The International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) is a 3 year international collaborative effort by the World Bank to evaluate the relevance, quality and effectiveness of agricultural knowledge and related aspects. It is basically a project involving about 900 people who formulated a 600 page global report about 10 years back.
Scientists met and summarized the state of global agriculture in 2008 on behalf of the World Bank. The assessment found that modern agriculture has brought significant increases in food production but the benefits have been spread unevenly and have come at an increasingly intolerable price. Farmers have had to pay the price, especially small-scale farmers, workers, rural communities and the environment. It was discovered that focusing on production alone will create a degraded and divided planet. We are increasingly creating an uninhabitable planet and therefore reforms such as legal, institutional and economic will be required to be put in place to protect natural resources.
Natural resources are abused beyond repair already. Farm lands are over used and soil degradation has become a common concern globally. The IAASTD refuted the myth that industrial agriculture is superior to small-scale farming in economic, social and ecological terms and recognised the pivotal role that small-scale farmers play in feeding the world. The report called for more investment in smallholders in order to combat hunger and find to make fundamental changes to the way farming is done. This is necessary to create a more efficient means of addressing issues such as rising food prices, hunger and environmental disasters. For all this to be implemented, government organizations and other concerned institutions must support the cause and work towards revolutionizing agricultural policies and practices to be ultimately able to achieve sustainable farming.
The report developed by the IAASTD has been seeing some reforms implemented but radical changes are still needed to achieve sustainable agriculture. The IAASTD was composed of one Global Assessment and five Sub-global Assessments, which used the same framework: the impacts of agricultural knowledge, science, and technology on hunger, poverty, nutrition, human health, and environmental and social sustainability in the past and the future. The Global and Sub-global assessments were peer-reviewed by governments and experts, and approved by the panel of participating governments.
The five Sub-global Assessments complemented the Global Assessment by examining geographic area-specific aspects:
– Central and West Asia and North Africa (CWANA) – Regional Institute: ICARDA (International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas)
– East and South Asia and the Pacific (ESAP) – Regional Institute: World Fish Center
– Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) – Regional Institute: IICA (Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture)
– North America and Europe (NAE)
-Sub-Saharan Africa – Regional Institute: ACTS (African Centre for Technology Studies)
The assessments of the report addressed challenges faced by agriculture today and the pros and cons of bio-energy, potential role of biotechnology, effects of climate change, effects on health, use of natural resources, small farmers and global trade, future role for traditional farming, women in agriculture, and scope for future.
All countries recognize the importance of these reports as well its contribution to understand agricultural knowledge, science and technology. 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.
The IAASTD states that despite significant achievements to increase agricultural productivity, we have been less attentive to some of the unintended social and environmental consequences of our achievements. We are now in a good position to reflect on these consequences and to outline various policy options to meet the challenges ahead. This is characterized as the need for food and livelihood security under increasingly constrained environmental conditions from within and outside the realm of agriculture and globalized economic systems.
A primary goal of the IAASTD is to see how Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology (AKST) can be used to reduce hunger and poverty, to improve rural livelihoods and so on. The IAASTD is unique in that it assesses both formal science and technology (S&T) and local and traditional knowledge. It also addresses multi-functionality of agriculture, and recognizes that multiple perspectives exist on the role and nature of AKST. In former times, agriculture was done to increase productivity and yield and increase revenue for the economy. But now situations have changed due to over use of land, climate changes occurring due to cutting down of trees and rise in buildings and pollution levels in the air. The number of factors affecting agriculture today is innumerous but given these factors that could drastically affect the future of agriculture, steps have to be taken to work around the external changes affecting agriculture and threatening its future prospects.
Business as usual is no longer an option. This leads to rethinking the role of AKST in achieving development and sustainability goals. In order to address the diverse needs and interests that shape human life, a shared approach to sustainability with local and cross-national collaboration is needed to be put in place. To get better and sure success, incentives are needed to influence the choices individuals make. Issues such as poverty, water scarcity and climate change require collective agreements globally. All the relevant decision makers must be acutely conscious of the fact that there are diverse challenges, multiple theoretical frameworks and development models and a wide range of options to meet development and sustainability goals. Our perception and choices that we choose to make currently will directly affect the future of agriculture growth.
Agriculture is not the same as it used to be with resources being available in abundance. Now in these challenging times of scarce natural resources and factors such as erratic climate changes affecting the health of crops, animals and environment, it is time to think out of the box and work towards measures to suit the needs of the future and work around those parameters to ultimately keep agriculture going for future generations.