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Agroecologically efficient agricultural systems for smallholder farmers

A recent article published in the journal Agronomy for Sustainable Development analyzes the fundamental reasons why the promotion of an agroecological development paradigm based on the revitalization of small farms is the only viable option to meet the world’s food needs in the face of increasing oil prices and climate change.

Agroecologically efficient agricultural systems for smallholder farmers emphasize diversity, synergy, recycling and integration, and social processes that value community involvement and empowerment. While agricultural systems are not static and are shaped by major forces such as population increase and dynamics, global market forces, advances in science and technology, climatic change and variability, agroecological principles and practices have led to the re-design and optimization of small farming systems so that they can respond adequately to these forces and therefore have the possibility of being sustainable in a rapidly changing world.

Many of the agroecologically based systems that have succeeded in terms of productivity and resiliency share most of what can be described as the pillars of sustainable management of agricultural systems:

* Increase total farm productivity in perpetuity

* Permanent risk reduction and enhanced resiliency

* Promotion of economic viability, social equity, and cultural diversity

* Conservation of natural resources, enhancement of biodiversity and ecosystem services

* Optimization of natural cycles and reducing dependency on non-renewable resources

* Prevention of land degradation and the general environment

Emerging research also documents that worldwide, smallholder agroecological production contributes substantially to food security, rural livelihoods, and local and even national economies. The article provides evidence of the benefits, on the environment and food production, of agroecologically based projects in Cuba, Brazil, Philippines, and some African countries. The analysis of dozens of farmer-led and NGO-led agroecological projects show convincingly that agroecological systems are not limited to producing low outputs, as increases in production of 50–100% are fairly common with most alternative production methods.

With best wishes,

Lim Li Ching
Third World Network

131 Jalan Macalister,

10400 Penang,

Malaysia

Email: twnet@po.jaring.my

Websites: www.twnside.org.sg, www.biosafety-info.net

Agron. Sustain. Dev. DOI 10.1007/s13593-011-0065-6

Agroecologically efficient agricultural systems for smallholder farmers: contributions to food sovereignty

REVIEW ARTICLE

Miguel A. Altieri & Fernando R. Funes-Monzote & Paulo Petersen

Accepted: 21 November 2011 # INRA and Springer-Verlag, France 2011

Abstract

The realization of the contribution of peasant agriculture to food security in the midst of scenarios of climate change, economic and energy crisis, led to the concepts of food sovereignty and agroecologically based production systems to gain much attention in the developing world in the last two decades. New approaches and technologies involving application of blended modern agricultural science and indigenous knowledge systems and spearheaded by thousands of farmers, NGOs, and some government and academic institutions are proving to enhance food security while conserving agrobiodiversity soil and water resources conservation throughout hundreds of rural communities in the developing world. Case studies from Cuba, Brazil, Philippines, and Africa are presented to demonstrate how the agroecological development paradigm based on the revitalization of small farms which emphasizes diversity, synergy, recycling and integration, and social processes that value community participation and empowerment, proves to be perhaps one of the only viable options to meet present and future food needs. Given the present and predicted near future climate, energy and economic scenarios, agroecology has emerged as one of the most robust pathways towards designing biodiverse, productive, and resilient agroecosystems available today.

M. A. Altieri (*) University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA e-mail: agroeco3@berkeley.edu

F. R. Funes-Monzote Estación Experimental Indio Hatuey, Universidad de Matanzas, Matanzas, Cuba

P. Petersen AS-PTA, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Keywords Agroecology, Production systems, Agrobiodiversity, Food sovereignity, Smallholder farmers

 


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