Agroecology

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Agroecology is the science and know-how behind sustainable agriculture. It takes into account environmental impacts, animal welfare, and human social aspects. It combines scientific inquiry with the place-based knowledge and innovation of indigenous and peasant farming communities.

Agroecology’s core principles include:

  • maximizing biodiversity
  • recycling locally available natural resources to enhance soil fertility
  • emphasizing interactions and productivity across the agricultural system

Agroecology uses farmers’ knowledge and experimentation as a starting place in contrast to the top-down delivery of agricultural science and technology. It is knowledge-intensive, emphasizing low-cost techniques that work with the local ecosystem. It takes a whole system approach to agriculture that considers a wide range of conditions and issues. Because it recognizes the particular nature of each ecosystem, agroecology can include methods such as organic farming, but does not specifically embrace any one particular method of farming.

Today, agroecology-based production systems are seen as a critical component of socially just food systems that promote food sovereignty and the conservation of valuable natural resources.

Cutting edge of innovation

Small-holder farmers produce most of our food: 70 per cent to be exact, and all of that on only 25 per cent of the arable land. In a world facing both increasing climatic changes and a growing population, feeding 9-billon people is the centremost question for our food systems. Studies have shown that small-scale farmers can double food production in the next 10 years simply by adopting agroecological methods.

The future of food production should rely not only on the use of environmentally sustainable approaches, but also on socially equitable technologies. Agroecology does exactly that. A cutting edge approach to agricultural production, agroecological principles ensure farms continue to exhibit the high levels of diversity, integration, efficiency, resilience and productivity they need to adapt and feed the world.

Can we scale up agroecology?

Perhaps the most important feature of agroecology lies in its ability to be scaled up.

This requires addressing several barriers currently constraining agroecological development efforts. These include a lack of information by farmers and extension agents, a lack of land tenure, infrastructural problems and market failures.

Access to land for small-holder and family farmers is of key importance for food sovereignty. Farmer-to-farmer exchange and workshops such as the Campesino a Campesino (CAC) movement that promotes a the sharing of experiences, ideas and information also plays a key part for the long-term sustainability for agroecology. Training, farmer field-schools, on farm-demonstrations, field visits all play a crucial role in scaling up agroecology.

These approaches must go hand in hand with participatory approaches that harness the rich traditional agricultural knowledge of peasant and indigenous populations. It also ensures the conservation of agricultural biodiversity and genetic resources found in these communities. At the same time, policy reforms are also essential to scaling up agroecology.

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Read 10521 times Last modified on Wednesday, 12 November 2014 23:00

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