For decades, agricultural science has focused on boosting production through the development of new technologies. It has achieved enormous yield gains as well as lower costs for large-scale farming. But this success has come at a high environmental cost. Furthermore, it has not solved the social and economic problems of the poor in developing countries, which have generally benefited the least from this boost in production.
Today’s world is a place of uneven development, unsustainable use of natural resources, worsening impact of climate change, and continued poverty and malnutrition. Poor food quality and diets are partly responsible for the increase ofchronic diseases like obesity and heart disease. Agriculture is closely linked to these concerns, including the loss of biodiversity, global warming and water availability.
The International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) focuses on agriculture as the provider of food, nutrition, health, environmental services, and economic growth that is both sustainable and socially equitable. This assessment recognizes the diversity of agricultural ecosystems and of local social and cultural conditions.
It is time to fundamentally rethink the role of agricultural knowledge, science and technology in achieving equitable development and sustainability. The focus must turn to the needs of small farms in diverse ecosystems and to areas with the greatest needs. This means improving rural livelihoods, empowering marginalized stakeholders, sustaining natural resources, enhancing multiple benefits provided by ecosystems, considering diverse forms of knowledge, and providing fair market access for farm products