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Agroecology Knowledge Hub

Efficiency : innovative agroecological practices produce more using less external resources

Increased resource-use efficiency is an emergent property of agroecological systems that carefully plan and manage diversity to create synergies between different system components. For example, a key efficiency challenge is that less than 50 percent of nitrogen fertilizer added globally to cropland is converted into harvested products and the rest is lost to the environment causing major environmental problems.

Agroecological systems improve the use of natural resources, especially those that are abundant and free, such as solar radiation, atmospheric carbon and nitrogen. By enhancing biological processes and recycling biomass, nutrients and water, producers are able to use fewer external resources, reducing costs and the negative environmental impacts of their use. Ultimately, reducing dependency on external resources empowers producers by increasing their autonomy and resilience to natural or economic shocks.

One way to measure the efficiency of integrated systems is by using Land Equivalent Ratios (LER). LER compares the yields from growing two or more components (e.g. crops, trees, animals) together with yields from growing the same components in monocultures. Integrated agroecological systems frequently demonstrate higher LERs.

Agroecology thus promotes agricultural systems with the necessary biological, socio-economic and institutional diversity and alignment in time and space to support greater efficiency.

Database

In a context of a changing climate and growing concerns for more healthy food systems, agroecology is gaining momentum as a scientific discipline, sustainable farming approach and social movement. There is growing anecdotal and case study evidence of its multiple benefits, from climate resilience to farm productivity. Yet its promotion...
Policy brief/paper
2014
One of the main problems of the páramo ecosystem (altitudinal belt of the tropical mountain between 3,000m and 4,000m) is conventional potato production. The use of agrochemicals in food production is degrading the ecosystem and polluting the water that reach more than 8 million inhabitants of the city of Bogotá,...
Colombia
Innovation
2018
Malawi is a small landlocked country in southern Africa, bordered by Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia. The majority of Malawians are smallholder farmers, who grow crops for both food and income. More than half of the Malawian population lives in poverty, and the rate of food insecurity is very high. Typical...
Malawi
Case study
2016
Érosion, désertification, salinisation, à Fimela, delta du Saloum, 30 % seulement des terres agricoles restent cultivables. C’est la cause du bradage des terres et de l’exode rural vers les villes ou vers l’étranger. Pour  remédier, l’ambition de Jardins d’Afrique est de former des jeunes à la pratique d’une autre agriculture,...
Senegal
Innovation
2018
The Green Revolution, the symbol of agricultural intensification not only failed to ensure safe and abundant food production for all people, but it was launched under the assumptions that abundant water and cheap energy to fuel modern agriculture would always be available and that climate would be stable and not...
Working paper
2012