Reaffirming the key role that farmers play in environmental management, the FAO is advocating payments of incentives to encourage farmers to opt for more eco-friendly solutions.
In the forward to the State of Food and Agriculture 2007 report,1 FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf points out that agriculture “has the potential to degrade the Earth’s land, water, atmosphere and biological resources – or to enhance them – depending on the decisions made by the more than 2 billion people whose livelihoods depend directly on crops, livestock, fisheries or forests. Ensuring appropriate incentives for these people is essential.” The FAO would like to surpass the current system of incentives, which encourage production of certain foods, fibers and agrofuels, by highlighting the role of farmers in carbon sequestration, flood prevention, the supply of clean water and biodiversity conservation. In concrete terms, payments would be made directly to farmers by governments or received via an additional charge rolled into consumer prices, to compensate farmers for non-commercial services rendered.
WOAgri shares this idea whereby agriculture plays a role in environmental protection, given the two dimensions of agriculture: the “tangible” dimension, generally accepted, centered on the production of agricultural goods; and the “intangible”2 dimension, which subsumes all of the services rendered to society (food security, land-use planning, etc.). This specificity, long neglected despite being a characteristic of the sector, underlines the need for an integrated approach for agriculture within the international sphere. Indeed, we must move away from this dichotomous approach that places the WTO and its visions for trade on one side and the non-commercial considerations of the alterglobalists on the other.