Agroecology can double food output in
10 years, says UN report
A new report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier
de Schutter, demonstrates that agroecology, if sufficiently supported,
can double food production in entire regions within 10 years while mitigating
climate change and alleviating rural poverty.
The report, “Agro-ecology and the right to food”, was presented to the
UN Human Rights Council on 8 March 2011. It drew on an extensive review
of recent scientific literature to support its conclusions. According
to de Schutter, “Today’s scientific evidence demonstrates that agroecological
methods outperform the use of chemical fertilizers in boosting food
production where the hungry live -- especially in unfavorable environments.”
The Special Rapporteur thus called on States to implement a fundamental
shift away from input-intensive conventional farming towards agroecology
as a way for countries to feed themselves while addressing climate-
and poverty challenges. He said, “We won’t solve hunger and stop climate
change with industrial farming on large plantations. The solution lies
in supporting small-scale farmers’ knowledge and experimentation, and
in raising incomes of smallholders so as to contribute to rural development.”
Scaling up these experiences is the main challenge and appropriate public
policies are needed to create an enabling environment for such sustainable
modes of production.
We reproduce below the Summary and Recommendations of the report. The
full report can be downloaded at: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/food/docs/A-HRC-16-49.pdf
With best wishes,
Lim Li Ching
Third World Network
131 Jalan Macalister
Websites: www.twnside.org.sg, www.biosafety-info.net
The reinvestment in agriculture, triggered by the 2008 food price crisis,
is essential to the concrete realization of the right to food. However,
in a context of ecological, food and energy crises, the most pressing
issue regarding reinvestment is not how much, but how. This report explores
how States can and must achieve a reorientation of their agricultural
systems towards modes of production that are highly productive, highly
sustainable and that contribute to the progressive realization of the
human right to adequate food.
Drawing on an extensive review of the scientific literature published
in the last five years, the Special Rapporteur identifies agroecology
as a mode of agricultural development which not only shows strong conceptual
connections with the right to food, but has proven results for fast
progress in the concretization of this human right for many vulnerable
groups in various countries and environments. Moreover, agroecology
delivers advantages that are complementary to better known conventional
approaches such as breeding high- yielding varieties. And it strongly
contributes to the broader economic development.
The report argues that the scaling up of these experiences is the main
challenge today. Appropriate public policies can create an enabling
environment for such sustainable modes of production. These policies
include prioritizing the procurement of public goods in public spending
rather than solely providing input subsidies; investing in knowledge
by reinvesting in agricultural research and extension services; investing
in forms of social organization that encourage partnerships, including
farmer field schools and farmers’ movements innovation networks; investing
in agricultural research and extension systems; empowering women; and
creating a macro-economic enabling environment, including connecting
sustainable farms to fair markets.
43. Moving towards sustainability is vital for future
food security and an essential component of the right to food. But in
order to succeed in this transformation, consistency will be required
across a variety of areas. States will need to invest in multi-year
efforts, based on strategies identifying the measures that should be
adopted in order to make this transition.
44. As part of their obligation to devote the maximum
of their available resources to the progressive realization of the right
to food, States should implement public policies supporting the adoption
of agroecological practices by:
* making reference to agroecology and sustainable agriculture in national
strategies for the realisation of the right to food and by including
measures adopted in the agricultural sector in national adaptation plans
of action (NAPAs) and in the list of nationally appropriate mitigation
actions (NAMAs) adopted by countries in their efforts to mitigate climate
* reorienting public spending in agriculture by prioritizing the provision
of public goods, such as extension services, rural infrastructures and
agricultural research, and by building on the complementary strengths
of seeds-and-breeds and agroecological methods, allocating resources
to both, and exploring the synergies, such as linking fertilizer subsidies
directly to agroecological investments on the farm (“subsidy to sustainability”);
* supporting decentralized participatory research and the dissemination
of knowledge about the best sustainable agricultural practices by relying
on existing farmers’ organisations and networks, and including schemes
designed specifically for women;
* improving the ability of producers practicing sustainable agriculture
to access markets, using instruments such as public procurement, credit,
farmers’ markets, and creating a supportive trade and macroeconomic
45. Donors should:
* engage in long-term relationships with partner countries, supporting
ambitious programs and policies to scale up agroecological approaches
for lasting change, including genuine multi-polar engagement with public
authorities and experts and existing local organizations of food providers
(farmers, pastoralists, forest dwellers) and the networks they form,
such as ROPPA, ESAFF, La Via Campesina, and PELUM, which have accumulated
experience that could be the basis for rapid scaling-up of best practices;
* encourage South-South and North-South cooperation on the dissemination
and adoption of agroecological practices;
* support agricultural development by investing in public goods rather
than private goods, and encourage participatory approaches and co-construction
in research, extension and public policies;
* fund regional and national knowledge platforms to gather and disseminate
best practices in agroecology from the field to landscape levels.
