Towards the development of a sustainable land use systems research secretariat

Material Information

Towards the development of a sustainable land use systems research secretariat


Subjects / Keywords:
Land use ( jstor )
Renewable resources ( jstor )
Environmental technology ( jstor )

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University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
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In February, 1990, the United States Department of Agriculture, the
Indian Council of Agricultural Research, and the Rodale Institute
sponsored an international Workshop on Sustainable Land Use Systems
Research in New Delhi, India. In order to assess the state of
sustainable land use systems research, 14 authors in Southeast,
Northeast, and Central Asia; East, West and Southern Africa; South,
Central, and North America; Eastern and Western Europe; Oceania; and
the Near East were asked to identify predominant land use systems in
their region and to describe the current approaches being taken to
make then more sustainable.

The Workshop participants recommended that a Working Group of six
scientists attending the meeting be commissioned to take the necessary
steps to find financial and political support to create a Sustainable
Land Use Secretariat that could facilitate the continuing exchange of
information among the thousands of private and public institutions
that are trying to develop more sustainable land use systems.

The Working Group was expanded to 9 members and now includes: (1) Dr.
I.P. Abrol, the Deputy Director for Soils in the Indian Council of
Agricultural Research, (2) Dr. Linda Christanty, a researcher at the
Institute of Ecology, Padjadjaran University, Bandung, Indonesia, (3)
Dr. Evaristo de Miranda, the head of the Environmental Monitoring Unit
at EMBRAPA in San Paulo, Brazil, (4) Dr. D.N. Durmanov, the head of
the Department of Soil Fertility at the Dokuchaev Soil Institute in
Moscow, USSR, (5) Dr. Robert D. Hart, the Director of the Rodale
Research Center in Pennsylvania, USA, (6) Dr. Abdullah Jaradat, the
Associate Professor of Agronomy in the Department of Agricultural
Sciences, Jordanian University of Science and Technology, (7) Dr. Li
Zhengfand, the head of the Rural Ecosystem Division of the Nanjing
Institute of Environmental Science in Nanjing, China, (8) Dr. Moses
Onim, the Project Leader for the USAID funded Small Ruminant CRSP in
western Kenya, and (9) Dr. Maurizio Paoletti, a Professor of Biology
at the University of Padova, Italy.

A small grant from the Ford Foundation allowed the Working Group to
hire Mr. William Dietel and Ms. Amy Longworth as consultants to work
with Dr. Hart, the Working Group Chair, to address issues such as the
Secretariat's mission, program, governance, funding strategy, etc. In
September, 1990, the Working Group met in Padova, Italy and decided to
submit a proposal to various foundations requesting support for the
next phase that would include: (1) legal incorporation, (2) naming a
board of directors, (3) identifying a host institution, and (4)
initiating the information exchange program. At the Padova meeting,
the Working Group asked Dr. Hart from the USA to serve as the interim
executive director of the initiative and Dr. Miranda from Brazil to
serve as the Working Group Chair.


For most of our history, humans used renewable physical and biological
resources. Populations were low enough that upstream water users
left rivers clean for reuse by those downstream. Technologies for
foraging for plants and hunting wildlife were incapable of driving
species into extinction. But technological advancements meant that:
1) People now had access to non-newable resources, such deep
underground aquifers and fossil fuels, and 2) People were capable of
trading the long-term productive potential of renewable resources for
their short-term higher production. Thus, instead of living off the
"interest" generated by these renewable resources, it became possible
and often easier to use the "principle" to accomplish short-term

The current interest in "sustainable development" stems from the
recognition that short-term strategies for use of a resource can often
lead to a decline in its long-term productive potential. Further,
there is recognition of the interdependency of the productive
potentials of resources, which is not limited to the biological and
physical, but also includes social and economic resources. While
opinions differ on the relative negative impact of high input
production-oriented technologies, but most people agree that
sustaining the productive potential of all of our renewable resources
is an important goal. Figuring out how to achieve it, however, is a
complex scientific and social challenge.

Many public and private organizations are engaged in serious research
efforts to develop alternative resource use systems that meet both
today's needs and the increasing needs of the next generations. These
institutions need: (1) a clear concept of the trade-offs that must be
addressed as they search for alternatives, (2) methodologies that can
guide them through a systematic effort to design and evaluate
alternatives, and (3) technologies that use resources efficiently
without decreasing the productive potential of the resource they are

Individual research institutions focusing on local sustainable
resource-use strategies need to be linked with other institutions for
two basic reasons: (1) the local physical, biological, social, and
economic resources that they are attempting to sustain are linked
globally (water as part of a global hydrological system, agricultural
commodities as part of global markets, etc.), and (2) the transfer of
concepts, methodologies, and technologies from other institutions can
serve as a catalyst and dramatically reduce the time it might take a
local institution to develop new resource-use systems.

By connecting institutions, regional networks, and individual
scientists, the proposed Secretariat will increase the efficiency and
effectiveness with which sustainable systems research can be conducted
and applied.