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Title: Sustainability in agricultural systems in transition
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00095671/00001
 Material Information
Title: Sustainability in agricultural systems in transition at what cost?
Physical Description: 29 p. : ill., ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Harwood, Richard, 1937-
Donor: unknown ( endowment )
Publisher: Michigan State University
Place of Publication: East Lansing, Mich.
Publication Date: 1998
Copyright Date: 1998
Subject: Agricultural systems -- Economic aspects   ( lcsh )
Sustainable agriculture -- Economic aspects   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (p. 25-29).
General Note: "Pre-conference draft."
General Note: Typescript.
General Note: "Keynote address for the workshop: Sustainability in Agricultural Systems in Transition. Sponsored by the American Society of Agronomy, the Crop Science Society of America, the Soil Science Society of America and the World Bank. Baltimore, MD. Oct 20-22, 1998."
Statement of Responsibility: Richard R. Harwood.
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Bibliographic ID: UF00095671
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 435438769

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Full Text
(pre-conference draft,

Sustainability in Agricultural Systems in Transition-
At What Cost?

Richard R. Harwood
C.S. Mott Foundation Chair of Sustainable Agriculture
Department of Crop and Soil Sciences
Michigan State University

Keynote address for the workshop: Sustainability in Agricultural Systems in Transition.
Sponsored by the American Society of Agronomy, the Crop Science Society of America, the Soil
Science Society of America and the World Bank. Baltimore, MD. October 20-22, 1998.


The paradox of my title reflects the multiple demands placed on an ever-rapidly-evolving
global agriculture. The world must be assured of agriculture's ability to indefinitely provide
food, fiber, industrial products and ecosystems services through harvest of solar energy, using
reasonable amounts of earth's resources at affordable cost, with acceptable environmental
impacts and with desired social consequences. It is safe to say that no other human economic
activity interacts so broadly. I will not attempt to unravel the complexities of a globally
sustainable agriculture, but will suggest a framework for its conceptualization.
There is cause for optimism for the global food supply during the first half of the 21 st
Century. Total supply should be adequate, most probably at a decreasing real world price during
the first two decades (Pinstrup-Andersen et al., 1997). Per capital production of cereals will
continue its upward trend, assuming United Nations median projection for population growth and
expected trends in yields (Table 1).

Table 1
Per capital production of cereals (kg/person yr)

1979-1981 1989-1991 2010

Developed Countries 678 692 722

Developing 200 214 229
Source: Alexandratos, 1995, p.45.

Yet the world will face increasing social, political and economic disruption if a more
complete agenda for agriculture is not addressed by a combination of public, commercial and
civil sector initiatives. Conditions and trends requiring significant correction include:

* food security remains a distant vision for much of the world's population
* poverty, particularly in rural areas, is a result of underemployment and all-too often, of low
agricultural productivity
* competition for finite land and water resources is intensifying
* agriculture shares an environment burdened by rapidly increasing human activity
* social and political changes are not keeping pace with the changing commercial structure of a
globalized agriculture

> centralization brings problems of monopoly control and loss of checks and balances
> inappropriate scale of farm enterprises causes instability at both extremes
> the advent of industrial scale enterprises reduces community integration, undermining
rural community structure and economies during a transition period

While many statistics could be cited, I will present only one. The International Food
Policy Research Institute's (IFPRI) International Model for Policy Analysis of Commodities and

Trade projects that, under the most likely scenario 150 million children under the age of six years
will be malnourished in 2020, representing 25% of the total. This will be down from 33% in
1993 (Pinstrup-Anderson et. al., 1997). Regional incidence will be far higher, creating
significant gaps in the effectiveness of agriculture to achieve true food security, and hence
Agricultural "sustainability" has thus come to represent a broad development agenda,
having different components and priorities at global, regional, local and individual farm levels.
A generic definition states: an agriculture which can evolve indefinitely toward greater human
utility, increased efficiency of resource use, minimal depletion of non-renewable resources, an
environmental interaction favorable to humans and to most other species, and having structure
consistent with human goals (Harwood, 1990). A more concise definition, borrowed from an
industrial development perspective, holds "economic growth that does not deplete irreplaceable
resources, does not destroy ecological systems, and helps reduce some of the world's gross social
inequalities" (Morse, 1998). Many of the definitions are summarized by Hoag and Skold (1996).
I have constructed a three-part framework: Five key forces that are currently driving
agricultural change, supplemental and corrective forces needed to shape their direction, and
identification of five major areas crucial to agricultural sustainability but which market forces are
unlikely to adequately address (Figure 1).


A very concise summary of the world food future has been given by Ruttan (1996):

A 1989 study at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
advanced what came to be referred to as 'the 2-4-6-8 scenario'--a doubling of
population, a quadrupling of agricultural production, a sextupling of energy
production and an octupling of the size of the global economy by 2050. Note that
it is the growth of the global economy--particularly per capital income growth in
the presently poor countries--that is the source of approximately half the growth in
food demand.

Garret Hardin (1998) has recently described the consequences of such growth as follows.
"(Scientific) numeracy demands that we take account of the exponential growth of living
systems, while acknowledging that resources, when thoroughly understood, will prove to be
definable by numbers that are relatively constant." Agricultural land as a resource, is finite and
reasonably well quantified. Fresh water as a product of hydrological cycle is likewise finite.
Those cycles can be augmented through technology and engineering by purifying and
transporting seawater, but at a cost several times higher than that of natural hydrological
processes which now supply nearly all of agriculture.
The increase in human activity through economic growth and as a result of increased
wealth will continue to load the environment and its ecosystems. Agriculture will be under ever-
increasing pressure to minimize its share of that loading, while at the same time providing
ecosystem services to human-settled areas. Rainfall capture and aquifer recharge, maintenance
of biodiversity, provision of wildlife habitat, waste recycling, landscape esthetics and

Figure 1 Framework for development of a sustainable agriculture

Driving forces

for the
major staples




Increasing activity in the 21st century -
Population, agricultural productivity, energy, global economy
(x2) (x4) (x6) (x8)

Supplemental and corrective forces

I 4I A 21st century
I "transformed"



Technology Lc
minor food
Tmanorl systems
staples sy\ em


Sustaining forces

landscape-level ecosystem maintenance are examples of services to be expected and often
demanded, thus are components of "sustainability". The required higher productivity means
increased material flow from soil to crop and animal and back to the soil, with high level of
economic harvest. This must be done through maintenance of high concentration gradients of
nutrients, crop and animal residues and any applied pesticides between fields, upper soil layers,
air and underlying aquifers or neighboring streams and lakes.
There is general consensus that, particularly in fragile environments, the loss of soil
through erosion and the rates of carbon loss through deforestation and soil degradation are
unacceptable and non-sustainable. The horizontal expansion of commerce, housing, recreation,
and the broad range of other human activities is reducing the agricultural land base in many areas
with rapid economic growth. A summary of threats in shown in Table 2.