46. The research community, including centres of the
Consultative Group on
International Agricultural Research and the Global Forum on Agricultural
* increase the budget for agroecological research at the field level
(design of sustainable and resilient agroecological systems), farm and
community levels (impacts of various practices on incomes and livelihoods),
and national and sub-national levels (impact on socio-economic development,
participatory scaling-up strategies, and impacts of public policies),
and develop research with the intended beneficiaries according to the
principles of participation and co- construction;
* train scientists in the design of agroecological approaches, participatory
research methods, and processes of co-inquiry with farmers, and ensure
that their organizational culture is supportive of agroecological innovations
and participatory research;
* assess projects on the basis of a comprehensive set of performance
criteria (impacts on incomes, resource efficiency, impacts on hunger
and malnutrition, empowerment of beneficiaries,
etc.) with indicators appropriately disaggregated by population to allow
monitoring improvements in the status of vulnerable populations, taking
into account the requirements of the right to food, in addition to classical
47. At its 36th session, the Committee on World Food
Security (CFS) requested its High-Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) to examine
the respective roles of large-scale plantations and small-scale farming,
and to review existing assessments and initiatives on the effects of
climate change on food security and nutrition, with a view to informing
the 37th CFS session. The HLPE and the CFS should assess the potential
of agroecology to meet the current challenges in the areas of food security
and nutrition, with a view to informing the preparation of the Global
Strategic Framework for Food and Nutrition Security (GSF) in 2012, and
to strengthening the consistency between the international agendas in
the areas of climate change and agricultural development respectively.
8 March 2011
Eco-Farming Can Double Food Production in 10 Years, says new
GENEVA – Small-scale farmers can double food production within 10 years
in critical regions by using ecological methods, a new UN report* shows.
Based on an extensive review of the recent scientific literature, the
study calls for a fundamental shift towards agroecology as a way to
boost food production and improve the situation of the poorest.
“To feed 9 billion people in 2050, we urgently need to adopt the most
efficient farming techniques available,” says Olivier De Schutter, UN
Special Rapporteur on the right to food and author of the report. “Today’s
scientific evidence demonstrates that agroecological methods outperform
the use of chemical fertilizers in boosting food production where the
hungry live -- especially in unfavorable environments.”
Agroecology applies ecological science to the design of agricultural
systems that can help put an end to food crises and address climate-change
and poverty challenges. It enhances soils productivity and protects
the crops against pests by relying on the natural environment such as
beneficial trees, plants, animals and insects.
“To date, agroecological projects have shown an average crop yield increase
of 80% in 57 developing countries, with an average increase of 116%
for all African projects,” De Schutter says. “Recent projects conducted
in 20 African countries demonstrated a doubling of crop yields over
a period of 3-10 years.”
“Conventional farming relies on expensive inputs, fuels climate change
and is not resilient to climatic shocks. It simply is not the best choice
anymore today,” De Schutter stresses. “A large segment of the scientific
community now acknowledges the positive impacts of agroecology on food
production, poverty alleviation and climate change mitigation -- and
this this is what is needed in a world of limited resources. Malawi, a country that launched a
massive chemical fertilizer subsidy program a few years ago, is now
implementing agroecology, benefiting more than 1.3 million of the poorest
people, with maize yields increasing from 1 ton/ha to 2-3 tons/ha.”
The report also points out that projects in Indonesia, Vietnam
recorded up to 92 % reduction in insecticide use for rice, leading to
important savings for poor farmers. “Knowledge came to replace pesticides
and fertilizers. This was a winning bet, and comparable results abound
in other African, Asian and Latin American countries,” the independent
“The approach is also gaining ground in developed countries such as
United States, Germany
he said. “However, despite its impressive potential in realizing the
right to food for all, agroecology is still insufficiently backed by
ambitious public policies and consequently hardly goes beyond the experimental
The report identifies a dozen of measures that States should implement
to scale up agroecological practices.
