The global food system is at a crossroads. As the new Sustainable Development Goals show, agriculture is key in ending hunger and malnutrition in a socially, economically and environmentally sustainable way. This will include a move from a sole focus on increasing production; today’s challenges – including climate change - demand a new, holistic approach.
Agroecology represents a promising option, capable of providing ‘win-win’ solutions by enhancing food security and nutrition, restoring and maintaining healthy ecosystems, delivering sustainable livelihoods to smallholders and building resilience to adapt to climate change. Agroecology does not offer one-size fits all approaches, but rather offers principles and processes that need to be locally adapted.
“AGROECOLOGY is the integrative study of the ecology of the entire food system, encompassing ecological, economic and social dimensions”1. It is an important approach to move towards more sustainable food systems, whose practices, research and policies have seen exponential growth worldwide in the last decade.
The International Symposium on Agroecology for Food Security and Nutrition
In this context, FAO organized the International Symposium on Agroecology for Food Security and Nutrition in September 2014 in Rome, Italy. The Symposium was considered a great success uniting 400 scientists, food producers, policy makers, farmers’ organizations and private sector and NGO representatives. During this Symposium, FAO's Director-General announced that FAO would organize regional meetings on Agroecology in Latin America, Africa and Asia, and would incorporate agroecological approaches in its ongoing work. This reflected an understanding from the global meeting that effective work on Agroecology must to be based on regional and local realities and economic, social and environmental conditions. In their concluding remarks professors Steve Gliessman and Pablo Tittonell remarked: “The Symposium emphatically demonstrated that the stakeholders represented have everything necessary to make this transformation happen. It only requires action, vision, responsibility towards future generations and above all courage.” (see the final report of the meeting here)
Regional Meetings on Agroecology in Latin America & the Caribbean, Africa and Asia
Under the leadership of the ADG-AG, Ren Wang and the AGP Director, a secretariat, uniting units from across the house as well as regional coordinators from RAF, RAP and RLC, has been created. In collaboration with the governments of Brazil and Senegal, FAO has successfully organized the regional meeting on Agroecology in Latin America and the Caribbean from 24-26 June 2015 with over 100 participants from governments, civil society, regional organizations and research (final report to be released shortly, more information available here). The secretariat is now leading the efforts to organize the regional meetings in Dakar, Senegal on 5-6 November (www.fao.org/africa/events/detail-events/en/c/330741/) and in Bangkok, Thailand on 24-26 November (www.fao.org/asiapacific/events/detail-events/en/c/1262/).
In all these efforts FAO functions as a facilitator to enable fruitful debate. Additionally, FAO is supporting a strengthening of the already extensive evidence-base for agroecological approaches in agriculture. The forthcoming Proceedings of the FAO International Symposium on Agroecology for Food Security and Nutrition are providing a first, big step in this direction. It will be important to continue to strengthen the evidence base in support of Agroecology, especially to address some of the key questions identified at the International Symposium. Countries, intergovernmental organizations and other stakeholders should support existing networks and promote new initiatives such as farmer-researcher networks to build and strengthen a global network for agroecology. Through policy support, countries have a key role to play in establishing an enabling environment for Agroecology, smallholders, family farming and agrobiodiversity. Finally, there are opportunities for public and private actors to invest in agroecology to realize its full potential.
Partnerships to implement Agroecology
The move to sustainable food systems is so challenging, large and important, that FAO will only be able to achieve it by working in new ways with partners. One such partnership is being developed following the OPC and AGP-organized meeting with representatives from La Via Campesina on 29 and 30 September 2015. The workshop helped identify concrete areas of collaboration related to farmer-research networks and a toolkit on Agroecology for farmers. As FAO is getting ready for the new biennium, Agroecology is thus becoming increasingly important and the focus is moving from global and regional dialogue to field-level activities.
To read more about the International Symposium on Agroecology and the upcoming regional meetings on Agroecology please visit: www.fao.org/about/meetings/afns/en/
1Francis, C., Lieblein, G., Gliessman, S., Breland, T.A., Creamer, N., Harwood, R., Salomonsson, L., Helenius, J., Rickerl, D., Salvador, R., Wiedenhoeft, M., Simmons, S., Allen, P., Altieri, M., Flora, C. & Poincelot, R. 2003. Agroecology: The ecology of food systems. J. Sustain. Agr., 22: 99–118.
Photo: ©Bioversity International/Camilla Zanzanaini