Table 2
Threats to Global Agriculture

Sustainability Concern Sustainability Threat

Soil erosion Small (U.S.) to Medium-large (global)

Soil quality degradation Large (global)

Nutrient runoff Medium (regionally large)

Pesticide pollution Medium (locally large)

Wetland loss Small

Farmland loss Potentially very large
Declining farm numbers Economically small, socially very large

Germplasm loss Large

Global climate change Regionally disruptive
Adapted from Faeth, 1997.

It is assumed, in this discussion, that most of the increases in output will come from
either land-based crop and animal production or from managed fisheries. Marine capture
fisheries seem to have reached a production plateau. While better management of stocks, less
destructive harvest technologies and other efforts may result in modest increases in offtake
(Alexandratos, 1995), increasing the disruption of coastal and riverine spawning grounds from a
range of development activities is likely to continue its downward pressure on marine
productivity. The lack of understanding of how processes occur in the coastal ocean is a major
limitation to their better management (National Research Council, 1998). There is no consensus,
and few projections, of significant future increase in marine productivity.
It is against this rapidly changing and uncertain backdrop that agriculture must evolve
toward sustainability.


Agriculture is often seen as a "leading edge" of early commercial growth of a region,
country or community, that force which in turn has a multiplier effect on the overall economy
(Miller, 1995). The forces for change and growth, often called "engines" of growth all have
origin, energy, and resources. They have guiding forces, an enabling environmental and
momentum in both rate and direction. Sustainability is a function of rate and direction as well as
of inclusion. Most forces for change lead to changes in commercial structure of agriculture from
the local to the global level. Agricultural sustainability is thus defined not only by needs and
goals, but is very much dependent upon process. What are the driving forces, how are they
directed, and toward what eventual social, political and economic structure?
The growth of world agriculture in the last half-century has been largely science and
technology-driven, resulting in a lowering of the real cost of food. Per capital production of food
today is 18 percent above that of 30 years ago (Alexandratos, 1995). The 5.7 billion people of
the world today have, on average, 15 percent more food per person than the global population of
four billion people had 20 years ago (FAO, 1996). The developments in crop and animal
genetics, in engineering and in agricultural chemicals and publicly-supported infrastructure
provided the early stimulus.
The forces for change originate, and are provided resources and direction, from three separate
but interrelated sectors:

* the public sector (of formal governance, largely tax-based)
* the private (commercial) sector
* the community-driven (civil) sector (organizations with common interest on issues, influence
or service)

In highly developed pluralistic societies there is a complex pattern of checks and balances
between these three sectors, with each sector having specific and currently rapidly-evolving
roles. There seems to be considerable empirical evidence that pluralism (i.e. democracy) does
not function well without that balance. The evidence from those nations newly-emerging from
centrally-managed economies indicates that formal governance alone is inadequate as a check
and balance on an emerging commercial sector. Formal governance (public) and commercial
sectors alone are not adequate to provide services and individual expression lead to high quality
of life. The most well-known analysis of this subject, while using terminology differing from
that of this paper is that of Putnam (1993) who provides an in-depth analysis of "civic" tradition
in Italy and its relationship to community development. Further discussion of sector balance in
sustainable agricultural development will be given below.

Public Institutional and Physical Infrastructure
The evolving roles of the three sectors suggest changes in thinking for sustainability of
public sector institutions. The development, maintenance and operations of public sector
institutions is critical to their role in a sustainable agriculture. In developing countries, that role
has evolved toward provision of scientific checks and balances against both the commercial
private sector and the community-based sector which relies on perceived values, often without
major scientific content. Public sector roles in developed countries increasingly focus on basic

science, particularly in genomics, and process-level studies, such as agroecology and
environmental interaction. In the developing world, public sector research in varietal
development of the global staple crops will eventually diminish as alternative (commercial)
sources of supply increase, but the "minor" staple crops, primarily for use in local regional and
local food systems and for use by poor people, will be a public sector responsibility for the
foreseeable future. While the need for technology to fuel forces for change is constant, the varied
sustainability requirements will demand that there be varied pathways for that technology
evolution (Harwood, 1995) (Figure 2).
Human, scientific and technical resource development will be an ongoing responsibility
of all three sectors, but major responsibility will remain with a viable and participating
agricultural public sector.
Development and maintenance of physical infrastructure will continue to be a public
sector role in sustainable agricultural development. With systems for water collection and
management, sustainability and efficiency requires that the systems be of appropriate scale for
management at a local level within the public sector. User input into management is critical.
With all public systems serving agriculture, efficiency and market force responsiveness suggest
an appropriate level of user fees, to be identified with and restricted to use in development,
maintenance and operation of the infrastructure. Subsidies, especially in areas of poverty and
low resource availability, should be only partial.

Technologies for the Global Staples
The traditional staples that became the "growth engines" of the green revolution, rice,
wheat and maize, have given rise to a broader "core group" of commodities that today provide
the major stimulus for global agricultural growth. Maize, wheat, rice and sorghum today provide
a major portion of global food grain and feed grain needs, joined by soybeans, poultry, hogs and
beef as global staples.
Technology development has moved rapidly with most of these commodities from
individual farmers and communities of farmers to public sector institutions and to the corporate
private sector. Much of the sustainability debate of today revolves around that transition.
Neither the public nor commercial sector institutions maintain the levels of "active, in-use"
biodiversity of traditional farmer systems. On the other hand, traditional systems have not been
able to make the rapid genetic improvements needed to drive development of other production
technologies, and of production itself that a concerted public sector effort has made in food
grains and feed grains. Modem soybean, poultry, hog and feedlot beef technologies, on the other
hand, have been developed largely through private sector investment on a global scale. Food
grain and feed grain genetic improvement in developed countries has rapidly moved to the
private sector. In most of the developing world, genetic improvement is, as yet, mostly
concentrated in the public sector, with the International Agricultural Research Centers playing a
dominant role, in germplasm preservation and in basic genetic research.

