Agroecology Knowledge Hub

Efficiency : innovative agroecological practices produce more using less external resources

Increased resource-use efficiency is an emergent property of agroecological systems that carefully plan and manage diversity to create synergies between different system components. For example, a key efficiency challenge is that less than 50 percent of nitrogen fertilizer added globally to cropland is converted into harvested products and the rest is lost to the environment causing major environmental problems.

Agroecological systems improve the use of natural resources, especially those that are abundant and free, such as solar radiation, atmospheric carbon and nitrogen. By enhancing biological processes and recycling biomass, nutrients and water, producers are able to use fewer external resources, reducing costs and the negative environmental impacts of their use. Ultimately, reducing dependency on external resources empowers producers by increasing their autonomy and resilience to natural or economic shocks.

One way to measure the efficiency of integrated systems is by using Land Equivalent Ratios (LER). LER compares the yields from growing two or more components (e.g. crops, trees, animals) together with yields from growing the same components in monocultures. Integrated agroecological systems frequently demonstrate higher LERs.

Agroecology thus promotes agricultural systems with the necessary biological, socio-economic and institutional diversity and alignment in time and space to support greater efficiency.


Within the framework of the second meeting of the TAPE (Tool for the Evaluation of the Performance of Agroecology) workshops that took place in the southern zone of the green belt of the city of Córdoba, Evangelina Argüello from the Institute of Plant Physiology and Genetic Resources tells about the...
For many years, La Vía Campesina and GRAIN have been telling the world about how the agroindustrial food system causes half of all greenhouse gas emissions. But the world's governments are refusing to face these problems head on, and the Paris Summit in December is approaching without any effective commitment...
For many generations subsistence farmers have successfully grown their own fruits and vegetables, and reared their own livestock. KwaHhohho in Mtubatuba, KwaZulu-Natal, has a rich history of these traditional farming practices. But these are under threat, and this small farming community is fighting to save their natural seeds and traditional...
South Africa
Agroecological case studies all over the globe show agroecology in practice.
Case study
In September 2015, family farmer Jyoti Fernandes spoke at a Policy Debate in the European Parliament. The video is embedded below and a full transcript of the talk is available here. Being part of the UK Landworkers’ Alliance and the European Coordination of La Vía Campesina (host of the debate),...
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