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

Documentaries on the Best Practices in Rural Development carried out by young farmers that have been granted support under EU Rural development policies.
Italy
Video
2015
The  Latin American Institute of Agroecology (IALA) is an initiative of global peasant movement La Via Campesina to train young people in agroecology principles and practices. This video explains more about graduates' experiences from the Latin American Agroecological Institute (IALA IXIM ULEW) in Nicaragua through Migdalia Cruz, a young woman from...
Nicaragua
Video
2020
Durante mucho tiempo la producción de ganado en el trópico seco se ha centrado en el desmonte del bosque (también llamado “monte”) y la siembra de pastos mejorados. Sin embargo, el bosque tropical seco alberga numerosas especies de árboles y arbustos con potencial forrajero. Cada vez son más reconocidos los...
Mexico
Guidelines
2018
The National Network of Native and Creole Seeds is made up of 210 family farms and involves more than 300 producers from all over the country. It is organized into 27 local groups, each with a person who acts as a focal point. The main objective is the rescue and revaluation...
Book
"Life in Syntropy" is the new short film from Agenda Gotsch made specially to be presented at COP21 - Paris. This film put together some of the most remarkable experiences in Syntropic Agriculture, with brand new images and interviews.
Brazil
Video
2015