Figure 2 The relative roles of public, commercial and civil sectors in
technology development and flow for sustainable agriculture


commercial sector



Indigenous Diversified commercial Specialized, large-
production systems scale commercial
systems systems


The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) estimates that new
wheat plant architecture could increase yield potential by 10-15% above current lines, and that
with hybrids, the increase in grain- filling and heterosis together with the new plant type "could
jointly shift the yield frontier by 25-30 percent" (CIMMYT, 1998). The International Potato
Center reports that current world growth rates for potato production have risen to around four
percent per year, increasing in developing countries from 75 million tons annually in 1988 to
over 100 million tons today. Potatoes and sweet potatoes taken together, will increase to above
6.5% of value of major food commodities in developing countries, spurred by new varieties
which include greater levels of insect and disease resistance along with newly evolving
biocontrol methods (International Potato Center, 1998). The International Rice Research
Institute is well on its way to producing new plant types "that would have a (maximum) yield
potential 20-25% more than today's best high-yielding indica modern varieties" for irrigated
conditions. The new lines will be available to farmers by Year 2005. The goal is to produce, by
2025, 590 million tons of rice, requiring an increase of one-and-a-half percent per year in yield of
irrigated rice, moving from 5 tons per hectare in 1995 to 7.9 tons per hectare in 2025 (IRRI,
While that list of technological advances is impressive, a key factor is the changing
source. On a global scale, the public sector through the Consultative Group on International
Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Centers and the national agricultural programs (NARS) are
dominant players for most food and feed grain genetic technologies. The chemical, fertilizer and
engineering developments have come mostly from the commercial sector. For poultry and hog
production, the genetic, engineering and production systems technologies have been almost
exclusively in the commercial sector. These, along with feed grain processing and marketing
have become increasingly dominated by multinational corporations in the commercial sector.
These are driven nearly exclusively by economic efficiency and profit, and have succeeded
enormously well in providing low-cost product. In most developed countries public sector
controls over food quality and to a lesser extent over environmental quality have provided
reasonable checks and balance not adequately addressed by the commercial marketplace. The
centralization of control, the location, structure and scale of the industries and the resulting
environmental loadings have been recognized as having many undesirable and therefore
unsustainable social, political and environmental consequences. Public sector institutions have
only modest contributions to make in the technology area with poultry, hogs and in cereal
processing, so cannot offer much to the technology pool. The control in these areas are therefore
regulatory or through financial policy. Guidance toward sustainability with these industries thus
becomes highly political.
With food and feed grain genetic improvements the public sector has traditionally had a
strong developmental role, so could have heavy influxes not only on the type of materials, but
who controlled (or did not control them). That public sector role is still very prevalent in
developing countries both through efforts of the CGIAR but also of NARS. In developed,
industrial economies the public sector role in genetic development has decreased, for the most
part in an appropriate way, as the commercial sector became the primary source of new genetic
technologies. Vegetables, fruit and ornamental crops have a long history of commercial
dominance, in breeding, but in widely diverse, small-to-modest-scale businesses. The recent
consolidation of industries dealing with the major crops, and of combination of genetic and
chemical development have led to gains in economic efficiency, but major concerns about

narrowing the genetic base, loss of diversity and consolidation of control. The consolidation in
the U.S., for instance, has led to considerable alarm in the community of producers and scientists
concerned with agricultural sustainability. The dominance of a few firms in processing, and in
some cases in production, with hundreds of thousands of farmers selling, for instance, to just four
firms (Table 3), is blamed for market distortion which returns six percent on investment to
growers and 20% to processors (Heffernan, 1997). While control of handling by the top four is
about 50% in the U.S., the concentration is considerably higher in other countries. The
sustainability lessons of those changes are clearly mixed.
The engineering developments of low-tillage systems, of low-volume and spray-
controlled pesticide applications along with position location, data mapping and other site-
specific technologies for the most part open new avenues toward sustainability if properly

Table 3
The Four Largest Firms and Percent of U.S. Market Share They Control

Industry Firms Percent of

Flour milling ConAgra, Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, General Mills 35

Soybean crushing Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, Bunge, Ag Processors 71

Dry corn milling Bunge (Lauhoff Grain), Illinois Cereal Mills, Archer 57
Daniels Midland (Krause Milling), ConAgra (Lincoln

Wet corn milling Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, Tate and Lyle, CPC 74

Beef feedlots Continental Grain, Cactus Feeders, ConAgra (Monfort), 50
Cargill (Caprock)

Beef processing IBP, ConAgra (Armour, Monfort), Cargill Meat Sector, 87
National Beef

Pork slaughter IBP, Smithfield, ConAgra (Monfort), Cargill (Excel) 46

Sheep slaughter ConAgra (SIDCO, Monfort), Superior Packing, High 78
Country, Denver Lamb

Broiler processing Tyson Foods, Gold Kist, Perdue Farms, ConAgra 45

Turkey processing ConAgra (Butterball, Longmont) Rocco Turkeys, Hormel 35
(Jennie-O), Carolina Turkeys
Source: Heffernan, 1997.

These evolving technologies thus present significant energy and resources for growth.
Their sustainability implications require ongoing input and guidance from a public sector role
which is rather traditional in most developing countries, but rapidly evolving in developed
countries, toward areas of greater regulation.

Biotechnology and Intellectual Property Rights
The growth of biotechnologies, including genomics, coupled with a strengthened global
system of intellectual property rights is arguably the most significant change to occur in this
century in terms of potentially shifting the balance of both investment and ownership from the
public to the private sector. The investments from both sectors are huge. A new $146 million
center for plant science and sustainable agriculture" is planned from St. Louis, MO. This new
not-for-profit center, to open in Year 2000, is funded by both industry and public sector funds,
furthering the trend toward partnership between the public and private sectors (Kaiser, 1998). At
the same time, Novartis AG is expected to announce plans for a $250 million plant genomics
institute outside of San Diego, CA. Advances in the science of genomics, coupled with stronger
IPR protection on a global basis is attracting huge investment and will become a major
component of the advancing scientific growth engine. The future pervasiveness of the
technologies, the huge investments, the multinational stature of the industries and a decreasing
number of big name players all pose significant strength as well as new challenges to
The opposition to these genetic changes being offered by many in the community-drive
(civil) sector seem to be increasingly rear-guard in strategy. Short of some unforseen major
event, nearly every crop and animal species will before long have genetically-transformed genes
or chromosome segments throughout the germplasm base. It will be difficult for the public to
keep track of origins of those materials, whether from outside or from within a genus or species.
As with any extremely potent technology, the danger lies in its abuse.
The ability to target very specific genetic improvements and to obtain proprietary use for
some modest time period has opened up investment incentives that far surpass the original
hybrid-inbred line protection that originally attracted private investment.

