Can Agroecology Feed the World?

Credit:
KMP
in the Philippines, supported by the Agroecology Fund

By Elena L. Pasquini
ROME, Oct 23 2020 (IPS)

Producing food and ensuring nutrition security, protecting the
environment and restoring biodiversity, building sustainable and
fair food systems: That’s the promise of agroecology.

It is a dream? Or an economically feasible model that can feed a
growing world population, expected to increase by 2 billion persons in the
next 30 years, reaching 9.7 billion in 2050?

“Some people have been saying: Maybe it is more sustainable or
it’s more resilient, but it’s not as productive and not as
economically viable. This has been [shown] to be untrue, even in
Europe,” Emile Frison, member of the International Panel of Experts on
Sustainable Food Systems
, told Degrees of Latitude.

There
are many examples throughout
the world now, either at
individual farms or at [the] community level or even at [the]
regional level, where agroecological practices have been
implemented and are showing their potential from … different
points of view, including the economic point of view,” he
said.

Since 2016, the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh has been the
largest-scale example of how agroecology can be applied to increase
yields and improve the economic condition of farmers. Zero Budget Natural Farming involves
500,000 peasants in the practice of community-based natural
farming: no synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, preservation of
the health of the soil, landscape regeneration, biodiverse
productions, intense training of farmers, and the involvement of
communities.

The Government of Andhra Pradesh aims to cover 6 million farmers
by 2024 and the entire cultivable area of 8 million hectares by
2026. The programme
was implemented because of the high rate of farmers’ debt, which
has been linked to high suicide rates. More than a quarter of a
million farmers have committed suicide in India in the last two
decades. The strict measures adopted to prevent the spread of the
coronavirus are
exacerbating the suffering of farmers
crippled by debt.

“India as a whole is a place where there have been hundreds of
thousands of farmer suicides, farmers’ deaths … In the circle
of purchasing expensive inputs and having crop failure, many
hundreds of thousands of farmers have committed suicide over the
years: there [has] been a lot of migration from the rural areas
into the urban areas,” Daniel Moss, Executive Director of the
Agroecology Fund,
told Degrees of Latitude.

In an attempt to find solutions for sustaining their land and
growing food more safely, thereby promoting their own good and that
of consumers, “constituency organizations, primarily of women
that have been very concerned about health and nutrition and
farming issues” have pressured the Andhra Pradesh government to
find a solution, Moss explained.

The ambition of “Zero
Budget
” is to end farmers’ heavy indebtment by dramatically
reducing production costs, as well as not relying on credit and
purchased chemical inputs. According to Frison, a study of the
initiative has shown that productivity was 20 percent higher in
agroecological farms than in farms using conventional agriculture
techniques, industrial synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides. The
agroecological farms also economically performed 50 percent better
because of the lower costs of production and the capacity to sell
at higher prices on the market, due to consumers’ recognition of
the better quality of the products. A
survey of 97 Zero Budget farmers
reported increased yield, seed
diversity, product quality, household food autonomy, income, and
health, along with reduced farm expenses and credit needs.

However, India is not the only example of agroecology
scalability. The Association of Organic Movement Federation of
Kyrgyzstan – BiokG – is
developing a network of organic “aymaks,” or groups of farmers.
The project, supported by the Agroecology Fund, is based on
collaboration among farmers to “develop a system of
self-assessment of organic farms production quality, productivity
and income generation, as well as their development related to
organic agriculture technologies introducing, with respect to
national traditions and heritage,”
AGF
explained. It started locally, at the village level, but
expanded into a nation-wide network and could potentially spread to
neighbouring countries. “That’s the idea of what we call [the]
agroecology movement: there’s a lot of evidence and learning that
may happen in one place [that can ripple…],” Moss said.

The lock-down has shown that supplying the urban population is
also a challenge, particularly in times of crisis. Providing food
from local producers, however,
proved to have worked
during the harsh months of the pandemic,
even in a country where the confinement measures have been very
strict, like the Philippines. However, also in the ordinary life of
a city, agroecology seems to be able to reach consumers, thereby
offering an alternative. In Nairobi, for example, there has been a
whole re-introduction of traditional green leafy vegetables that
were lacking in the supermarkets.

Mexico and West Africa – namely, Senegal – are among those
places that seem encouraging for the advancement of agroecological
practices. What’s key is to support civil society organizations
in working together and putting pressure on the government, as
there are often good practices that are not implemented, according
to the director of the Agroecology Fund, which undertook a
workshop
specifically in Andhra Pradesh to understand how the
government implemented the model investing hundreds of millions in
training programmes to support agroecology.

“We believe very strongly in the power of the co-generation
and possibly of moving things forward together,” Moss said. “We
fund coalitions of organizations because we know that agroecology
is that kind of field that really requires interdisciplinary
solutions.” From nutritional aspects to farmers’ income, from
the involvement of consumer organizations and policymakers, to
power decentralization and the engagement of local decision-makers,
agroecology is a model that requires collaboration and knowledge
sharing.

The capacity of agroecology to feed a growing population remains
in question but, according to Frison, is a mere matter of profit:
“The fact that we need more fertilizers and pesticides to meet
the demand is misinformation being circulated by vested interests
that want to continue to sell pesticides and synthetic
fertilizers.”

“If we are really trying to advance agroecology as the new
food system, or the way the food has to be produced, it’s our
responsibility to show that it could actually feed the world
population, which is growing quite quickly,” Moss added.

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The post Can
Agroecology Feed the World?
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Can Agroecology Feed the World?