International Association for Impact Assessment

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

Edited By: Bridget

Overview & History

Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (AFF) are the food producing sectors and in terms of Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA), they have common aspects and some distinctive differences. Common items include the very large constituency of people dependent on the production of goods and services for their living on farms, near forests and near the seas. Another common aspect is that when EIA had its beginning in the early 1970s, many jurisdictions excluded these sectors from policies, legislation and regulations. While this may have been due to the large number of farmers and fishermen with their cherished independence, and in the case of forestry with the forestry commissions serving as managers and regulators, there are probably other reasons for these exclusions. However at the present time large initiatives in these sectors require full ESIAs where aid is necessary from multilateral and bilateral agencies, the World Bank and regional banks. Yet smaller projects are often dealt with through other measures or not at all. Distinctive differences include that fact that the constituencies are different populations and do not overlap much. This means that methods of consultation and impact analysis are often quite different between sectors and what works for one, may not work for another.  

Enormous environmental impacts are associated with these three sectors; probably more than any other human activities. The sectors have been dubbed “the orphans of EIA” as they have not benefitted from systematic environmental analysis and management, notwithstanding such surrogates as soil conservations measures, environmental farm plans, forestry practice codes, and fish harvesting limits and habitat protection. For this reason, IAIA's Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (AFF) Section is always seeking to attract success stories on the application of ESIA to projects in the sectors for submission as abstracts to IAIA conferences. 

As well, and as a result of recent work in Kenya and in Cambodia, it is clear that the ESIA/EIS model works very well in examining chronic environmentally damaging practices. Examples are soil erosion from unsustainable cultivation practices and overgrazing, concentrated feed lots, dropping water tables, extensive forest clearing and over-harvesting of in-shore waters and of the high seas. The results come in the form of fresh options and mitigation measures to reduce or remove the harmful effects. We need to be reminded of the admonition of Francis Bacon (1620), “Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed”. ” 


IAIA's AFF Section was launched in Vancouver at the 2004 Global Conference of the IAIA. The level of interest was such that about 250 attendees took in the introductory Theme Forum on the need for EIA in these sectors. Several sessions offered up examples of successful applications. Since then attendance has grown at the five intervening conferences and the program for the April, 2010 Conference in Geneva is in planning.


Special thanks to Patrick Duffy for providing initial content for this IAIA Wiki topic.

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