (e.g., maize for bioethanol); higher energy and fertilizer prices; low food stocks; speculation on the commodity futures market; and in response to the high food prices, restrictions imposed on agricultural commodity exports by a number of significant exporters (e.g., Argentina, India and Ukraine) to protect their domestic consumers.

file iconAgriculture at a Crossroads: Human Health and Nutrition [1.1 megabytes]
The components of health are multiple and their interactions complex. The health of an individual is strongly influenced by genetic make-up, nutritional status, access to health care, socioeconomic status, relationships with family members, participation in community life, personal habits and lifestyle choices. The environment – natural, climatic, physical, social or workplace – can also play a major role in determining the health of individuals. Agricultural knowledge, science and technology (AKST) can play an important role in improving human health and nutrition.

file iconAgriculture at a Crossroads: Business as usual is not an option – The role of institutions [848.7 kilobytes]
Institutions are the rules, norms and procedures that guide how people within societies live, work and interact with each other. Formal institutions are written or codified rules, norms and procedures. Examples of formal institutions are the Constitution, judiciary laws, the organized market and property rights. Informal institutions are rules governed by social and behavioral norms of the society, family or community. The words 'institution' and 'organization' are sometimes used interchangeably, but organization refers to formal or informal structures, such as farmer associations, government agencies and research institutes.

file iconAgriculture at a Crossroads: Towards Multifunctional Agriculture for Social, Environmental and Economic Sustainability [5.4 megabytes]
Agriculture operates within complex systems and is multifunctional in its nature. A multifunctional approach to implementing agricultural knowledge, science and technology (AKST) will enhance its impact on hunger and poverty, improving human nutrition and livelihoods in an equitable, environmentally, socially and economically sustainable manner. Multifunctionality recognizes the inescapable interconnectedness of agriculture's different roles and functions, i.e., agriculture is a multi-output activity producing not only commodities, but also noncommodity outputs such as environmental services, landscape amenities and cultural heritages.

file iconAgriculture at a Crossroads: Business as Usual is Not an Option – Trade and Markets [1.3 megabytes]
Underinvestment in developing country agriculture – including in local and regional market infrastructure, information and services – has weakened the small-scale farm sector in many countries. Trade liberalization that opened developing country markets to international competition too quickly or too extensively, further undermined the rural sector and rural livelihoods. Many countries have been left with weakened national food production capacity, making them more vulnerable to international food price and supply volatility and reducing food security.

file iconAgriculture at a Crossroads: IAASTD Fact Sheet – Feeding the World, Greening the Planet [115.2 kilobytes]
Agriculture is at a crossroads; which path we choose today will have far-reaching consequences for our ability to feed ourselves while regenerating the imperiled ecosystems of the world. The convergence of today's climate, energy, food and economic crises urgently calls for reorienting our food and agricultural systems towards sustainability, health, bio-cultural diversity, ecological resilience and equity. These were the central findings of the recently-concluded, first-ever comprehensive global assessment of food and farming.


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