November 6th Posted In Preservation

What’s the Story, Agroecology

With natural resources in a constant state of depletion and global weather patterns making uncharacteristic shifts on a daily basis, how can we produce food more sustainably? What is the answer to feeding the world today and in the future?

This blog will explore the benefits of agroecology; focusing on how it is one of the most eco-friendly ways to farm, especially as it provides environmentally-sensitive solutions to sustain and improve global food systems.

What is agroecology?

Coined by UC Berkeley’s Professor of Agroecology, Miguel Altieri, agroecology is a diverse, multi-faceted concept which, generally speaking, is all to do with creating better agro-ecosystems to produce food more sustainably. It seeks to harmonise ‘ecological soundness, economic viability and social justice’, to create balanced food production systems for the benefit of all nations.

A social, economic and environmental movement, agroecology aims to restore sustainability to food systems, assuring sustainable practices from the seed to the table.

What are its factors?

One of agroecology’s key elements is food security. It is at the crux of agroecology, particularly as it focuses on ensuring every culture has access to food to satisfy nutritious and dietary needs.

For this reason, agroecology is also related to health and poverty. Agroecological farming practices can be employed in various ways across different cultures to ensure food is cultivated in the best way for individual areas.

In East Africa for instance, not only are sustainable growing techniques needed to adapt to drier climates, they ensure better food security in areas where malnutrition and fatal illnesses are, typically, more common. This approach would contrast to producing food in the UK simply because the context and its priorities are radically different.

The beauty of agroecology is this cultural flexibility, plus its investment in creating food systems that completely align with the country producing the food.

How does it relate to agriculture?

Agroecology re-integrates the farming world with the eco-system it relies on, devising sustainable farming approaches that cause minimal environmental, social and economic disruption. Taking a bottom-up approach, agroecology has its roots in participation and empowerment, putting power back into the hands of farmers.

For this reason, agroecology is heavily invested in the politics of conventional food production systems. One of its priorities is to shift more ownership to smallholders as opposed to larger government bodies and agribusiness corporations. In effect, this approach retains the essence of sustainable food production; as a way to improve people’s livelihoods and not for any other advantageous benefit.

Other important characteristics include the following elements:

  • Urban agroecology focuses on the long-term quality of food production in densely-populated cities. An estimated 75% of the world’s population live in these areas. Urban agroecology looks at ways to farm in small-scale urban areas, whether that be developing vertical living walls, or housing fisheries in disused business parks.
  • More sustainable farming approaches provide better conditions for biodiversity to flourish. In turn, better biodiversity enables a more productive, healthier agriculture system and environment.
  • A key agroecological movement is the ‘Second Green Revolution’, used by DEFRA and many global, tertiary institutions particularly due to its focus on ‘sustainable intensification’, a branch of agroecology.
  • Agroecology creates resourceful farming environments which are not a threat to environmental health. An agroecological way to farm would be: an integrated-crop livestock system which recycles animal manure to use the nutrients as a crop fertiliser. This approach minimises waste and avoids the use of chemical products – an all important factor to better soil conservation.
  • Agroecology seeks to provide more small-scale, community-orientated growing practices to sustain people’s livelihoods. A humanitarian approach, agroecology is crucial to human health, where it can be used to create sustainable food systems which combat areas of poverty and malnutrition around the globe.

In order to increase global sustainability, agroecological approaches are becoming all the more necessary. Agroecology is a farming approach that is extremely considerate of preserving natural ecosystems, rather than misusing and eroding the land for mass commercial benefit. Instead, agroecology seeks to tailor food production systems to the country creating the produce in the most socially, environmentally and economically-sensitive ways possible; in order to ensure the health of the planet, and its people, remains a priority even in the most uncertain times.