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) Management-related activities

32.6 National Governments should:

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

(b) Data and information

32.8 Governments and farmers' organizations should:

(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 appropriate.

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:

(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: