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.


Biowatch advocates for agroecology as a proven, multi-faceted approach to creating a sustainable, diverse, just food system that applies ecological principles and methods to farming, while addressing wider environmental, economic, social, cultural, and political dimensions in order to transform the industrialised food system.
South Africa
This article reviews the main initiatives underlying ecologically intensive agroecosystems, analyses basic concepts, and proposes a framework for action. The rainforest model, the dry forest model, and the American Prairie are exemplified as three main natural systems at the basis of the mimicry concept. The link between biodiversity and the...
Journal article
The Map of Agroecology Knowledge and Practice is a technological platform that allows the mapping and exchange of Agroecological experiences in order to bring people (in every nook and cranny, from the countryside to the city), to strengthen, and create new networks of collaboration that enhance the sharing of real...
This document summarizes the online discussion Mainstreaming gender for sustainable soil management, held on the FAO Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum) from 23 September to 25 October 2019. The discussion was facilitated by Ilaria Sisto and Ronald Vargas from FAO and aimed to collect views from a...
Smallholder farmers in semi-arid Africa are in an increasingly vulnerable position due to the direct and indirect effects of climate change, demographic pressure and resource degradation. Conservation agriculture (CA) is promoted as an alternative to restore soil productivity through increased water and nutrient use efficiencies in these regions. However, adoption...
Journal article