The term Agroecology is derived from two scientific disciplines: agronomy and ecology. Agronomy is the science and technology of producing and using plants for food, fuel, fibre, and land reclamation, and Ecology is the science of ecosystems. The combination of the two disciplines – agroecology – therefore means to observe nature, work with nature and not against her, in order to produce food and other products in a sustainable way that supports food sovereignty. Therefore it embodies much more than food production.
“AGROECOLOGY can be seen as a scientific discipline, agricultural principle and practice, and/or political or social movement (Wezel, 2009),
working with basic ecological principles for how to study, design and manage agroecosystems that are productive, natural resource conserving as well as culturally sensitive, socially just and economically viable (Altieri, 1995), thereby not only showing strong conceptual connections with the right to nutritious food, but also providing proven results for fast progress in the concretization of this human right for many vulnerable groups in various countries and environments (de Schutter 2010).”
THE KEY PRINCIPLES AND VALUES OF AGROECOLOGY
(Adapted from the Declaration of the International Forum on Agroecology (2015)).
• Agroecology is a way of life and the language of Nature that we learn as her children. It is not a mere set of technologies or production practices. It cannot be implemented the same way in all territories. Rather it is based on principles that, while they may be similar across the diversity of our territories, can and are practiced in many different ways, with each sector contributing their own colors of their local reality and culture, while always respecting Mother Earth and our common, shared values.
• Agroecological production is based on ecological principles. The production practices of Agroecology (such as intercropping, traditional fishing and mobile pastoralism, integrating crops, trees, livestock and fish, manuring, compost, local seeds and animal breeds, etc.) are based on ecological principles like building life in the soil, recycling nutrients, the dynamic management of biodiversity and energy conservation at all scales. Agroecology drastically reduces our use of externally-purchased inputs that must be bought from industry. There is no use of agrotoxins, artificial hormones, GMOs or other dangerous new technologies in Agroecology.
•Territories are a fundamental pillar of Agroecology. Peoples and communities have the right to maintain their own spiritual and material relationships to their lands. They are entitled to secure, develop, control, and reconstruct their customary social structures and to administer their lands and territories, including fishing grounds, both politically and socially. This implies the full recognition of their laws, traditions, customs, tenure systems, and institutions, and constitutes the recognition of the self-determination and autonomy of peoples.
• Collective rights and access to the Commons are fundamental pillars of Agroecology. We share access to territories that are the home to many different peer groups, and we have sophisticated customary systems for regulating access and avoiding conflicts that we want to preserve and to strengthen
* The diverse knowledge and ways of knowing of our peoples are fundamental to Agroecology. We develop our ways of knowing through dialogue among them (diálogo de saberes). Our learning processes are horizontal and peer-to-peer, based on popular education. They take place in our own training centers and territories (farmers teach farmers, fishers teach fishers, etc.), and are also intergenerational, with exchange of knowledge between youth and elders. Agroecology is developed through our own innovation, research, and crop and livestock selection and breeding.
• The core of our cosmovisions is the necessary equilibrium between nature, the cosmos and human beings. We recognize that as humans we are but a part of nature and the cosmos. We share a spiritual connection with our lands and with the web of life. We love our lands and our peoples, and without that, we cannot defend our Agroecology, fight for our rights, or feed the world. We reject the commodification of all forms of life.
• Families, communities, collectives, organizations and movements are the fertile soil in which Agroecology flourishes. Collective self-organization and action are what make it possible to scale-up Agroecology, build local food systems, and challenge corporate control of our food system. Solidarity between peoples, between rural and urban populations, is a critical ingredient.
• The autonomy of Agroecology displaces the control of global markets and generates self-governance by communities. It means we minimize the use of purchased inputs that come from outside. It requires the re-shaping of markets so that they are based on the principles of solidarity economy and the ethics of responsible production and consumption. It promotes direct and fair short distribution chains. It implies a transparent relationship between producers and consumers, and is based on the solidarity of shared risks and benefits.
• Agroecology is political; it requires us to challenge and transform structures of power in society. We need to put the control of seeds, biodiversity, land and territories, waters, knowledge, culture and the commons in the hands of the peoples who feed the world.
• Women and their knowledge, values, vision and leadership are critical for moving forward. Migration and globalization mean that women’s work is increasing, yet women have far less access to resources than men. All too often, their work is neither recognized nor valued. For Agroecology to achieve its full potential, there must be equal distribution of power, tasks, decision-making and remuneration.
