Agroecology Knowledge Hub

Recycling: more recycling means agricultural production with lower economic and environmental costs

Waste is a human concept – it does not exist in natural ecosystems. By imitating natural ecosystems, agroecological practices support biological processes that drive the recycling of nutrients, biomass and water within production systems, thereby increasing resource-use efficiency and minimizing waste and pollution.

Recycling can take place at both farm-scale and within landscapes, through diversification and building of synergies between different components and activities. For example, agroforestry systems that include deep rooting trees can capture nutrients lost beyond the roots of annual crops. Crop–livestock systems promote recycling of organic materials by using manure for composting or directly as fertilizer, and crop residues and by-products as livestock feed. Nutrient cycling accounts for 51 percent of the economic value of all non-provisioning ecosystem services, and integrating livestock plays a large role in this. Similarly, in rice–fish systems, aquatic animals help to fertilize the rice crop and reduce pests, reducing the need for external fertilizer or pesticide inputs.

Recycling delivers multiple benefits by closing cycles and reducing waste that translates into lower dependency on external resources, increasing the autonomy of producers and reducing their vulnerability to market and climate shocks. Recycling organic materials and by-products offers great potential for agroecological innovations.


For many years, La Vía Campesina and GRAIN have been telling the world about how the agroindustrial food system causes half of all greenhouse gas emissions. But the world's governments are refusing to face these problems head on, and the Paris Summit in December is approaching without any effective commitment...
"In this article, Michel Pimbert highlights the transformative elements of agroecology and food sovereignty to clearly identify overlaps and divergences with Climate-smart Agriculture and conventional development." Cultivate!
Agroecological case studies all over the globe show agroecology in practice.
Case study
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
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...
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