Accrual and mobility of capital
Private (commercial) sector capital accumulation is becoming a major driving force in
sustainable agricultural development. The sole reliance on public sector development capital of
the 1960s for infrastructure, research, technology development, extension and production
subsidies is being supplemented in a major way, and has been replaced in many instances, by the
rapidly evolving commercial sector. Corporate consolidation and the mobility of capital can be
major destabilizing factors. Transnational corporations are increasingly able to roam the world,
"sourcing their inputs" as cheaply as possible. With capital and technology being highly mobile,
operations are being moved from country to country to obtain lowest-cost production (Heffeman,
1997). This provides lowest-cost product, at least during this transition stage to a global
economy. It can be extremely disruptive of local economies, local communities, and of the
fabric and infrastructure of production agriculture. When will the "mobility" stop, and where
will sustainable production be located? Who will be the producers? We have not come to a
sufficient understanding of the impacts of these directions at the global level.

The only part of the (agricultural) production process that cannot move is land. Parcels of
real estate are where consumers live, farmers grow food, producers operate factories, and
workers clock-in their time. And around these stationary islands emerge the networks of people,
art, music, crafts, religion and politics we call community (Shuman, 1998). Agricultural
production of all of the elements of a community, is the least mobile. With its dependence on the
land, on long-term soil quality, on a fixed water source, and on a network of suppliers and
markets, once it leaves an area it seldom if ever will return. The conflict between mobility of
capital and agricultural sustainability suggest that there be bufferingg" or modifying factors to
reduce the incidence of irreversible change being caused by short-term or worse yet, temporary
shifts in resources that are highly mobile.
The adverse impacts are magnified when large-scale, vertically-integrated production
facilities such as those for hogs are brought into a community. The environmental impacts
resulting from lack of integration into the landscape, the competition from large capital
investment which replaced medium-sized business ownership (owner-operated farms) with low-
wage labor, and the more distant and volume purchase of inputs will reduce support to local
communities from agriculture. Communities sometimes survive and sometimes not, but the
transition is painful. Such movement and scale of operations is bitterly contested in the U.S.,
often in the name of environmental protection. But much more is at stake. The Kansas Rural
Center, typical of broad thinking in U.S. sustainable agriculture asks, "Is the alternative to the
family farm system of agriculture, which is an industrial system, sustainable (Fund, 1998)?"
What will such mobility mean for developing countries? Will agricultural sustainability
mandate that resources must remain in place? How mobile should they be, or not be? What
requirements must there be for landscape and community integration? Is the "transition period"
that this conference is addressing one of resource exploitation and then movement to a "cheaper"
resource? Where, and when must such a "transition" stop? What local price must we continue to
pay for global "security"? Are we building our global house on sand?

The Global Marketplace-All or Nothing?
The final driving (or enabling) force is that of reduced barriers to product movement.
Public policy for most developed nations is now oriented toward minimal restriction and, in
many cases, subsidies to global product and capital movement. An increasing portion of the
world's population will be based on liberalized trade and a free market system. Those large
nations such as India and China that resisted such change for several decades are now moving
aggressively toward export of value-added product. Those smaller countries that have resisted
such change (North Korea) or which have been prevented from entry (Cuba) are paying a high
price. Their food security is very much subject to vagaries of weather and of unavailability of
inputs. Many of the advantages of the global economy seem obvious.
An overarching question is not an all or nothing one, but what amount of food "security"
should be local, community-based, what amount national, and what should be global? Which
commodities could be best produced at each level? Questions of freshness, quality and local
preference are significant dimensions of quality of life.
The balance obviously will change with status of development, with geographical
location, with size of country and with level of production resources. The answer will be
different for Michigan, for Iceland, for Saudi Arabia and for Kenya. It will be different for East
Lansing, MI, for a remote village in western Kenya or in the western mountains of Nepal. It is

unfortunate that the present fascination with the "global marketplace" almost precludes serious
analysis of the problem.

(Primarily by Public Sector Intervention)

I accept the major driving forces as inevitable, and overall, desirable. In an era of vastly
increasing global population, of multiple demands on public sector funds, and on increasing
private sector capital they represent major global resources that can be used for the benefit of
humankind. For that to happen they must be supplemental, guided, and yes, in some cases
controlled by public policy at the local, national and global levels. I suggest only a few key
interventions. There are many others, particularly at the local level. Those listed here are
particularly required for sustainability of the major driving forces. They do not include
traditional public sector roles such as infrastructure development and agricultural education, nor
do they include the sustaining forces yet to be discussed.

Germplasm Preservation
Sustainability concerns are now focused on maintenance of the majority of germplasm of
our major species within the public domain, and of keeping as much of the scientific base as
open as possible. The world's germplasm collection of major species held in trust by FAO is
critical to the sustainability. The public maintenance of that diversity for the good of humankind
is especially critical as globalization, particularly of seed sources, with increasing commercial
sector involvement, tends to reduce the "active pool" of genetic materials.

Technology Development for the Global Staple Crops
Crop technology, more than animal technology, must be adapted to a wide range of soil,
temperature, daylength, moisture, disease and pest environments as well as to special use and
preference. The private sector can and will increasingly respond to that need. There will be a
significant role for the public sector in the developing world for the foreseeable future in meeting
that need, in both high and low-resource areas. Where private sector resources are invested in a
major way for long-term development (as in many developed countries) the public sector should
shift to more underfunded areas.

Development of Genomic Information
The genetic maps of staple crops and animals, and genomic process information
necessary to transform and utilize the materials should be developed and maintained in the public
sector. This will guarantee access and prevent broad, proprietary control of any given species or
block of germplasm. The efforts of the U.S. National Science Foundation in providing funding
for a plant genome initiative is a step in the right direction. The first grant of $11 million for
mapping of the maize genome is a step in the right direction (Science, 1998). In total, this
program plans 23 awards totaling $85 million, covering additional crops such as cotton, tomatoes
and soybeans.

Maintenance of Genetic Intellectual Property Rights
The private sector must have protection for its investment if major commercial resources
are to be mobilized for genetic improvement. This will have to be done within the guidelines,
yet to be developed, under the Convention on Biological Diversity (FAO, 1996). Compensation
for those who develop traditional sources of germplasm should be appropriately compensated,
while recognizing that original genetic materials evolved independently of human intervention,
and legitimately belong to all.
Process and genetic patents, while protecting commercial investment, should not be so
broad as to establish proprietary rights over large blocks of material or species. The patent
process guarantees openness of discovery. If protection is of 10-20 year duration, one can
rationalize the protection as society's investment in the private development and bringing the
technology to market. Such a duration usually results in an ultimate "market life" of the patent
from five to ten years. One might argue that given the shortage of public sector research funds
and given the adequacy of food for the next 10-15 years, short-term exclusivity and protection
are a small price to pay for development of a broad technological base to power development
toward a "contemporary solar economy" into the 21st Century. The major questions of
sustainability are not whether or not we should proceed. That is irreversible. The questions of
adequate and properly-directed public sector research and conservation on the one hand, and
appropriate public policy and regulation on the other are key to sustainability.

