|Eco-restructuring: Implications for sustainable development (UNU, 1998, 417 pages)|
|Part II: Restructuring sectors and the sectoral balance of the economy|
|10. The restructuring of tropical land-use systems|
The quest for sustainable development in the present historical context poses new, deep challenges to the ways we define problems, identify solutions, and implement actions. This reflects directly upon the issues of the feasibility of sustainable development and of capacity-building for sustainable development.
The prevailing mind-set in development and other areas is showing critical inadequacies. Indeed, in a number of cases, the very success of classical compartmentalized approaches has led to the aggravation of the environmental and developmental problems addressed. Even the language and metaphors we use may be hindering discussions about sustainable development.3 Of more immediate concern, the present historical context and dynamics exhibit major differences from those of the past few decades.
The need for a change in direction was officially recognized at the Earth Summit at Rio de Janeiro in June 1992. However, the new direction is not yet clearly defined; moreover, most of the discussions and recommendations are still quite compartmentalized. Sustainable development requires: the integration of economic, social, cultural, political, and ecological factors; the constructive articulation of top down approaches to development with bottom up or grass-roots initiatives; the simultaneous consideration of local and global dimensions and of the way they interact; and a broadening of the space- and time-horizons to accommodate the need for intragenerational as well as intergenerational equity.
All of this has direct implications for capacity-building. The question of what kind of capacity is needed to foster sustainable development and to implement Agenda 21 and other necessary initiatives in a practical and relevant way must be addressed. Capacity-building certainly cannot be limited to the transfer of knowledge and skills from the North to the South.
Many aspects of what is called capacity-building involve traditional activities such as reinforcing institutions, developing skills, education, and training for science, technology and decision-making, the transfer of technology, mostly in reference to the South where these elements are critically scarce. However, capacity-building for sustainable development, in a world marked by a technological, economic, and political revolution and global interdependence, must be based upon the capacity for learning to learn, to cope with change and knowledge gaps, to combine different viewpoints and aspirations constructively, to tackle interlinkages and complexity, to integrate rational thinking with emotional experience, to transform knowledge into wisdom. It is very likely that this will require new kinds of institutions and new institutional mechanisms. This type of capacity still needs to be developed, both in the South and in the North. Although external financial support will be required in the South, the basic challenge holds globally, and the cross-fertilization between different experiences could result in powerful synergies.
Agriculture will represent one of the most important activities in the new path, and it will have to be conceived of in a much broader sense than now. Agriculture will have to become more than a food or an industrial crop production activity; it will have to encompass the stewardship of the earth's resources. The sustainable and increased production of food and the sustainable management of the renewable natural resources need to be integrated and complement each other in such a way as to meet the needs of present and future generations while preserving and even enhancing environmental quality. Using the power, flexibility, and understanding offered by the new and emerging technologies and scientific developments, blended when appropriate with traditional technologies, agriculture will eventually become synonymous with sustainable and productive management of eco-resources, which will include not only the soil, plant and animal varieties, and water, but biodiversity (in its double function of economic resource and basic ecological regulator), ecological functions and services such as watershed and climate regulation, chemical cycling, etc.