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HIGHLIGHT: Transformative change in agroecology


More than 700 participants, nearly double the amount originally expected, spent three days shuffling between meeting rooms to discuss agroecology during the 2nd International Agroecology Symposium at FAO headquarters in Rome.

Combining traditional and scientific knowledge, agroecology applies ecological and social approaches to agricultural systems, focusing on the rich interactions between plants, animals, humans and the environment. The objectives of the symposium were to synthesize and build on outcomes of previous regional meetings and provide opportunities to share and discuss policies in the scale-up and scale-out of agroecology in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

During the opening plenary on Tuesday,  FAO’s Director-General Graziano Da Silva provided remarks on agroecology’s contribution to the achievement of the SDGs, as well as the need to put sustainable food systems – the ones that offer healthy food and environmental preservation – forward.

In his opening speech, the Director-General requested that a declaration on agroecology be drafted and that the declaration be taken into consideration during the Committee on Agriculture in October. He also reiterated FAO’s commitment to agroecology and emphasized the importance of including the topic in legal and regulatory frameworks in order to create an enabling environment for sustainable agriculture.

Stéphane Le Foll, former French Agriculture Minister and Member of Parliament, gave the keynote address, in which he spoke of the potential for agroecology to confront challenges that mankind face. “Agroecology builds on the application of scientific principles in combination with what nature already provides. We need to tap into the local knowledge of farmers to improve conditions all over the world,” he said.

The three-day symposium maintained a full agenda as panellists discussed in depth topics of taking stock of past initiatives, case studies, partnerships, health and nutrition, biodiversity, food systems and the identification of gaps, all in the name of the scale-up of agroecology and sustainable food production. Panellists and attendees included policy-makers, agroecology practitioners, academics, and representatives from governments, civil society, the private sector and UN agencies.

The final day had two events, one focused on partnerships for the scale-up of agroecology and the final closing ceremony. Panellists commented that the scale-up of agroecology is a complex task and should not be the sole work of FAO to achieve; rather, networks across UN bodies, civil society and farmers are needed as well. One example of already established efforts in the scale-up of agroecology is the Agroecology Knowledge Hub, which serves as a starting point to organize existing knowledge products to support knowledge exchange and transfer and take efforts further.

The final event of the symposium was the High-Level Panel on the Future of Agroecology. During the event, the Scaling-Up Agroecology Initiative was launched. The initiative aims to encourage more inclusive and holistic agroecology transition processes through tools, knowledge and policy processes for transformation of food and agricultural systems.

In his closing remarks, Graziano Da Silva commented that agroecology involves many different aspects apart from those that are technical in nature. In order to achieve successful implementation, agroecology stakeholders must keep the social dimensions of farmers, fishers, pastoralists, women and indigenous people in mind.