Environmental Regulation
Appropriate public policies for the protection of air, water, natural areas of biodiversity
and general land use are essential to long-term sustainability. Short-term market forces will not
offer that protection, particularly where companies have the mobility (and the intention) for
short-term gain followed by movement. The point needs no further elaboration.

Provide a Watchdog Function Over Commodity Exchanges
Commodity exchanges such as the Chicago Board of Trade will provide an increasingly
important market force balance to the centralization of industry as long as they are well managed,
transparent in their operation, and not subject to major monopoly control.

Regulate Monopolies
The management and prevention of monopoly control will be an increasing problem at
the global level. Many small countries do not have sufficient economic or regulatory power to
confront major multinational corporations. The major developed country governments can
regulate within their borders, but mechanisms are not yet in place to assure competitive markets
and operations at the global level.


The rapid evolution of global agriculture has brought great urgency to the need for
development of sustaining forces if we are to avoid further environmental and social disruption.
The following five areas are the most critical:

Production Ecology Knowledge and Methods for Crop and Animal Systems Must Be
Significantly Enhanced and Made Available.
If production systems are to allow crop (and animal) to "yield to their full genetic potential,
and, at the same time balance pest management and long-term ecosystem stability" (Coalition for
Research on Plant Systems, 1999), we need significantly greater ability to understand and
manage biological processes and relationships. The emergence of the agroecosystem concept
provides a very useful means of carrying out research that attempts to integrate the multiple
factors affecting agricultural systems (Gliessman, 1990), and in particular understanding at the
process level which then permits rational system design. A few key sustainability factors of high
productivity systems which depend on that understanding include:

* maintaining or increasing soil productivity and long-term soil health
* efficient nutrient cycling from soil to crop (at high flow rates) in environments where
nutrients must be both mobilized from soil and contained from loss to surface or groundwater
* achieve pest and disease management with reduced- to-minimal use of pesticides and their
subsequent environmental loading
* provide a range of products through integrative landscape design, especially in low-resource
areas with large populations of poor people (hopefully) in transition
* provide ecosystem services such as hydrological cycling, wildlife habitat, landscape-level
plant and animal diversity and an aesthetically pleasant human living environmental--
agriculture should enhance the flow of ecological benefits to the community.
* help maintain an appropriate atmospheric chemical balance.

There has been an evolution in agroecosystem thinking during the past 30 hears appealing
first to the farming systems researchers of the 1970s (Spedding, 1975) and then with increasing
input from "applied" ecologists (Lowrance, 1984; Altierri, 1987; Dover, 1987; Gliessman, 1990).
These scientists were of interest to "alternative" agriculture proponents of the 1980s and early
1990s, but failed to have mainstream impact.
In this decade several areas of "mainstream" global interest have converged to bring
greater focus and urgency to production ecology.

* The concern with climate change has brought agriculture into close scrutiny as both a source
and sink for carbon and various greenhouse gasses (Farquar, 1997).
* The concern with soil quality, and the ability to maintain it under intensive crop management
through management of carbon and the biota which are associated with it (Paul et al., 1996,
Matson et al., 1997; Cassman and Harwood, 1995).
* The need to reduce pesticide dependance through integrated pest management, and more
recently, through ecologically-based pest management (NRC, 1995).
* The concern with providing ecosystem services, both at local and global levels (Pimental,
* A growing knowledge among ecologists as to the theoretical, empirical and experimental
basis for understanding the relationship between ecosystem processes and the species which
inhabit them (Chapin et al., 1997).

There is a merger of interest from several of these directions, with activity and divisions
being created in virtually every professional society dealing with agriculture. There is great
difficulty in dealing scientifically with the complexity of such systems. Scientific theory is not
yet adequate, let alone having models to deal with such complexity (Roe, 1997).
There is a wealth of empirical information and case studies of complex systems that
appear to be highly productive and which function quite well in certain environments (NRC,
1993; Harwood, 1996). There have been few process-level studies within any of them. Most
soil-related process-level studies of agroecosystems are conducted in long-term plots of managed
systems on experiment stations. The systems studied so far have been mostly in temperate zones
under reasonably high management. The work on pest ecology has been more broad in scope,
with a significant amount being in tropical areas.
There is a great need to translate process-level, agroecological knowledge as it evolves,
into user-friendly applied format. To do so and to make the information useful, it has to be
reasonably specific to type of farming system and to environment. The Extension bulletin,
Michigan Field Crop Ecology: Managing biological processes for productivity and
environmental quality (Cavigelli et al., 1998), is one such attempt. This illustrated guide is based
on the assumption that for particular systems and environments there are key processes which
can serve as focal points for systems adjustment or design. In Michigan, with cold, wet winters,
a close and sensitive water proximity, and winter excess of moisture, field crop productivity and
environmental protection are heavily dependent on a few critical processes. Carbon management
is central to soil quality, and subsequently to the seasonal pulsing of nitrogen, a potential
environmental pollutant. Systems of rotation provide both diversity over time and across the
landscape, which appear to be major determinants of the seasonality of carbon mineralization.
Cover crop use is significant to that diversity. Nematode and other potential pest and disease
problems are moderated by this diversity. In farmer training sessions there is interest in only a
very general understanding of process-level factors. It seems that just a modest assurance is
adequate--that there is a "scientific" basis for rotation and diversity. Farmers ultimately base
their decision on cost, yields, and the overall appearance of the crop. Some, with a strong
philosophical and ethical commitment to the environment, will go to great lengths to integrate.
The use of production ecology information requires that production decisions result from an
iterative analysis between process, intervention and outcome.
There is an especially great need for ecological structuring of systems in low soil and
water-resource areas. The maintenance of soil quality, the mobilization and retention of nutrients
and pest management must be done with modest levels of cash inputs on millions of small farms
operated by poor farmers. In these areas, especially if rainfall is low or seasonally limiting, the
maintenance of carbon stocks, and of living biomass at adequate levels (the biological capital) is
essential to overall farm productivity (Rhoades and Harwood, 1992).
In summary, the sustainability of a range of production systems ranging from high to low
resource areas will be increasingly dependent on a better availability of "ecosystem technologies"

* a better understanding of agroecosystem processes
* an understanding of critical processes for farming systems and environmental types

* an ability to move conceptually from ecological process or relationship to production
intervention to outcome in a problem-solving, iterative mode during technology development
* a use of that information in change-agent and farmer understanding

This type of knowledge and technology must be largely developed by public sector
institutions working with both industry and community-based/NGO groups. The C.T. deWit
Graduate School of Production Ecology, Wageningen Agricultural University (1997), is an
example of one of the leading educational programs. Their mission statement, "How to change
present land use systems, including agricultural components to achieve sustainable agricultural
production in an environmentally safe, biologically sound and ethically acceptable manner"
could well be emulated by more institutions.

