Agroecology for sustainable farming and food sovereignty
In many parts of the world, destructive industrial agriculture is not the norm. Instead, diverse forms of smallholder food production based on agroecology are generating local knowledge, promoting social justice, nurturing identity and culture, renewing resources and strengthening the economic viability of rural areas. Agroecology as a system combines all these elements to provide an effective way to feed the world and a counter to destructive industrial agriculture.
Explore our Agroecology Map to see how our member groups are transforming food systems.
Agroecology – ecological practice, political movement and social justice
As an agricultural practice, agroecology mimics natural processes to deliver self-sustaining farming that grows a greater diversity of crops, drastically reduces artificial inputs (pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics) and recycles nutrients (plant and animal waste as manure).
This has obvious benefits for farmers – drastically reduced costs, autonomy from corporations, diversified income streams, risk management for crop failures and varied produce to improve nutrition.
As a socio-economic system, agroecology values the life of people and planet over profits. It requires the re-shaping of markets to be based on equity, solidarity and the ethics of responsible production and consumption. It creates space for women and youth to take leadership.
As a political movement, agroecology is an action agenda to achieve food sovereignty led by small-scale food producers and their allies. It is a growing movement to completely transform our system of production, distribution and consumption rather than conform to industrial models.
Friends of the Earth International vision for agroecology
Around the world, Friends of the Earth International’s member groups are engaged in a movement calling for a rapid transition to a sustainable, just and resilient food system based on agroecological principles through campaigns and projects.
Our approach to agroecology is firmly based on the principle of collaboration, with a view to mobilising support for a fundamental transformation in the way food is produced around the world. We work closely with rural, urban and coastal small scale food producers, consumers, and local communities, and their representatives (especially members of La Via Campesina, the peasant farmers’ movement).
Friends of the Earth International stands in solidarity with global movements of small scale producers who take ownership of agroecology in the Nyeleni declaration.
The practical implementation of agroecology on the ground offers farmers and peoples a real alternative, even in countries where governments or national policies are strongly in favour of industrial export-oriented agriculture.
The struggle for women’s rights
For agroecology to achieve its full potential, there must be equal distribution of power, tasks, decision-making and remuneration between men and women.
Our agroecology projects also have a particular focus on gender justice. Women make up the majority of the world’s small-scale food producers and play a vital role in traditional agriculture. For example, they sustain traditional knowledge about the diverse uses of locally-found plants for nutrition and health. Yet they are consistently denied access to land, and technical and financial assistance.
Seeds and biodiversity, the heritage of people
We believe seeds form part of the heritage of the people, for the good of humanity.
Seed varieties have been nurtured, cultivated and conserved for hundreds of years by peasants. We support their demands to freely use, exchange and sell seeds from their own harvests. Native and traditional seeds are a priority and we help to protect and revive traditional knowledge about seeds and foods. We work with food producers to improve livelihoods and nutrition and we work with forest communities and indigenous peoples to rehabilitate forests.
Better connect people to the source of their food.
Friends of the Earth International’s member groups are also working to build direct links between food producers and consumers. This stops control by big corporations, and promotes self-governance by communities based on solidarity, ethical production and consumption. It is also a powerful way to reconnect people to their food systems.
Agroecology as a tool of resistance
Agroecology compliments resistance to unsustainable and unjust business models
Many Friends of the Earth International member groups are working with communities to resist land grabbing for industrial food and biofuel crops, and campaigning for national laws that allow communities greater control over their land. Agroecology provides a dignified and sustainable alternative livelihood for communities devastated by industrial plantations, mining, dams or other mega projects.
Resistance to factory and livestock farming is also growing. Meat is at the centre of some of our world’s greatest ecological and public health threats: deforestation, habitat destruction, water scarcity, climate change, water pollution, diet-related disease, antibiotic resistance, intolerable animal cruelty and more. Our groups are stopping factory farms and changing consumer behaviour on meat eating as well as promoting grass and pasture-based systems that work in harmony with nature, while reducing the need to grow large amounts of thirsty grains for feed.
Local to global transformation
The beauty of agroecology is that it moves us away from a one solution fits all perspective
While adhering to common principles, agroecology enables us to develop solutions based on the local ecology, nutrition needs, agronomics, knowledge and experience.
Our map shows that by putting together these seemingly small-scale local transformations we can construct new economic and social systems based on well being (buen vivir, Ubuntu, etc.). With appropriate support, agroecology can tackle global problems – be it helping stop runaway climate change, conserving and rebuilding biodiversity, ending hunger, or providing jobs and livelihoods to the world’s poorest.
This future is within reach, but requires brave governments with ingenuity that can find the best public policies to allow local solutions to flourish and scale up without forcing them to try and fit into an outdated model of agricultural development.
There are many rich alternatives to destructive industrial agriculture. Successful ‘agroecological’ approaches combine traditional farming and ecological principles. They include organic agriculture, sustainable agriculture, agroforestry, pastoralism, integrated pest management, farmer-led plant breeding and sustainable watershed management.
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