An agroecological future: which frameworks should we apply when developing agroforestry policy in England?

Rosemary Venn, Sara Burbi

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceedingpeer-review


Agroecology as a concept for reimagining food systems has grown in popularity and is now used in various food and agriculture policy frameworks around the world. While there is a significant body of research around agroecology, its origins, applications, and as a much-needed transition pathway to sustainable food systems, there is little focussing on which policy frameworks are applied and in what ways agroecological knowledge is used to inform decision-making. This work contributes to the limited literature on agroecological policy by analysing how various frameworks are applied within the policy process and which frameworks may lead to an agroecological future, focussing specifically on agroforestry and land-use in England. As the policy process in England progresses post Brexit, various actors are employing different frameworks to deliver complimentary and contrasting objectives within the agricultural sector (net-zero, diet related health, environmental and economic sustainability and biodiversity goals). As the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMs) develops, three frameworks are reviewed to assess which could be most helpful in developing agroecological policy for agroforestry in England. The frameworks are: Ecosystem services (ES); the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); and, the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nation’s (FAO) 10 principles for agroecology. Then, using content and thematic analysis, live policy documents pertaining to agroforestry in England (four European and five national) were evaluated to assess the degree of embeddedness of each framework in the policy process. All three frameworks had a low degree of embeddedness within the policy documents analysed and there was little evidence of knowledge transfer into legislation. Additional agroforestry policy drivers were mapped, highlighting the complexity of the policy landscape and the interconnected nature of policy goals. Results highlighted the following 2 key considerations: (1) Opportunities are presented whereby multiple agricultural, environmental, health and economic goals can be met; achieving co-benefits across sectors, e.g. food security, national health, biodiversity, carbon capture and others, (2) Out of the frameworks analysed, the FAO’s 10 principles for agroecology has the most potential to position sustainable food systems as the lever between these policy drivers, and should therefore be used in developing agroforestry policy. This is because it integrates aspects of sustainable food systems in a more interconnected way than the other frameworks. In addition, it provides a more contextualised, place-based approach, which allows users to make comprehensive decisions, maximising synergies between environment, health and economic goals. Finally, given the enormous pressure on land in England and the many competing interests in its potential uses, coupled with the urgent need to restore biodiversity, sequester carbon and ensure everyone has access to nutritious and affordable food, there is no time to waste in making land use decisions: the framework with the most potential to support agroforestry policy development should be used. This study suggests that such a framework needs to be the FAO’s 10 principles for agroecology.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEuropean Agroforestry Federation
Subtitle of host publicationEURAF2022 “Agroforestry for the Green Deal transition. Research and innovation towards the sustainable development of agriculture and forestry”
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2022
Event6th European Agroforestry Conference - Nuoro, Italy
Duration: 16 May 202220 May 2022


Conference6th European Agroforestry Conference
Abbreviated titleEURAF 2022
Internet address


  • agroforestry
  • agroecology
  • policy co-development
  • land-use framework
  • sustainability


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