Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

High Level Panel of Experts open e-consultations

Re: HLPE consultation on the V0 draft of the Report: Agroecological approaches and other innovations for sustainable agriculture and food systems that enhance food security and nutrition

Maywa Montenegro
Maywa MontenegroUniversity of California DavisUnited States of America

Dear CFS/HLPE Secretariat,

Please find below a review of the V0 draft of the report: “Agroecological approaches and other innovations for sustainable agriculture and food systems that enhance food security and


This submission is the result of a collaboration among several academics and researchers who work in agroecology, sustainable agriculture, and food systems policy. We connected with each other after independently reviewing the V0 and realizing that several of our reflections and suggestions were complementary. It thus made sense to collaborate on a single submission, given the complexity and length of the report.

We subsequently circulated the review among a small network of colleagues who made comments and suggestions for improving the review. The names of all contributors are included below.

Our review proceeds as follows. First, we provide a brief summary of our main recommendations (also in the email below). Next, we respond to the FAO 10 Guiding Questions. We then provide feedback on Tables, Figures, and Boxes used in the report. Finally, we offer a section-by-section review with more in-depth commentary on many chapter subsections, including references and suggestions for improvement.

Thank you for your time and consideration. We hope that our comments are constructive and we look forward to remaining in touch as the HLPE process continues.

Kind regards,

Maywa Montenegro, Alastair Iles, Annie Shattuck

Writing on behalf of all undersigned


Authored by:

Alastair Iles, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California at Berkeley, US.

Maywa Montenegro, Ph.D., UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Human Ecology, University of California at Davis, US.

Annie Shattuck, Visiting Scholar, Department of Geography, University of Colorado Boulder, US.

Hannah Wittman, Ph.D., Professor of Land and Food Systems and Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, Academic Director, Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.

JoAnn Jaffe, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Sociology and Social Studies, University of Regina, Regina, Canada

Molly D. Anderson, Ph.D., William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Food Studies, Academic Director, Food Studies Program, Middlebury College, US.

M. Jahi Chappell, Ph.D., Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, Coventry University, Coventry, UK.

Mariaelena Huambachano, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Indigenous Studies and Sustainability, California State University, Northridge, California, US.

Rebecca Tarlau, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Education and Labor Studies, The Pennsylvania State University, US.

Reviewed and Endorsed by:

Raj Patel, Ph.D., Research Professor, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin, US.

Christopher M. Bacon, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Santa Clara University, US.

Joshua Sbicca, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, Colorado State University, US.

Garrett Graddy-Lovelace, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, School of International Service, American University, US.

Timothy Bowles, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Agroecology and Sustainable Agricultural Systems, University of California Berkeley, US.

Johanna Jacobi, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist, Centre for Development and Environment, University of Bern, Switzerland.

Liz Carlisle, Ph.D., Lecturer, School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, Stanford University, Palo Alto, US.

Noa Lincoln, Ph.D. Assistant Researcher of Indigenous Crops and Cropping Systems, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, US.

Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Pesticide Action Network North America, US.

Marcia DeLonge, Ph.D., Scientist, Food and Environment Program, Union of Concerned Scientists, US.

Rafter Ferguson, Ph.D., Scientist, Food and Environment Program, Union of Concerned Scientists, US.

Doug Gurian-Sherman, Ph.D., Strategic Expansion and Trainings, LLC, US.

Samir K. Doshi, Ph.D., Senior Technology and Innovation Advisor, World Wildlife Fund, International

Neeraja Havaligi, Ph.D., ED, Greater Portland Sustainability Education Network, Courtesy Faculty at Oregon State University’s Environmental Science Graduate Program, Corvallis, Oregon, US.

David Meek, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, International Studies, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon, US.

Summary of Recommendations

- Clarify the understood relationship between Sustainable Food Systems and Food Security, moving away from an "impact model" towards a relational "ecosystem" model.

- Provide much stronger evidence-based assessment of agroecology and other innovations in terms of meeting holistic criteria for Sustainable Food Systems that includes, but is not limited to, Food Security & Nutrition.

- We suggest a holistic framework for SFS that includes FSN within a larger “ecosystem” of metrics would also include ecosystem/ecological health, knowledge and cultural diversity, equity, and rights-based democratic governance. (See Diagram: An ecosystem of Sustainable Food Systems framework).

- Rights is not another innovation. It is important to ground the entire analysis within the rights-based mandates of the CFS. Currently, Right-based innovations are included alongside other production systems, when they do not belong in that analysis. Rights provide a fundamental base that underpin all of SFS and FSN.

- Simplify the thicket of different principles, criteria, and metrics while strengthening the analytical coherence of a smaller few. To characterize agroecology, we suggest eliminating the 16 principles from different sources and instead using the FAO's 10 Elements.

- Improve the analytical development and treatment of scale. While particularly beneficial for smallholders and vulnerable rural populations (including Indigenous peoples, peasants, family farmers, and more) agroecology is not limited to small-sized farms, as the current report suggests.

- Avoid emphasis on "Innovations" theory, which is grounded in business and manufacturing studies and therefore ill-fitting for an agroecology report.

- Avoid treating agroecology as an essentialized, singular concept, which sets up for rigid binaries between conventional/industrial and agroecology.

- Instead, emphasize transitions to sustainable food systems, and the process of making those transitions in science, policy, and practice.

- Avoid abstract enumeration of "drivers and barriers." Focus instead on understanding the drivers and identifying barriers to the development and scaling up and out of agroecology and those innovative approaches that the weight of evidence has indicated are strong contributors to a holistic SFS (which includes FSN).

- Significantly strengthen the recognition and analysis of political economy factors in creating "barriers" to agroecology and other innovations that support and complement agroecology. Several prominent texts and references are provided.

- Reframe and strengthen the "Diverging Narratives" section which is currently disjointed, underdeveloped, and not clearly contributing to the overall objectives of the report. A possible reframing could be: "Given the varied interests in our current food systems, how can we best assess the validity of objections to agroecology and other sustainable innovations?"

- Policy recommendations should shift to an "enabling environment" concept.

- Knowledge generation deserves a deeper and broader treatment. Rather than focus principally on science and industry, the report should explicitly recognize the knowledge-making roles of farmers, pastoralists, fishers, and other producers, as well as the contributions of social movements to the "scaling across" of agroecology knowledge and practice.

- Strengthen overall recognition and analysis of political organizing in transitions to sustainable and food secure food systems. A variety of social movement, civil society, and scientific actors are essential to helping create policies and enabling environments that shift deeper structures (trade regimes, corporate consolidation, agro-industry friendly policy etc.) so that agriculture and food systems can be transformed.