• Youth, together with women, provide one of the two principal social bases for the evolution of Agroecology. Agroecology can provide a radical space for young people to contribute to the social and ecological transformation that is underway in many of our societies. Youth bear the responsibility for carrying forward the collective knowledge learned from their parents, elders and ancestors into the future. They are the stewards of Agroecology for future generations. Agroecology must create a territorial and social dynamic that creates opportunities for rural youth and values women’s leadership.
The report by IPES, a new group which is co-chaired by Olivier De Schutter, former UN special rapporteur on food, and includes winners of the World Food prize and the heads of bio-science research groups, accepts that industrial agriculture and the global food system that has grown around it supplies large volumes of food to global markets. Olivier de Schutter: “Many of the problems in food systems are linked specifically to the uniformity at the heart of industrial agriculture, and its reliance on chemical fertilisers and pesticides.” He said that simply tweaking industrial agriculture will not provide long-term solutions and a fundamentally different model was needed. “It is not a lack of evidence holding back the agro-ecological alternative. It is the mismatch between its huge potential to improve outcomes across food systems, and its much smaller potential to generate profits for agribusiness firms (…) There is growing evidence that these [agro-ecological] systems keep carbon in the ground, support biodiversity, rebuild soil fertility and sustain yields over time, providing a basis for secure farm livelihoods” See the report here
1. as Science. “When it comes to agroecology, this is something that links peasant agriculture with the knowledge of the ancestors. And then there is scientific research. So we have to combine all this.”
2. as Practice. “Agroecology is the political umbrella term for various forms of agriculture and aquaculture practiced by small-scale food producers around the world”
3. as Movement. “For those involved in the food sovereignty movement, practicing agroecology is only one part of the struggle, which must be combined with an analysis of the political context. This will form the basis for collective political action through participation in social movements.”
4. as a “way of life”. Farming is not ‘just a job’, it is a way of life. Peasants and indigenous people are often very much interconnected with seasons, nature, the land etc. See for example this wonderful documentary Humans and the Land.
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT AGROECOLOGY:
- Declaration of the International Forum for Agroecology, Nyeleni, 2015. Download here.
- Building, Defending and Strengthening Agroecology
- Agroecology: Voices from Social Movements (documentary)
- United Nations Report submitted by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter. Read Online.
- IPES, 2016. From Uniformity to Diversity: A paradigm shift from industrial agriculture to diversified agroecological systems. Read here
- Agroecology knowledge hub (FAO). Database
- Agroecology Case Studies by Oakland Institute here..
- The Principles of Agroecology (2018) here
- Declaration on the Right for Peasants: Watch online..
- Succesful Stories from Peasant Family Farming. Read here
- The battle for the future of farming. The conversation, 2018. Read here
- A Matter of Scale. “Small-scale, agroecological farms attract UK workers, produce high yields of vegetables and deliver multiple environmental and social benefits.” Land Workers Alliance, 2017. Report and 5 movies here
- Farming for the Future: Agroecological Solutions to Feed the World.
There is no doubt that eliminating hunger worldwide is one of humanity’s greatest challenges in the 21st century. However, there are radically divergentvisions for how to achieve this goal. Many people equate “feeding the world” with the need to produce more food, but this simplistic analysis leaves fundamental facts about world hunger out of the picture. In fact, the mandate to produce more food to feed the world is often invoked to justify food and farming policies and practices that exacerbate the conditions of hunger and undermine our ability to feed future generations. FOE Europe, 2016. Download here
- Agroecology: innovating for sustainable agriculture & food systems. FOEI, 2018. Download here
- Agroecology: who will feed us in a planet in crisis? Miguel Altieri, 2015. Video online (Recommended lecture on agroecology!)
- Case Studies: Agroecology in Africa. Oakland Institute. here..
- Sustainable Agricultural Production and Agroecology, Pablo Tittonell, 2016. Presentation video online.
- Towards ecological intensification of world agriculture, Pablo Tittonell, 2013. – paper or powerpoint presentation.
- Agroecology: Bridging Science, Practice, Movement. International Forum, Wageningen University, April 2016. Video online (NOTE: starting at 01:10:00)
- Feeding the world with Agroeoclogy. Pablo Tittonell. TEDx Presentation
- What is needed to upscale local agroecological farming? Jan Douwe van der Ploeg watch online
- Soil, Struggle, Justice – MST and Agroecology (documentary). watch online..
