Mr. Jack Wilkinson,
the President of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP)

at the World Summit on Sustainable Development 

Johannesburg, South Africa 
4 September 2002


Mr. Chairman,

In these closing remarks, I would like to thank the United Nations for including major groups as partners in the preparatory work for this Summit, and in the program here in Johannesburg. We appreciate the fact that representatives of major groups were included in the Panel debates last week, and in the Heads of State Round Tables this week. The participatory process is not yet perfect, but it is a major improvement from the situation we faced at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Our delegation encourages the UN to continue to strengthen this multi-stakeholder collaboration.

We would also like to compliment the South African hosts on the superb welcome and organization of this event.

If we consider the background papers prepared on the five WEHAB themes, and the input of major groups, as part of the Summit outcomes, then this Summit has made much progress towards achieving its goals.

We are pleased that the Plan of Action includes agriculture, although it does not give sustainable agriculture and rural development the central place that it should have in order to achieve the Millennium goals. We hope that the draft Political Declaration will be amended to include agriculture, so that farmers will be motivated to even greater efforts. But what astounds the Farmers Group is how agriculture could have been left out of the draft Declaration in the first place.

We believe that agriculture is fundamental to achieving of the Millennium Goals. It should therefore have a central place in the follow up to this Summit, as well as a central place in the national development strategies.

When you, the world's leaders return home, we ask that you continue to give attention to the key issues and challenges laid down in the agricultural theme paper for this Summit. Agriculture plays a crucial role in Sustainable Development and in Hunger and Poverty Eradication. Increasing food availability has significantly reduced child malnutrition and contributed to important gains in child survival. Some 70 percent of poor and hungry people in developing countries live in rural areas and depend directly or indirectly on agriculture for their livelihoods. Extreme poverty and hunger push people onto a marginal lands and more fragile ecosystems.

As President of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers, which represents over 100 national organisations of family farmers throughout the world, I commit our organization to greater efforts to meet these challenges.

- We will strengthen our capacity building work with farmers' organizations in the industrialized countries helping to strengthen the organizations of their colleagues in the developing countries.

- We will strengthen partnerships with others working in the field of agriculture, particularly at the regional and country level.

- We will seek to participate in sustainable agricultural programs of governments.

I would like to stress the important role of governments in these partnerships. Farmers everywhere need a good regulatory framework in which to work. They need their governments to recommit to providing extension services, roads irrigation systems, market opportunities and more public funding for research and development.

Mr Chairman, in order to meet the needs of a growing population, food production will have to be doubled over the next 25 years. This requires us to make some serious choices.

One choice is to invest in agricultural development, using our land and water resources in the most sustainable way as production is intensified.
The alternative is to continue to place massive pressures on fragile ecosystems. This goes against the very basic message of this Summit, which is to protect biodiversity, protect the homelands of indigenous people, lighten the burden of women, and provide a future for young farmers and rural communities.

We firmly believe that individual farm families have a fundamental role to play in any strategy for sustainable development.

We therefore urge the UN in future Conferences on the WEHAB themes, or in their work program, to continue these efforts to restore agriculture to a central place on the Sustainable development agenda. We also challenge national governments to place Sustainable agriculture at the heart of their national strategies.

The UN's background papers for this Summit show that giving priority to agriculture gives results.

- Over the past 30 years, agricultural productivity growth, resulting from successful agricultural research and development, and innovation of farmers, meant that the proportion of undernourished people dropped from 35% to 17%, and poverty decreased. This is an impressive achievement.

- The development of high-yielding crop varieties since the late 1960's is estimated to have preserved over 300 million hectares of forests and grassland, including considerable wildlife habitat.

- And we know that a vibrant agricultural sector helps to promote economic opportunities for women and maintain strong rural communities.

This Summit has started a process to place the world on a sustainable path towards sustainable development. We hope that it will mark the reversal of the decline in priority given to agriculture in recent years.

Farmers have a major contribution to make to sustainable development and are ready to do so. But it is important that governments support these efforts so that they and their families in the rural areas where poverty is central have opportunities to share in the extraordinary wealth of this Planet, and contribute to its survival.

Thank you.