Water, Soil and Land Resources Must Be Balanced Against Competing Uses and Managed
to Give Long-term Productivity While Maintaining Appropriate Ecosystem Quality.
Agriculture in most parts of the world will share a fresh water supply that is under
increasing demand and degradation from a variety of economic activities. The demand for water
is roughly proportional to population growth and to economic development. Water use planners
widely use a guideline of 1700 cubic meters of renewable fresh water per person per year for
general adequacy. Below that, water stress occurs, and below 1000 cubic meters pers person
there is water scarcity (Falkenmark and Wedstrand, 1992). Population Action International, a
Washington-based research and advocacy organization, publishes regular updates on water
demand based on population figures. Under UN projections of medium population growth to 9.4
billion people by 2050, the number of countries experiencing water scarcity will grow from 18 to
39, and the number of people affected will increase from 160 million to 1.7 billion (Table 4)
(Gardner-Outlaw and Engelman, 1997).
There is growing concern for ecosystem water requirements for maintaining wetlands,
fresh water fisheries and other ecosystem needs. Fortunately, while much of this is happening,
water use per dollar of GDP and the "water content" of most industrial products is decreasing.
The costs of water delivery systems is increasing, partly due to normal inflation, but also because
of the increased capital costs of water in more difficult locations. In India and Indonesia the real
costs of new irrigation have more than doubled since the early 1970s and in Sri Lanka they have
tripled (Rosegrant, 1997). In Africa the average cost for medium-to-large scale projects was
estimated at US $8300 per hectare in 1992 (FAO, 1992). National water balance models are
under refinement by the International Water Management Institute--which groups countries into
five categories based on their change in projected water use by Year 2025 (IWMI, 1998). Those
countries whose projected annual water withdrawals are more than 50 percent of annual water
resources are considered to be water scarce (Seckler et al., 1998). Their Group One consists of
countries that will be extremely water scarce, with eight percent of the population of the 118
countries studied averaging 191 percent of 1990 withdrawals and using 91 percent of their annual
water resources by 2025. "It can be expected that cereal grain imports will increase in most of
these countries as growing domestic and industrial water needs are met by reducing withdrawals
to irrigation.

Table 4
Water Availability Under Different Population Assumptions

World Population Water Number of Population
(billion) Conditions Countries (billions)

5.7 (1995 actual) stress 11 0.27
scarcity 18 0.17

7.7 stress 17 0.97
scarcity 31 1.0

9.4 stress 15 2.3
scarcity 39 1.7

11.2 stress 18 4.6
scarcity 42 2.2

stress = between 1000 and 1700m3/person year

scarcity = below 1 000m3/person year
Source: Garner-Outlaw, 1997.

For purposes of planning a sustainable agriculture future, then, for all countries the true
cost of water will increase, and the quality demands placed on production field effluents will
increase. Overdraft of groundwater will eventually cease. Water available to agriculture will
eventually level off, and in many countries will decrease. Efficiency of use will have to increase
in most of agriculture. In water scarce areas crop and animal production potential will change,
with shifts to higher value crops and animals. Cereal grain production will shift. It is essential
that the modeling work on national and regional water balance be continued. At the same time
many of the agroecosystem approaches discussed above will be critical to maintenance of
efficiency and of reduced loading of the effluent stream.
While the subject of marine ecosystems and production will not be discussed in depth,
mention has been made of the leveling off of marine fisheries production (NRC, 1998). A
comprehensive review of marine biology and chemistry is found in the July 10, 1998 issue of
Science, with ten major scientific articles giving excellent background, including problems of
governance (Upperbrink, 1998). The interaction with onshore activities is striking. The major
increase in oxygen-starved coastal "dead zones" over the last 30 years attributed in large part to
agriculture. The "awesome mass of nitrogen that moves down the Mississippi, about 1.82
million metric tons per year" has created an hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico that, like other
similar zones, blocks access to spawning grounds (Malakoff, 1998). A sustainable agriculture
must have acceptable levels of off-site and downstream impact.
Soil quality must be maintained or enhanced for increased productivity. The
requirements for maintenance of soil quality were discussed under the agroecosystem approach,
but will be briefly reviewed here. There is concern by most that soil resources continue to
degrade at an unacceptable rate (Scherr and Yadav, 1996). A 1995 Annapolis, MD workshop of

35 participants from 14 countries studied a series of review papers on land degradation.
Estimates from the GLASOD study, which the panel reviewed, estimated that of 8.7 billion
hectares of agricultural land, pasture, forest and woodland, nearly 2 billion hectares (22.5
percent) had been degraded since mid-century, with 3.5 percent degraded so severely that it is
reversible only through costly engineering measures (Oldeman et al., 1990). The Annapolis
conference concluded that "Land degradation could indeed be a potentially serious threat to food
production and rural livelihoods by Year 2020, particularly in more densely populated packets of
rural poverty" (p.29).
In the U.S., soil degradation is seen more in terms of the runoff of nutrients and
pesticides, with adverse impact on water quality (NRC, 1993; USDA/NRCS, 1997; Faeth, 1997).
There is general feeling that while sediment loss is still a problem other water quality factors take
precedence. The summary by Faeth represents an optimistic view from the U.S.
In developing countries there are concerns, as expressed above, of overall soil
degradation. More subtle effects are seen on some of the intensively-cropped tropical soils.
Cassman and Harwood (1995) report that of ten long-term experiments on rice systems
established before 1975, none exhibited a trend of increasing yields; negative trends were evident
in eight experiments in treatments characterized by "optimal" management practices. The
average rate of decline in yield was 120 kg per hectare per year. Whether this is unique to soils
that are seasonally submerged is probable. It is hypothesized that chemical changes in organic
matter of submerged soils may be ultimately yield-limiting.
There is a general feeling that fertility levels of many tropical soils are being maintained
at sub-optimal levels. Suggestions for a significant investment in recapitalizingg" these soils
have been made in a major report of the Soil Science Society (Buresh et al, 1997). This problem
comes to the fore when considering investment in marginal lands. What should be the
development policy toward those lands? Lower-resource lands have about 500 million people on
them, comprising more than one-third of the rural poor. By 2020 more than 800 million people
will live in less-favored lands (Hazel, 1998). Hazel calls for a strategy of sustainable
development that "will be typically different from the Green Revolution approach". A holistic
approach to farming systems and land management practices will include plant nutrient
generation and recycling and exploitation of favorable niches in a landscape for production of
high-value crops and trees. The management of soil organisms through control of carbon
sources and the synchronization of crop demand with soil nutrient release will be an important
strategy (Woomer and Swift, 1994). "The successful development of less-favored lands will
require strong partnerships for change, including local organizations, national policymakers, and
donors." The "less favored lands" thus have constraints of both soil and water, and will require
concerted efforts, using what has been described above as an agroecological approach, to make
their productivity sustainable.
Farmland loss is a sustainable agriculture concern which has not yet reached agenda
status. There are mixed feelings about farmland loss. Faeth concludes that for the U.S., the loss
is "getting worse", is "practically irreversible", but is "probably not a threat". The U.S. has lost
an estimated 29.8 million acres of farmland since 1970 (USDA/NRCS, 1997). That represents
an area equal to about half our current corn or wheat acreage.
With increases in technology and in yields, such loss does not show in macroeconomic
trends. In a time of global food surplus and low prices (partly as a result of depressed economies

