101 Transitions towards Agroecology

Showcasing technical, organizational and social approaches to food system change


  • Switzerland
  • Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of China
  • International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food)
  • Réseau des Organisations Paysannes et des Producteurs Agricoles de l'Afrique de l'Ouest (ROPPA)
  • France
  • Senegal


A transformation of agriculture and food systems has become paramount in the face of the world's rapidly deteriorating natural resources. Agroecological agriculture and food system practices, and the policies that support them, create positive and minimize negative environmental externalities leading to more resilient food systems. These systems – ecologically, economically and socially appropriate to their unique contexts – contribute to sustainable development for all.

This side-event aims to identify how to initiate food system transformations. This session will present a new series of case studies published by IPES-Food, spanning a range of geographical locations, where farmers, social movements and local political actors have overcome the systemic 'lock-ins' holding current agriculture and food systems in place. It will portray how these actors have embraced change (i.e. through changes in practice, knowledge generation and dissemination, social relations, and institutional conditions) to successfully drive a transition towards greater sustainability. This side event will then turn to actions occurring on the ground, including the emergence of the West Africa Alliance for Agroecology (3AO) - a cross-sectorial collaborative platform with develops concrete collaborative actions involving both farmers' organizations and research/advocacy partners. Chinese academia and the Swiss private sector will further elaborate on divergent entry points to adopt agroecology and discuss the essential preconditions for the transformation and actions needed to ensure that agroecology features prominently in global food systems by 2030.

Key speakers/presenters

  • Ambassador Delphine Borione (Ambassador and Permanent Representative of France to the FAO)
  • Ambassador Niu Dun (Ambassador and Permanent Representative of China to the FAO)
  • Baye Mayoro Diop (First Secretary and Deputy Permanent Representative of Senegal to the FAO)
  • Bernard Lehman (Secretary of State, Switzerland)
  • Steve Gliessman (Expert panel member, IPES-Food)
  • Ibrahima Coulibaly (Vice-president, ROPPA)
  • Luo Shiming (Professor, South China Agricultural University)
  • Caroline Omondi (Head of Sustainability, Varistor)
  • Emile Frison (Expert panel member, IPES-Food) (moderator)

Main themes/issues discussed

The side event discussed how agroecology can serve as a leverage point to initiate food system transformation and break away from industrial food and farming systems. Contributions from policy-makers, academia, civil society, and the private sector allowed for a holistic overview of the policies and practices that need to be put in place to foster agroecology. Examples drew from speakers’ research and practical experiences, as well as an agroecology case studies report released by IPES-Food at the event; these included co-innovation between farmers, NGOs, and/or researchers; the development of supportive national policies; and scaling out agroecology at the grassroots level.

Summary of key points

Ambassador Delphine Borione opened the discussion by stating that agroecology provides a systemic and sustainable approach to agriculture. She urged FAO to continue placing agroecology at the centre of its actions and programmes.

Baye Diop pointed to agroecology as a solution to the negative environmental impacts experienced in Senegal resulting from industrial farming practices. He emphasized the necessity to facilitate exchanges with farmers to better understand their needs to transition towards agroecological practices.

Steve Gliessman presented the findings of IPES-Food’s latest case studies report, ‘Breaking away from industrial food and farming systems’. Gliessman outlined four key dimensions of change to understand agroecological transition: 1) in production practice; 2) in knowledge generation and dissemination; 3) in social and economic relations; and 4) in institutional framework.

Ibrahima Coulibaly highlighted the fundamental roles of local knowledge and farmer-researcher partnerships to create the necessary shifts in power relations to enable food system transformation. Coulibaly introduced the Alliance for Agroecology in West Africa (3AO) aiming to scale agroecology in the region.

Luo Shiming provided an overview of China’s agroecological development over the last 40 years, including 1) reliance on farmers’ traditional agricultural knowledge, 2) practical experimentation to demonstrate agroecology’s potential, 3) a growing agroecological movement at the grassroots level, and 4) progressive implementation of supportive national policies.

Caroline Omondi emphasized the strong potential for farmer-private sector co-innovation. She further provided insights into how the private sector can support farmers through market-based approaches, while also providing them with technical expertise to access new markets.

Closing remarks by Bernard Lehman and Ambassador Niu Dun focused on the need to involve different stakeholders in scaling agroecology and reiterated the necessity for urgent action at the policy-making level.

From the floor, participants considered concrete measures to shift to sustainable food systems, namely: (1) standards and labeling systems for agroecological products; (2) investments from international organizations to promote agroecological research; and (3) how to create the incentives for private sector actors to bring a market approach to agroecology.

Key take away messages

Seven leverage points for change were identified by IPES-Food and discussed by participants:

  1. Building new community-led governance structures and economic systems between the state and the market;
  2. Developing hybrid roles for key actors;
  3. Forging new alliances across disconnected domains;
  4. Anchoring transitions in counter-narratives and theories of change;
  5. Relocalizing food and farming systems;
  6. Promoting farmer-to-farmer knowledge sharing;
  7. Empowering women and young people to drive transition.
CFS Side Event 101 - Transitions towards Agroecology