“Agroecology is a knowledge-intensive approach. It requires public policies
agricultural research and participative extension services,” De Schutter
says. “States and donors have a key role to play here. Private companies
will not invest time and money in
practices that cannot be rewarded by patents and which don’t open markets
for chemical products or improved seeds.”
The Special Rapporteur on the right to food also urges States to support
small-scale farmer’s organizations, which demonstrated a great ability
to disseminate the best agroecological practices among their members.
“Strengthening social organization proves to be as impactful as distributing
fertilizers. Small-scale farmers and scientists can create innovative
practices when they partner”, De Schutter explains.
“We won’t solve hunger and stop climate change with industrial farming
on large plantations. The solution lies in supporting small-scale farmers’
knowledge and experimentation, and in raising incomes of smallholders
so as to contribute to rural development.”
“If key stakeholders support the measures identified in the report,
we can see a doubling of food production within 5 to 10 years in some
regions where the hungry live,” De Schutter says. “Whether or not we
will succeed this transition will depend on our ability to learn faster
from recent innovations. We need to go fast if we want to avoid repeated
food and climate disasters in the 21st century.”
(*) The report “Agro-ecology and the right to food” was presented today
before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
This document is available in English, French, Spanish, Chinese and
Russian at: www.srfood.org and http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/food/annual.htm
Olivier De Schutter was appointed the Special Rapporteur on the right
to food in May 2008 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. He is
independent from any government or organization.
For more information on the mandate and work of the Special Rapporteur,
visit: www.srfood.org or http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/food/index.htm
Olivier De Schutter: Tel. +32.488 48 20 04 / E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ulrik Halsteen (OHCHR): Tel: +41 22 917 93 23 / E-mail: email@example.com
8 March 2011
Eco-farming could double food output of poor countries, says
A move by farmers in developing countries to ecological agriculture,
away from chemical fertilisers and pesticides, could double food production
within a decade, a UN report says.
Insect-trapping plants in Kenya
and ducks eating weeds in Bangladesh's
rice paddies are among examples of recommendations for feeding the world's
7 million people, which the UN says will become about 9 billion by 2050.
"Agriculture is at a crossroads," says the study by Olivier
de Schutter, the UN special reporter on the right to food, in a drive
to depress record food prices and avoid the costly oil-dependent model
of industrial farming.
So far, eco-farming projects in 57 nations demonstrated average crop
yield gains of 80 per cent by tapping natural methods for enhancing
soil and protecting against pests, it says.
Recent projects in 20 African countries resulted in a doubling of crop
yields within three to 10 years. Those lessons could be widely mimicked
elsewhere, it adds.
"Sound ecological farming can signficantly boost production and
in the long term be more effective than conventional farming,"
De Schutter said of steps such as more use of natural compost or high-canopy
trees to shade coffee groves.
It is also believed "agroecology" could make farms more resilient
to extreme weather conditions associated with climate change, including
floods, droughts and a rise in sea levels that the report said was already
making fresh water near some coasts too salty for use in irrigation.
Benefits would be greatest in "regions where too few efforts have
been put in to agriculture, particularly sub-Saharan Africa,"
he said. "There are also a number of very promising experiences
in parts of Latin America and parts of Asia.
"The cost of food production has been very closely following the
cost of oil," he said. Upheavals in Egypt
have been partly linked to discontent at soaring food prices. Oil prices
were around $115 a barrel on Tuesday.
"If food prices are not kept under control and populations are
unable to feed themselves ... we will increasingly have states being
disrupted and failed states developing," De Schutter said.
Examples of successful agroecology in Africa include the thousands of Kenyan farmers who planted
insect-repelling desmodium or tick clover, used as animal fodder, within
corn fields to keep damaging insects away and sowed small plots of napier
grass nearby that excretes a sticky gum to trap pests.
The study also called for better research, training and use of local
knowledge. "Farmer field schools" by rice growers in Indonesia,
Vietnam and Bangladesh had
led to cuts in insecticide use by between 35 and 92 percent, it said.
De Schutter also recommended a diversification in global farm output,
from reliance on rice, wheat and maize.
Developed nations, however, would be unable to make a quick shift to
agroecology because of what he called an "addiction" to an
industrial, oil-based model of farming –
but a global long-term effort to shift to agroecology was needed.
It cited Cuba as
an example of how change was possible, as the collapse of the Soviet
Union in 1991 led to supplies of cheap pesticides and fertilisers
being cut off. Yields had risen after a downturn in the 1990s as farmers
adopted more eco-friendly methods.
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