Agroecology Knowledge Hub

Diversity: diversification is key to agroecological transitions to ensure food security and nutrition while conserving, protecting and enhancing natural resources

Agroecological systems are highly diverse. From a biological perspective, agroecological systems optimize the diversity of species and genetic resources in different ways. For example, agroforestry systems organize crops, shrubs, livestock and trees of different heights and shapes at different levels or strata, increasing vertical diversity. Intercropping combines complementary species to increase spatial diversity. Crop rotations, often including legumes, increase temporal diversity. Crop–livestock systems rely on the diversity of local breeds adapted to specific environments. In the aquatic world, traditional fish polyculture farming, Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) or rotational crop-fish systems follow the same principles to maximising diversity.

Increasing biodiversity contributes to a range of production, socio-economic, nutrition and environmental benefits. By planning and managing diversity, agroecological approaches enhance the provisioning of ecosystem services, including pollination and soil health, upon which agricultural production depends. Diversification can increase productivity and resource-use efficiency by optimizing biomass and water harvesting.

Agroecological diversification also strengthens ecological and socio-economic resilience, including by creating new market opportunities. For example, crop and animal diversity reduces the risk of failure in the face of climate change. Mixed grazing by different species of ruminants reduces health risks from parasitism, while diverse local species or breeds have greater abilities to survive, produce and maintain reproduction levels in harsh environments. In turn, having a variety of income sources from differentiated and new markets, including diverse products, local food processing and agritourism, helps to stabilize household incomes.

Consuming a diverse range of cereals, pulses, fruits, vegetables and animal-source products contributes to improved nutritional outcomes. Moreover, the genetic diversity of different varieties, breeds and species is important in contributing macronutrients, micronutrients and other bioactive compounds to human diets. For example, in Micronesia, reintroducing an underutilized traditional variety of orange-fleshed banana with 50 times more beta-carotene than the widely available commercial white-fleshed banana proved instrumental in improving health and nutrition.

At the global level, three cereal crops provide close to 50 percent of all calories consumed, while the genetic diversity of crops, livestock, aquatic animals and trees continues to be rapidly lost. Agroecology can help reverse these trends by managing and conserving agro-biodiversity, and responding to the increasing demand for a diversity of products that are eco-friendly. One such example is ‘fish-friendly’ rice produced from irrigated, rainfed and deepwater rice ecosystems, which values the diversity of aquatic species and their importance for rural livelihoods.

Database

The practice of natural agriculture focuses on biodiversity preservation and promotes seed conservation.  This approach emphasizes the environment's fundamental characteristics and supports the Satoyama concept that integrates ecological compatibility among landscape and seascape management. In this session, part of the Oxford Real Farming Conference 2021 programme, Shumei Natural Agriculture presented a virtual tour...
Japan
Event
2021
Conservation and sustainable use of pollinators require commitment and support from all the stakeholders across sectors and organizations. Since the release of the landmark IPBES thematic assessment on pollinators, pollination and food production in 2016, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Network (BES-Net) has been promoting the uptake of the assessment, using the science-policy-practice dialogue approach...
Event
2020
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Indonesia - Malaysia - Philippines
Event
2021
FAO, the Global Soil Partnership, the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils (ITPS), together with the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative (GSBI), and the Science-Policy Interface of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (SPI UNCCD), are pleased to invite you to the Global Symposium on Soil Biodiversity (GSOBI)...
Event
2021
It is widely recognized that a radical transformation of food and agriculture systems is urgently needed in order to address converging social, economic, health and ecological crises. The potential of agroecology to transform food systems and render them more resilient, sustainable and inclusive is increasingly recognized and backed by a...
Event
2021