Oxfam’s 2014 report Scaling Up Agroecological Approaches set out that a radical shift is urgently needed in agricultural and food systems to allow the world to feed itself sustainably today and in the future With the number of undernourished people estimated at 842 million people in 2011–13 (FAO, 2013b), the industrial agrifood system as a whole has failed to feed the world, while being responsible for nearly half of the world’s human greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, for strengthening social inequities among actors in the whole agrifood supply chain, and for further polluting and depleting natural resources among others. Advancing industrial agriculture and consolidating the corporate food regime is not an option for meeting sustainability challenges today and in the future. This would only aggravate the current food, climate, ecological and energy crisis.
Agroecological approaches are by far the best option to make this required shift
As the science of sustainable agriculture, agroecology has led to the identification of key principles (agroecological principles) which establish, as well as augment, agricultural sustainability. An extensive body of evidence demonstrates how efficient scaling-up of agroecological approaches can contribute to ensuring sustainable and resilient agricultural and food systems today and in the future: assuring, among other elements, food security and the realization of the Right to Adequate Food, environmental preservation, resilience to climate change and mitigation of human GHG emissions (in the whole food system), women’s empowerment, and increased peasants’ control over agrifood systems.
Agroecological farming is not limited to narrow and confined local contexts: it can be applied at a global scale
In terms of farming systems, agroecology does not consist of one particular set of agricultural practices which could substantially help increase agricultural sustainability but only in a few very specific, limited contexts: it is a holistic approach consisting in realizing key principles for meeting local needs sustainably.
Realizing agroecological principles consists primarily in mimicking natural processes, thus creating beneficial biological interactions and synergies among the components of the agroecosystem, instead of depending on external inputs. The technological forms through which agroecological principles can be made operational depend on the prevailing environmental and socioeconomic conditions at each site. In other words, the concrete realization of these principles always requires context-specific solutions, since they must adapt to local realities. Nonetheless, they have universal applicability.
You need to know where you’ve been to know where you’re going
Agroecology teaches us how peasant agricultures traditionally own a huge sustainability potential. As the science of sustainable agriculture, agroecology is first and foremost based on the re-discovery and study of traditional peasant agricultures. This close relationship results from the recognition of the phenomenal sustainability that traditional peasant farming systems have demonstrated throughout the ages, and as a corollary of the treasures of knowledge they represent for achieving sustainability today and in the future, notably in the context of climate change.
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