in Asia and Russia) farmland loss may not seem all that important, but for those thinking more
long-term, the loss of an essential and irreplaceable resource seems hardly sustainable!
Since the 1970s, farmland preservation laws in the U.S. have protected nearly 420,000
acres of farmland at a cost of about $1750 an acre (USDA/NRCS, 1997).
There are few comparable data for developing countries. FAO reports that in developing
countries land for settlements is about 94 million ha, or 0.033 ha per capital (3000 persons/km2).
They estimate that land for human settlement alone may grow by about 20 million ha by 2010
(Alexandratos, 1995). These figures do not include non-settlement alternative use.
Agricultural sustainability obviously depends on permanence of a land base. At some
point society will have to approach equilibrium in terms of land lost. Unfortunately that seems
unlikely in an open marketplace for land. Most alternative uses, with their high value, afford
several times the value of land compared to that for agriculture. A significant portion of the
world's land is currently farmed with an economic balance sheet justified only in terms of land
values which are appreciating at a rate consistent with alternative use. Until the land market is
eventually segregated, as is done in the NRCS-cited preservation examples, or through pure
policy and land use decisions, agriculture on that land is clearly non-sustainable.

Improved Technologies are Needed for the "Secondary" Staple Crops, Animals and Trees
Which are Unlikely in the Foreseeable Future to be Developed Through Commercial
Sector Channels.
A broad range of staple crops are important to diversity of cropping systems, and play a
critical role in the diets and farming systems productivity of millions of people in the developing
world, particularly of poor people. Examples include the grain legumes (chickpea, cowpea,
lentils, beans, pigeonpea), the millets (pearl millet, finger miller, setaria) the starchy root crops
(cassava, potato, sweet potato, yams) and plantains. Most of these flow through local or regional
markets, but are a very small part of international trade. They thus attract very little private
development money, being largely outside the area of private capital investment. They do not
attract small business development attention, being of relatively low value in comparison to fruit,
vegetables and ornamentals. These will need major ongoing research support from the public
sector to round out the food portfolios of developing countries.
Many of the key animal species such as water buffalo, goats, sheep, and ducks are
improved primarily through farmer breeding and selection, with occasional public sector input.
The improvement and use of general purpose tree crops for fiber, fuel, animal feed and
other uses is extremely important to small farmers, especially in marginal soil areas. There is
little if any commercial investment in their improvement and use, leaving a combination of
public and civil sector sources for that development. The work of the International Center for
Research on Agroforestry is notable.

The Development of Local Food Systems is a Critical Engine for the Growth of Rural
Economies for Hundreds of Millions of Rural Poor.
The 500 million people who live and make their living in less-favored lands are heavily
concentrated in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Their numbers are projected to increase to more
than 800 million by Year 2020 (Hazel, 1998). The solutions to their poverty and low quality of
life are considerably different from those of the masses of urban poor. The rural poor are heavily
dependent on the health of local economies and their participation in them.

In a world of reasonably abundant food and low real costs at a global scale, modest
resource areas with high population cannot profitably compete in production for global markets
with the major commodities. Secondly, investment capital in these areas will, for the most part,
continue to be modest. Public sector funds will continue to be scarce, and public sector services,
whether in research or Extension, will remain at best, modest. Extension services for these areas
seem to be devolving from the public sector (Kidd et al., 1998). Communities will increasingly
be forced toward self-reliance in many ways. In arguments for self -reliance, both in goods and
services, Michael Shuman (1998) states, "A self-reliant community should simply seek to
increase control over its own economy as far as is practicable".
I am not arguing, at the moment, for a global model of self-reliant communities, nor for
100% self-reliance for any community. I am saying that to most effectively accelerate movement
away from poverty toward rural well-being, the initial focus should be on local economy but not
isolationism. An economy grows, whether household, local community or nation, as the net
value of its total goods and services increases.
For those communities, especially on the periphery of industrial centers, that "export"
low-value, raw product and buy back high-value goods and services, the balance of payments is
negative. Such communities spiral downwards economically as their natural resource base is
It would seem reasonable, as Shuman and others point out, that the first market for goods
and services should be local, meeting as many of the local needs "as is practicable". Export
should be of higher value and value-added agricultural products. An extreme example of a
purposeful local-community approach is seen in Mennonite and Amish communities of the
Americas. It has been said, "it is far easier to put a dollar into an Amish community than to get
one out". Such strategy is not restricted to an ascetic lifestyle, as evidenced by more liberal
Mennonite communities who operate with similar economic strategy, even in the midst of
industrial economies.
I am not even arguing for an ultimate self-sufficiency economic state or model. I join
those who are skeptical of a completely global economy, but isolationism of community at the
other extreme would be worse, subjecting the community to the enormous instability of weather
and other natural phenomena. At a minimum, a broad and diversified local food system serves as
a base for economic growth, where investment can be largely directed toward increase of a
production base rather than toward goods and services. The literature has many anecdotal studies
of individual communities where this has worked, but economic models which demonstrate the
economic multiplier effects of local economics are not well known. It is argued that such models
will work in many, if not most poor rural environments, but perhaps less well in the most harsh
environments. For most communities, the evolution and growth of local business will most
likely provide transition toward greater national-level economic participation. How far that
transition should go is subject to another debate, with most sustainable agriculture advocates
making quality-of-life arguments for a proportion, at least, of local food at the eventually high
development end. There is valid argument that quality of life of many Michigan residents is
markedly enhanced by having access to a diversity of fresh, local food.
How can local economies be stimulated to grow? They need access to appropriate
technologies, to information on biologically-based processes, to modest levels of critical inputs.
They need access to small amounts of capital at modest rates. They need peace and security.

