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Sustainable Systems » Ecological Agriculture & Food Security

Title: Choosing the Transformative Agroecological Paradigm
Publication date: March 14, 2017
Posting date: March 14, 2017

THIRD WORLD NETWORK INFORMATION SERVICE ON SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE

 

Dear Friends and Colleagues

Choosing the Transformative Agroecological Paradigm

Agroecology, which was barely recognized or promoted within official circles only five years ago, has become more centre stage in policy discourses on food and farming. The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food – in his report on “Agroecology and the Right to Food” presented at the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2011 – helped put agroecology on the map of the international community and policymakers.

The term ‘Agroecology’ is now being used and reworked by different actors as part of a normative vision of the future that either seeks to conform to the dominant industrial food and farming system, or to radically transform it. An example of the former is the concept of Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA).

A new paper critically reflects on what makes agroecology fundamentally different from CSA. It states that CSA and agroecology represent two fundamentally different visions of development and well being. It argues that, taken together, agroecology and food sovereignty represent an alternative paradigm to CSA and conventional development, with more transformative intent, theory and practice. While CSA’s design lends itself to largely serving the interests of agribusiness and the financial industry, a truly transformative agroecology aims to rebuild a diversity of decentralized, just and sustainable food systems that enhance community and socio-ecological resilience to climate change. Agroecology supporters seek to deepen economic and political democracy; this is what is needed for a real transformation in agriculture.

We reproduce below the Abstract and Introduction of the paper.

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AGROECOLOGY AS AN ALTERNATIVE VISION TO CONVENTIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND CLIMATE-SMART AGRICULTURE

Michel Pimbert
Springer

http://rdcu.be/pAqF

Abstract

After briefly describing the origins and recent history ofagroecology, the author critically reflects on what makes agroecology fundamentally different from Climate-smart Agriculture (CSA). This article focuses in particular on the more transformative elements of the agroecology and food sovereignty paradigm to clearly identify overlaps and divergences with CSA and explore its incommensurable values against conventional development frameworks.

Introduction

Agroecology, which was barely recognized or promoted within official circles only five years ago, has become more centre stage in policy discourses on food and farming. For example, the European Union’s Standing Committee on Agricultural Research in its thirdForesight Report calls for research to create ‘radically new farming systems’ that must ‘differ in significant respects from current mainstream production systems’ (EU SCAR, 2012). High priority should be given to approaches that ‘integrate historical knowledgeand agroecological principles’. Similarly, the report of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD, 2009) advocates reducing the vulnerabilities of the global food system through locally based innovations and agroecological approaches. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food – in his report on Agroecology and the Right to Food presented at the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2011 – has also helped put agroecology on the map of the international community and policymakers (De Schutter, 2010). And the contribution of agroecological innovations to climate change adaptation and mitigation was widely emphasized by civil society and scientists at the recent 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris.

This growing international recognition is good news for the proponents of agroecological approaches to food, farming and land use. However, agroecology means different things to different people. As has happened before with words such as ‘sustainability’ of ‘participation’, the meanings of agroecology are now increasingly contested and re-interpreted by different people and interest groups. Current debates in France are particularly noteworthy in this regard. In 2012 the French Minister of Agriculture Stéphane Le Foll, declared that Franceaims to become the champion of agroecology in Europe. The French National Institute of Research in Agriculture (INRA) has introduced agroecology in its 2010 –2020 strategic research plan (INRA, 2010). However, civil society groups and farmer networks argue that the French government proposes a ‘form of agroecology very distant from what they hope to see promoted for our agriculture’ because it encourages, for example, no-till methods with herbicide sprays. This coalition of civil society organizations and small farmers want the French government to promote instead an agrarian reform that favours a diversified organic agriculture on a human scale. For them: ‘Agroecology is synonymous with greater producer-consumer proximity, employment creation, a solidarity economy and diverse food products for citizens’ (Fédération Nature & Progrès, 2012).

Simply put, the term ‘Agroecology’ is now being used and reworked by different actors as part of a normative vision of the future that either seeks to conform to the dominant industrial food and farming system, or to radically transform it (Levidow et al., 2014). An example of the former is the concept of Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) as developed by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO, 2010) and promoted by the Global Alliance for Climate-smart Agriculture (GACSA, 2014). In sharp contrast, agroecology developed within the paradigm of food sovereignty has a more transformative intent, theory and practice.

This article argues that, taken together, agroecology and food sovereignty represent an alternative paradigm to CSA and conventional development. After briefly describing the origins and recent history of agroecology, it critically reflects on what makes agroecology fundamentally different from CSA. It focuses in particular on the more transformative elements of the agroecology and food sovereignty paradigm to clearly identify its incommensurable values and its overlaps and divergences with CSA and its associated model of development.


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