Following the World Social Summit on Sustainable Development’s side meeting on “Participation in Implementing Chapter 14: the Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (SARD) Initiative”, the IUF welcomed the commitment by the Director General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Jacques Diouf, to promote fairer employment in agriculture as a major means of poverty reduction for waged agricultural workers and wage-dependent small farmers.
Peter Hurst, IUF Health, Safety and Environment Coordinator said that, “the FAO Director General’s commitment would be welcomed by the 450 million women and men employed in agriculture, who account for over 40% of the total agricultural labour force. His words would also be welcomed by millions of children who are forced to work as cheap labour in agriculture”.
He added that, “the IUF is now looking forward to working with all the governments, major groups, intergovernmental organizations and other bodies involved in this SARD Initiative.”
The challenge now for trade unions is to come up with and develop projects, activities, and capacity building measures to promote (i) productive and fairer employment as a major means of poverty reduction; and (ii) better working conditions for waged workers by improving, for example, health and safety standards on farms and plantations. Also to tackle the problem of HIV AIDS which is devastating the agricultural labour force.
So far waged agricultural workers have been overlooked and remain invisible in sustainable development and Agenda 21, Chapter 14 on SARD. [Agenda 21 is the programme of action on sutainable development in the 21st century adopted by governments and other stakeholders at the UN Conference on Environment and Development in 1992, the Rio de Janeiro “Earth Summit”.]
This Initiative represents a new opportunity to harness the knowledge and skills of agricultural workers on crop and livestock production, soil and water management etc. to complement those of farmers.It also represents an opportunity to use the representivity, the negotiating and organising capacities, and training skills of trade unions to build SARD”.
The significance of the SARD Initiative for the IUF and the other major groups involved is that it provides, for the first time, a mechanism through which to promote and implement SARD, especially working with the FAO. Previously such a mechanism has been lacking, resulting in little progress in implementing Agenda 21, Chapter 14 on SARD since 1992.
The IUF also welcomed the meeting between FAO’s Director General and the Director General of the UN International Labour Organisation (ILO), Juan Somavía, and the ILO support for the Initiative expressed during the participants’ perspectives. Thirty five governments have so far committed to support this SARD Initiative.