Dear Friends and Colleagues

The Potential of Agroecology to Transform the Global Food System

A brochure on agroecology features its many successes as a road map for a socially and ecologically sustainable transformation of agriculture. Agroecology is a growing social movement which encourages peer-to-peer exchanges of information between farmers, the chief goal being to develop locally adapted solutions for peasant farmers that work with the available resources.

Agroecology offers numerous advantages. It favors a gradual transition away from the fossil-energy-based farming. The approach seeks to preserve soil health and to reduce soil erosion. 

Agroecology provides better nutrition and substantial health benefits, because the greater diversity on the farm results in greater diversity in the plates for communities who produce their own food.  Agroecology represents a shift away from the quasi exclusive focus on growing large cereals in monocultures. Another advantage of an agroecology is that it is based on locally produced inputs.

Agroecology, however, remains marginalized. Infrastructures and technologies are biased in favor of achieving economies of scale through the reliance on large-scale, mechanised monoculture production. Political obstacles are large. Large agribusiness actors fiercely resist attempts to implement agroecology. Broad-scale implementation of agroecology will require a fundamental transformation of global relations of power.

The brochure calls for the re-orientation of political instruments, the development of innovative local marketing approaches and fostering citizen participation in defining food and agricultural policies through (a) support for diversified agroecological farming; (b) promoting short food supply chains and alternative trade structures, and (c) democratising our food system. Food democracy – the ability for people to make real choices about how to produce food, what to produce, and how to eat – is key to unlocking the system. Peasant farmers must have a central say in the development of food policies. Municipalities and cities need to recognise the importance of initiatives such as food policy councils to jointly develop local food systems.

With best wishes

Third World Network
131 Jalan Macalister
10400 Penang
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INKOTA-netzwerk, Oxfam Deutschland, Misereor, &Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung
May 2017

[Excerpt below]

Let’s Move! The Pathway To Agroecology

In many places, alternatives break through the cracks of the industrial food system and show that agroecology can provide the basis for a socially and ecologically sustainable transformation of agriculture. Peasant farmers across the world use tried and tested agroecological cultivation methods to protect soil fertility, promote diversity on agricultural land and plates alike, preserve natural resources and exercise the human right to adequate food. Innovative marketing strategies provide consumers with fresh and affordable agroecological produce. Food policy councils and other initiatives gain a greater say in local food systems and co-develop food policy. So far, agroecology has hardly made it onto the political agenda. This is because, as a system, agroecology has no need for agro-chemicals or GMOs and strengthens local marketing structures, which leaves no room for international agro- and food corporations to make a profit. Broad-scale implementation of agroecology will require a fundamental transformation of global relations of power.

Social movements across the world have made the potential of agroecology known internationally. Science, civil society organisations, the United Nations and governments have taken up the concept. Although in principle a success, this puts the concept of agroecology at risk to be co-opted and watered down. This could include reducing agroecology to particular cultivation methods in an attempt to cushion the ecological crisis of conventional agriculture, whilst leaving untouched or even accentuating the systemic logics and relations of power.

A reorientation of the food system built on agro-ecology requires first a new understanding of the nature of sustainable food systems. As is well known, we cannot hope to solve problems by the same logic that created them in the first place. This means to leave behind the dogma of increasing general productivity through industrial agriculture as a strategy for feeding the world.

We must re-orientate political instruments, develop innovative local marketing approaches and foster citizen participation in defining food and agricultural policies. The political measures below are therefore of central importance:

Support for diversified agroecological farming

Long-term investments and economically sustainable practices will require that peasant farmers, the landless, nomadic communities and indigenous peoples have secured access to and control over land and natural resources. Seed regulations should provide support to peasant seed systems and promote the exchange of genetically diverse seeds. Incentives such as financial support and information sharing on the agroecological circular economy approach, as well as practices to

maintain and improve soil fertility, recycle biomass, improve biodiversity and minimise the agrochemical and fossil fuel input, should be created. Promoting participatory research between peasant farmers and scientists should provide the means to develop and spread agro-ecological practices and innovations further. Regulations and legislation that stand in the way of agroecology, such as intellectual property rights and food safety regulations that hinder peasant farmers must be changed.

Promoting short food supply chains and alternative trade structures

Peasant farmers need markets where they can sell their produce at fair prices and actively define market conditions. Public authorities need to support these markets by providing the required public infrastructure. Public procurement to supply canteens or schools with food should favour local farmers. Public institutions can buy produce at reliable rates and amounts. This would create a sustainable future for peasant farmers and equally ensure the regional supply of high quality produce.

Concepts such as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), which strengthen the ties between consumers and producers and create a new awareness of the importance of agriculture, should receive greater support. Priority must be granted to providing local and regional markets with diverse and healthy food.

Democratising Our Food System

Peasant farmers are the central actors of the food system and must therefore have a say in the development of food policies. Social movements that represent the interests of marginalised people, especially in rural areas, should receive support, and authorities should integrate them into political decision-making processes. In particular the interests and needs of women and young people in agriculture need to be considered. Research agendas and research itself must become participatory. Only such an approach will ensure that they are adapted to the needs of peasant farmers and build on their knowledge. To spread the knowledge of agroecology, we need to establish agro-ecological farming schools. Municipalities and cities need to recognise the importance of initiatives such as food policy councils to jointly develop local food systems.