Module

What is Agroecology?

Module Progress:

Broadly, agroecology has been called a technique, science and social movement that seeks to generate harmonic and respectful relationships between individuals, communities and the planet. As you will see however, rather that have a concrete definition, it can be more useful to hear how others are answering the question of “What is Agroecology?”. In this module you will learn a variety of definitions, watch a video to hear from grassroots and social movements such as La Via Campesina, and then read about some of the facets of agroecology. These views are shared here to give you a overview of the diverse definitions of agroecology, and help you understand how it is being used throughout the world.

Excerpt 1: Declaration of the International Forum of Agroecology

Nyeleni, Mali, February 2015

We are delegates representing diverse organizations and international movements of small-scale food producers and consumers, including peasants, indigenous peoples, communities, hunters and gatherers, family farmers, rural workers, herders and pastoralists, fisherfolk and urban people. Together, the diverse constituencies our organizations represent produce some 70% of the food consumed by humanity. They are the primary global investors in agriculture, as well as the primary providers of jobs and livelihoods in the world.

We gathered here at the Nyéléni Center in Sélingué, Mali from 24 to 27 of February 2015, to come to a common understanding of Agroecology as a key element in the construction of Food Sovereignty, and to develop joint strategies to promote Agroecology and defend it from co-optation.

Agroecology is a way of life and the language of Nature that we learn as her children. It is not a mere set of technologies or production practices. It cannot be implemented the same way in all territories. Rather it is based on principles that, while they may be similar across the diversity of our territories, can and are practiced in many different ways, with each sector contributing their own colors of their local reality and culture, while always respecting Mother Earth and our common, shared values.

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Film 1: Agroecology: Voices from Social Movements

Excerpt 2: Agroecology: What it is and what it has to offer

by Lauren Sicili | IIED

What is agroecology? 

Agroecology – ‘the application of ecological concepts and principles to the design and management of sustainable agro-ecosystems’ – has three facets. These are:

1. a scientific discipline involving the holistic study of agro-ecosystems, including human and environmental elements
2. a set of principles and practices to enhance the resilience and ecological, socio-economic and cultural sustainability of farming systems
3. a movement seeking a new way of considering agriculture and its relationships with society.

What can agroecology offer?
A growing body of evidence reveals agroecology’s multiple advantages over conventional high-external input farming:

• a multi-functional approach to farming, capable of meeting environmental, economic and social needs
• greater environmental sustainability and resilience, especially in marginal areas subject to environmental degradation and extreme climatic events, and higher agrobiodiversity
• the ability to support farmers’ food sovereignty, reducing their dependence on costly and sometimes difficult-to-access chemical inputs
• higher overall productivity (at farm rather than crop level) achieved through a diverse range of agricultural products and environmental services, which reduce risks of crop failure in the long term.

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Forum Question: What is Agroecology?