By Chiara de Notaris, Saghar Motarjemi, Johannes (Jeroen) Pullens and Claudia Windeck
Agroecology is based on the integration between scientific knowledge, local traditions and social principles. This holistic approach is central to achieve sustainable food and agriculture systems, and enables producers and communities to develop context-specific solutions to local challenges.
Several institutions at national and international level have recognized the value of agroecology and FAO has identified 10 elements to guide “policymakers, practitioners and stakeholders in planning, managing and evaluating agroecological transitions”.
FAO´s 10 Elements of Agroecology are:
Overall, agroecology is seen as a key to meeting many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations, such as zero hunger, no poverty and responsible consumption and production. In order to achieve its potential, agroecological practices need to become mainstream on a broad scale. The implementation of supportive policies can help to overcome context-specific barriers, facilitating the scaling-up of agroecology. France and Brazil provide examples of such policies.
In the French national policy, agroecology is identified as a tool for sustainable intensification, which is a related approach aiming at increasing agricultural production while minimizing environmental impacts, “based on increasing farmers’ skills in managing the ecosystems their farm represents”. Agroecological practices are seen as a fusion of scientific and traditional knowledge, with a clear emphasis on the economic dimensions and less on the social. Innovation is a focus point of the French Agroecology Project, which is based on incentives to encourage farmers to embrace agroecology.
A different approach is used in the Brazilian National Policy for Agroecology and Organic Production (PNAPO). Here the social dimension is core, and it emphasizes rural development and family farming. The policy is the product of a process started in the ’70s, when peasants’ social movements adopted agroecology as a form of resistance to the Green Revolution model. The long history of agroecology in Brazil led to the creation of many advocacy groups, including SOCLA (Latin American Scientific Society of Agroecology). It aims at promoting the “science of agroecology as the scientific basis of a sustainable rural development strategy in Latin America” and keeps a strong focus on food sovereignty and conservation of natural resources.
These were just two examples of how agroecology can be integrated into policy, in coherence with local needs. The recognition of national and international institutions will push the movement of transition towards sustainable food and agricultural systems further.