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.

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 Agroecology Europe (AEEU) is an association of members who wants to exchange knowledge and experiences on agroecology and to support the transition toward agroecological practices and policies. To support exchange, reflection and bottom-up contributions, the association will organise together with local farmers, universities, social movement organisations and non-governmental organisations, the second Agroecology...
Greece
Event
2019
The FAO Technical Network on Sustainable Crop Production and Agroecology, SP2 and SP4 organize on Tuesday 1 of October from 14:30-16:00 (CEST)  a seminar on ''Promoting sustinable urban and periurban agriculture: an example of agroecological practices in Rosario (Argentina)''.The Seminar will take place in FAO Headquarters, Malasya Room (B227) and it will be conducted in English...
Argentina
Event
2019
The Venezuelan Association of Agroecology (AVA) is a broad group, made up of social organizations, farmers, academics, and other associated actors interested in contributing to the transformation of food systems, towards food sovereignty from an agroecological perspective. The Congress will take place in Caracas during the 17 and 19 of October. In its third...
Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)
Event
2019
The First Chilean Congress of Agroecology, organized by the University of La Frontera and the Chilean chapter of the Latin American Scientific Society of Agroecology (SOCLA-Chile), will be held at the Pucón Campus of the University of La Frontera during the 17 and 18 of October 2019. Under the slogan...
Chile
Event
2019
Since 2003, the Brazilian Congress of Agroecology (CBA) has been held with the active and wide participation of educational, research and extension institutions and organized civil society involved with the demands of family farming and family production logics in general. Initially thought as a space for valuing agroecology as a...
Brazil
Event
2019