Agroecology Knowledge Hub

Diversity: diversification is key to agroecological transitions to ensure food security and nutrition while conserving, protecting and enhancing natural resources

Agroecological systems are highly diverse. From a biological perspective, agroecological systems optimize the diversity of species and genetic resources in different ways. For example, agroforestry systems organize crops, shrubs, livestock and trees of different heights and shapes at different levels or strata, increasing vertical diversity. Intercropping combines complementary species to increase spatial diversity. Crop rotations, often including legumes, increase temporal diversity. Crop–livestock systems rely on the diversity of local breeds adapted to specific environments. In the aquatic world, traditional fish polyculture farming, Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) or rotational crop-fish systems follow the same principles to maximising diversity.

Increasing biodiversity contributes to a range of production, socio-economic, nutrition and environmental benefits. By planning and managing diversity, agroecological approaches enhance the provisioning of ecosystem services, including pollination and soil health, upon which agricultural production depends. Diversification can increase productivity and resource-use efficiency by optimizing biomass and water harvesting.

Agroecological diversification also strengthens ecological and socio-economic resilience, including by creating new market opportunities. For example, crop and animal diversity reduces the risk of failure in the face of climate change. Mixed grazing by different species of ruminants reduces health risks from parasitism, while diverse local species or breeds have greater abilities to survive, produce and maintain reproduction levels in harsh environments. In turn, having a variety of income sources from differentiated and new markets, including diverse products, local food processing and agritourism, helps to stabilize household incomes.

Consuming a diverse range of cereals, pulses, fruits, vegetables and animal-source products contributes to improved nutritional outcomes. Moreover, the genetic diversity of different varieties, breeds and species is important in contributing macronutrients, micronutrients and other bioactive compounds to human diets. For example, in Micronesia, reintroducing an underutilized traditional variety of orange-fleshed banana with 50 times more beta-carotene than the widely available commercial white-fleshed banana proved instrumental in improving health and nutrition.

At the global level, three cereal crops provide close to 50 percent of all calories consumed, while the genetic diversity of crops, livestock, aquatic animals and trees continues to be rapidly lost. Agroecology can help reverse these trends by managing and conserving agro-biodiversity, and responding to the increasing demand for a diversity of products that are eco-friendly. One such example is ‘fish-friendly’ rice produced from irrigated, rainfed and deepwater rice ecosystems, which values the diversity of aquatic species and their importance for rural livelihoods.

Database

This video explores the different perspectives of food providers on agroecology and the calls from social movements to embed agroecoogy in the struggle for food sovereignty. It focuses on the International Declaration for Food Sovereignty which has been advanced by social movements to claim agroecology as a bottom up practice,...
Video
2015
In September 2015, family farmer Jyoti Fernandes spoke at a Policy Debate in the European Parliament. The video is embedded below and a full transcript of the talk is available here. Being part of the UK Landworkers’ Alliance and the European Coordination of La Vía Campesina (host of the debate),...
Video
2015
It is generally accepted that agriculture is a major driver of climate change as well as being acutely challenged to adapt to its effects. Agroecological approaches involve the application of integrated ecological, economic and social principles to the transition of smallholder farming systems, towards greater resilience. This involves adapting 13...
Working paper
2019
El video es una producción desarrollada dentro del proyecto “Comunidad, Comida y Salud kichwa: mujeres y un nuevo diálogo entre tradición y modernidad culinaria” organizado por la Universidad Regional Amazónica Ikiam, Universidad Tecnológica Equinoccial (UTE), Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED), Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) y la Agencia Española de Cooperación...
Ecuador
Video
2019
This course addressed issues and articulations around local agroecological based food systems, including food resistances, which together with agroecological experiences constitute the responses against agro-industrial crops (genetically modified, monocultures, biofuels, greenhouses, etc.) and food models (large surfaces, junk food, school catering, etc.) that generate enormous inequalities and seriously affect the...
Learning
2020