Above all, they need major reliance on civic action and community-based institutions, with
modest support from industry and from the formal governance sector.

Development and Empowerment of the Community-Based (Civil) Sector
Community-based refers in this paper to community-of-interest. It may be local and
geographic, but most communities-of-interest are organized around issues or processes. There
are huge numbers of environmental groups, NGOs and other interest groups concerned with
sustainability of agriculture that form a large part of the community-based sector (Cardenas,
1998). This sector operates, on the one hand to direct and facilitate change from the "bottom-
up". They operate effectively at the local level, organizing people as their "stock in trade". They
are becoming increasingly adept at leveraging and influencing public policy of governments and
institutions such as the World Bank. They influence science and science policy primarily
through influence on the political process. They provide a "watchdog" function over the
commercial sector. Because of their numbers, their broad base and their ability to mobilize
opinion as a "voice of the grassroots", they constitute a major force in agricultural sustainability.
In particular, they broaden the public sector agenda on sustainability issues.
There is a growing volume of literature dealing with the turning of development attention
to local communities, particularly in dealing with natural resource and biodiversity conservation.
"Recent trends toward decentralization or devolution of power and responsibilities to lower
levels including local governments and non-government institutions many present promising
possibilities as compared to the traditional approach from the 1970s where impotent national
governments in developing countries failed to enforce conservation policies..." (Lutz and
Caldecott, 1996).
The same is being said for a broad range of social issues, of development of local
infrastructure, and of providing local initiative for appropriate research and technology
development. Conway (1997) devotes a chapter to the "partnerships" needed for agricultural
development, referring mostly to public sector relationships to farmers or farmer groups. Most
donors will not fund development (or even applied research projects) unless the appropriate
"partnerships" are in place and partner roles defined. Everyone, it seems, has to have a "local"
There is lack of clarity as to just who these "partners" are. It is generally intended that
they represent those grassroots people for whom "development" or "assistance" is intended, and
that they directly respond to the needs of those people.
As deTocqueville (1969) pointed out, "There are not only commercial and industrial
associations (in America) in which all take part, but others of a thousand different types--
religious, moral, serious, futile, very general and very limited, immensely large and very
These organizations (associations) form a dense network of "secondary associations"
which both embody and contribute to effective social collaboration". There is a growing feeling
that such associations are "a crucial ingredient in successful strategies of rural development"
(Esman and Uphoff, 1984). Many play a crucial role in local resource management (Swallow,
1997). Many are characterized by vertical structure, as are the international NGOs. The more
effective seem to be the dense but segregated horizontal networks which have ownership and
sustain cooperation within each group (smaller community). Putnam (1994) in his book,
"Making Democracy Work", presents an excellent discussion on the topic. Putnam also points

out the conflicts which can and do emerge between strong familial structure in many developing
countries and association structure.
There is much speculation as to the external factors which influence local organizations.
Scherr et al. (1995) list a range of physical, economic, social and governance factors which
influence both viability and behavior, while Esman and Uphoff disagree that physical and
economic factors are important.
It seems evident then, from a broad range of literature, that three major sectors are
necessary for effective development in a pluralistic society: The formal sector of governance
(the public sector), the commercial sector and the civil sector. In the US there are walls of
separation between them. Civil sector organizations have legal status, exemption from taxation
(not-for- profit) and in turn are forbidden from electoral activity in the public sector. They are
often highly active in influencing public policy. In agriculture there are a plethora of service
organizations representing commodities, environmental issues, philosophical orientation
(organic), sustainable agriculture, local food groups and so on. They play an increasing role in
information exchange, in research, and in recognition and publicity for a range of causes. They
organize farmer training. They form on-farm research networks, and become the "partners" with
both public and commercial sector interests for promoting agricultural change. They, and their
counterpart social-service organizations fill the huge voids left by both commercial and public
sector interests. They create tensions by providing a check and balance on both other sectors.
Civil sector organizations are typically absent under autocratic forms of governance. The
tradition of civil organization takes years to evolve. As is the case with modem Russia with
poorly functioning public and commercial sectors, the lack of strong civic associations is
particularly detrimental.
It should be noted, however, that not all rural development responsibility can be
"downloaded". Horizontal grassroots organizations require considerable time and effort of
farmers, who must earn their livelihoods and meet the needs of extended family. The alternative,
the formation of NGO-type groups, with some hired staff for providing service, seems, in the
long run, to be most effective. Some form of member assessment, in addition to outside sources
of funding is nearly always needed. These organizations, supported by networks of centrally-
funded not-for-profit institutions, all in the civil sector, seem to have significant potential.
Public sector institutions need to learn to work more effectively with civil sector groups
without placing a heavy burden on them for input and services to the public sector. We need to
identify ways of strengthening without directing and controlling, and find ways to provide ready
access to science and technology which flow from the public sector. The relative roles of each of
the three sectors and the alternative pathways for technology flow to and between farmers are
illustrated in Figure 2.


The starting perspective for sustainable agriculture is normally that of the farmer and
his/her local community. This analysis has started with that perspective, gleaned from personal
experience and from a range of cited sources. I have moved to a global perspective, relating
local needs to dominant international forces, then suggested necessary changes or additions to
those forces needed to achieve sustainability. True agricultural sustainability must be reflected at
global, national and local levels, or there is no sustainability at all. The suggested framework for

development of a sustainable agriculture (Figure 1) is one in which the growing global demands
on agriculture are met by supplementing and guiding the driving forces for change and growth,
while investing considerable resources into addition of five major sustaining forces. This model,
designed to be operational at the global level, must be adjusted in its particulars to fit the
multitude of local needs. Sustainability in a resource-limited world mandates that the
momentum of driving forces must be harnessed for public good. Social and environmental needs
dictate that no force can operate in an unbalanced and unguided fashion.


To borrow thoughts from a delightful treatise by Allan Hammond (1998), what kind of
world do we want? Agriculture plays a major role in shaping that world, from food security to
commerce to individual productivity and well-being.
Will we have a market world, driven by global markets, bringing widespread prosperity,
peace and stability?
Will we have fortress world, driven by the failure of market-led growth to redress social
wrongs and prevent environmental disasters, while disrupting communities and their contribution
to stability?
Or will we have a transformed world, where enlightened policies and voluntary actions
direct and supplement market forces?
The choices we make toward agricultural sustainability are central to that future.

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