FAO.org

Home > Agroecology Knowledge Hub > Knowledge > Science
Agroecology Knowledge Hub

Science

Agroecology has been a scientific discipline since the 1930s, beginning largely with field and plot scales and focusing on the biological interactions between elements of the ecosystem and agriculture. Through this lens, viewing farms as ecosystems that are driven by ecological forces, novel management approaches have been developed that would not otherwise be considered.  Biological forms of managing pests through restoring natural balances, are one key example. 

As the field of ecology grew, so agroecology has expanded its scope, in bringing ecological principles to bear in the design and management of agroecosystems, beyond fields to include landscapes and communities. Increasingly, it has encompassed the social organization of communities, recognised as one of the pillars of agroecology.  The spread and uptake of agroecology, over the last decades, has rested largely in the hands of farmer-to-farmer dissemination, with researchers supporting such farmer innovation. 

As a scientific discipline, agroecology is not prescriptive; it provides no recipes or technical packages. It is based on the local application of basic agroecological principles. FAO’s framework on agroecology is based on the following elements: diversity, co-creation and sharing of knowledge, synergies, efficiency, recycling, resilience, human and social values, culture and food traditions, responsible governance, circular and solidarity economy. The choice of management practices and technologies to achieve agroecology or to move towards an agroecological transition is always location specific, shaped by a given social-ecological context.

The science of agroecology explicitly recognises the value of bottom-up participatory research and knowledge and promotes: (i) bridging formal and informal innovation processes; (ii) combining local expertise, with scientific knowledge; (iii) acknowledging respecting farmers as owners of knowledge and co-researchers and innovators.