Agroecology key Concepts, Principles and Practices
Compiled by Third World Network (TWN) and the Latin American Society of Agroecology (SOCLA)
BACKGROUND AND INTRODUCTION
THE current challenges to agriculture posed by food insecurity and climate change are serious. There is a paradox of increased food production and growing hunger in the world. The global food production system is broken as we are destroying the very base of agriculture with unsustainable practices. Conventional agriculture has contributed significantly to the crisis including climate change. Meanwhile, the poorest countries will suffer the most from climate change; in particular, small subsistence farmers will be affected.
The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) concluded that “business as usual is no longer an option” and that the future of agriculture lies in biodiverse, agroecological-based farming that can meet social, economic and environmental goals as well as maintain and increase productivity.
The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) concluded that “business as usual is no longer an option”
Agroecology is therefore increasingly recognized as the way forward for agriculture, capable of delivering productivity goals without depleting the environment and disempowering communities. Agroecology, which uses ecological concepts and principles for the design and management of sustainable agricultural systems, has consistently proven capa
ble of sustainably increasing the total output of diversified farms and has far greater poten- tial for fighting hunger, particularly during economically and climatically uncertain times. Recognizing the urgent need for capacity building on agroecology, the Third World Network (TWN) organized two training courses to equip key actors with a comprehensive understanding of the principles and concepts of agroecology and to provide evidence of successes through illustrative examples. The first was a Southeast Asian Training Course on Agroecology, organized together with Aliansi Petani Indonesia (API) in Solo, Indonesia from 5-9 June 2013. The second was a Southern and Eastern African Agroecology Knowl- edge and Skills Sharing, organized with the African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), in col- laboration with the Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre, in Lusaka, Zambia from 20–24 April 2015.
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Agroecology is therefore increasingly recognized as the way forward for agriculture, capable of delivering productivity goals without depleting the environment and disempowering communities.
The training courses covered the following topics:
- Agroecology and the planetary food, energy, economic and social crises
- Principles and concepts of agroecology: The scientific basis
- The ecological role of biodiversity in agroecosystems
- Biodiversity and insect pest management
- Soil ecology and management
- Ecological basis of disease and weed management
- Agroecological basis for the conversion to organic farming
- Agroecology, small farm development and food sovereignty
- Agroecology and resiliency to climate change
The resource persons were Prof. Miguel Altieri and Dr. Clara Nicholls, from the Uni- versity of California, Berkeley, USA and the Latin American Scientific Society of Agr- oecology (SOCLA). Participants at both courses included farmers and farmer leaders, rep- resentatives of farmers’ organizations and civil society organizations working on agroecol- ogy/ecological agriculture, as well as government officials.
This document is a summary compiled by TWN staff of the main learning points from the lectures given during the training courses, serving as a useful resource booklet on the key concepts, principles and practices of agroecology. Miguel Altieri provided valuable inputs.
1 IAASTD (2009). Agriculture at a Crossroads. International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development. Island Press, Washington, DC. http://www.agassessment.org