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.


Agriculture and food systems are facing wide-ranging and interlinked challenges that demand urgent actions. The 10 Elements of Agroecology have been internationally endorsed as a framework to support research and development efforts in the design of differentiated paths for agriculture and food systems transformation. The 10 Elements are interlinked and...
In the coastal region of Niayes, close to Senegal’s capital Dakar, Binta Ba is training her fellow growers in agroecology, an integrated approach applying ecological and social concepts to sustainable agriculture, which turns a lot of conventional farming wisdom on its head. As the implementation of the global Voluntary Guidelines on the...
Agroecology Newsletter of September 2021
Smallholder farmers in Gambia are increasingly facing climate related induced disasters and vulnerabilities affecting their lives and livelihoods. During 2010-2012, farmers faced flash floods, periods of drought, disease infestation, saline intrusion, deforestation and massive erosion of their farmlands resulting in crop failure and reduced food security. ActionAid has introduced agroecological...
Case study
This film examines a cooperative of the Brazilian Landless Movement (MST) in the South of Brazil, which struggled for access to land and then transitioned to ecological agriculture, or agroecology. This MST cooperative is demonstrating the possibility of an alternative model of flourishing rural life, which provides thriving livelihoods for...