The challenge of feeding the world’s growing population without further damaging the natural resource base is becoming increasingly urgent, and must be met in ways that also allow adaptation to and mitigation of climate change. Agriculture provides not only food, but also fuel, fibre and a wide range of ecosystem services. This paper discusses the principles and practices of agroecology, and how mainstreaming them can potentially meet the challenges facing agriculture and food production. The academic discipline of agroecology emerged over a century ago. Subsequently, in response to the social and environmental problems caused by the global industrial agricultural and food system, it has become the foundation of both a set of land management practices and a vibrant social movement. The science of agroecology is the study of living organisms and their inter-relationships in the context of agriculture and land use, and can be seen as the scientific basis of sustainable agriculture. Agroecology not only defines, classifies and studies agricultural systems from an ecological and corresponding socio-economic perspective, but also applies ecological concepts and principles to the design and management of sustainable agro-ecosystems. This means that it is very useful as a theoretical and practical approach to increasing the sustainability of current agri-food systems. Agroecology has come to greater prominence since the publication of the 2009 International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) which advocated the use of agroecological approaches in sustainability initiatives. The following year, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food also highlighted agroecology as a viable approach for working towards food security. Although informed citizens and markets are powerful mechanisms for shaping resource use and production, and for stimulating creativity and innovation by communities, concerted government action is needed to speed up the spread of agroecological production, especially while some countries are still moving their agricultural sectors in the opposite direction. Supportive policies will be required if crop and livestock production systems are to be managed as ecosystems, with management decisions fully informed of environmental costs and benefits. This discussion paper concludes with an agenda for change to support the wider use of agroecological approaches in the arenas of research, policy, and knowledge management and agricultural extension. In summary, - Agricultural policy should focus on building a progressive, knowledge-based agricultural sector which fosters the participation of all stakeholders to deliver strong support, extension and education services for agroecological technologies. - Economic policy should create market conditions – including financial and regulatory mechanisms – that are favourable to rural and urban agro ecological production, and develop improved markets for ecosystem services to provide incentives for their conservation and support for farming communities. - Cross-sectoral policies addressing food, markets and rural and urban development should include the development of robust frameworks for assessing and evaluating existing food production systems that focus on their ecological integrity and socio-economic benefit, and use these as a basis for evidence-based policy. - Knowledge management and agricultural extension should prioritise exchange of knowledge on agroecological management practices between all stakeholders by building regional, national and international information resources and networks. - Research should address the implications of agroecological management in different cultural and environmental settings, both urban and rural, and further develop agroecological production techniques. Acknowledgements The authors would like to thank Michel Pimbert and Phil Harris for their comments on earlier drafts of this paper, Martin Stott of the Fund for the Environment & Urban Life (The Oram Foundation, Inc.) and the Grand Challenges Fund at Coventry University for their financial support, and HRH the Prince of Wales for writing the Foreword.
|Place of Publication||Coventry|
|Publisher||Centre for Agroecology and Food Security, Coventry University|
|Number of pages||24|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Oct 2013|