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

Für gerechte, widerstandsfähige und nachhaltige Erhährungssysteme
Website
2019
Intercropping is one of the traditional farming systems practiced by farmers in China for more than 2,000 years with some intriguing ecological principles. Previous studies have shown that intercropping enhances not only crop productivity but also the efficient utilization of resources, both above-ground and below-ground. Recent research efforts have made...
China
Journal article
2016
El estudio presenta los resultados del estado y desempeño de la sustentabilidad de sistemas productivos de la Asociación de Caficultores Orgánicos de Colombia ACOC, mediante once indicadores locales relacionados con los recursos y la operación del sistema, comparando resultados para dos ciclos de evaluación en 2005 y 2010. Las evaluaciones se...
Colombia
Journal article
2015
For more than a decade, Main Street Project has been working to create new possibilities for the growing numbers of rural Latino immigrants stranded in low-wage farming and food industry jobs with no benefits and no future. In 2010, Main Street Project set out to create a new regional food...
United States of America
Case study
2017
The Collaborative Program of Research in Crops (CCRP) of the Mcknight Foundation and the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO) invite to participate in this Call for advanced masters or doctorate students who are doing their thesis in Andean agroecological systems of Bolivia , Ecuador and Peru, in sites...
Learning
2019