- Making the case for agroecology (Farming Matters magazine). Download for free here
- Can Agroecology feed the world and save the planet? The Guardian, 2016. Read online.
- The Scarcity Myth, 2003 (also about Brasil)
- Library on Agroecology
- Agroecology. Transforming society through food production and the peasant struggle. European Coordination Via Campesina, 2014. Online
- Who will Feed us? The Peasant Food Web versus the Industrial Food Chain. ETC, 2017.
“Peasants are the main or sole food providers to more than 70% of the world’s people, and peasants produce this food with less (often much less) than 25%of the resources – including land, water, fossil fuels – used to get all of the world’s food to the table. The Industrial Food Chain uses at least 75% of the world’s agricultural resources and is a major source of GHG emissions, but provides food to less than 30% of the world’s people”. Download here
- Wezel et al, 2014. Agroecological practices for sustainable agriculture. A review. Online
- Developing a European Agroecology Learning and Training Network, 2017. Online
- Altieri, 1989. Agroecology: A new Research and Development Paradigm for World Agriculture. Download pdf
- Altieri, 2002. Agroecology. The science of natural resource management for poor farmers in marginal environments. Download pdf
- Altieri 2011. The agroecological revolution in Latin America: rescuing nature, ensuring food sovereignty and empowering peasants. Download pdf
- Agroecology “Lite”: Cooptation and Resistance in the Global North. Read online.
- FAO Agroecology knowledge hub. Here
- Miguel Altieri on Agroecology. Watch video online
- A conversation with Miguel Altieri. Read document online
- Agroecology. What is it and what it has to offer. Silici, 2014. IIED Paper
- Building a New Agricultural Future. Supporting agro-ecology for people and the planet. OXFAM, 2014. Read online.
- Food Sovereignty. Rural Social Movements, Dialogo de Saberes. Rosset and Torres, 2013. Download here
- The Limits to Growth: A Report for the Club of Rome. 1972. Download pdf here. A key message from the 1970s, that there are limits to growth. Unlike industrial farming, which is very much focused on growth, agroecology calls for closed nutrient cycles and food production with respect to (the boundaries of) the earth.
- Presentation Hanny van Geel (La Via Campesina) on agroecology. Watch Online
- How do we bring agricultural food to the citizenship? Agroecology Seminar Acts, sept 2014, Casa da Terra. Read here
- Agroecology: a shocking history. website
- Down to Earth. A historical-sociological analysis of the rise and fall of ‘industrial’ agriculture and the prospects for re-rooting of agriculture from the factory to the local farmer and ecology. Download here..
- World Hunger: Ten Myths by Francis Moore Lappe and Joseph Collins. Read online.
- Hungry for Land. Small farmers feed the world with less than a quarter of all Farmland. GRAIN 2014. Download pdf
- Farming Matters (list of magazines available for free download!) here
AGROECOLOGICAL WAYS OF FARMING
- Overview of CSAs in Europe: here
- Community Supported Agriculture: An overview of characteristics, diffusion and political interaction in France, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland. Download here.
- List of reports on Sustainable Food Systems – Oakland Institute. Read here..
IMPACTS OF AGROECOLOGICAL WAYS OF FARMING
- FAO, 2007. Impact of compost use on crop yields in Tigray, Ethiopia. Read here..
- Sustainable Agricultural Practices and Agricultural Productivity in Ethiopia. Does Agroecology Matter? Read here…
- Pretty and Hine, 2001. Reducing Food Poverty with Sustainable Agriculture: A summary of New Evidence. Read here..
- Scialabba, N.E-H. and Hattam, C. (eds). 2002. Can Organic Agriculture feed the world? Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems: 22(2); 80–85 Read here..
- Hine, R. and Pretty, J. 2008. Organic agriculture and food security in Africa. United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP): Geneva and New York Read here..
- Parrott, N. and Marsden, T. 2002. The real Green Revolution: Organic and agroecological farming in the South. Read here..
- Pretty, J.N., Noble, A.D., Bossio, D., Dixon, J., Hine, R.E., Penning de Vries, F.W.T. & Morison, J.I.L. 2006. Resource-conserving agriculture increases yields in developing countries. Environmental Science and Technology (Policy Analysis) 40(4): 1114-1119. Read here..
Yearly masterclass “Agroecology in practice”
Do you want to learn about agroecology in practice? Sign up for this unique masterclass taught by two peasant farmers at organic CSA garden “De Ommuurde Tuin”. Open for students and non-students. More info: ommuurdetuin.nl/course