Agroecology as Solution to World Hunger


Photo credit: Food Tank

A new report from the Environmental Working Group suggests that supporting smallholder farmers demonstrates promising potential in the fight to end world hunger.

Environmental Working Group Highlights Agroecology as Solution to World Hunger

Feeding the World: Think U.S. Agriculture Will End World Hunger? Think Again is a new report from Craig Cox and Anne Weir at the Environmental Working Group (EWG) that takes a close look at the United States’ agricultural export economy and its relationship to hunger and undernourishment across the globe. Its findings suggest that the root cause of hunger in the most undernourished countries is not a lack of imports from American farmers, but widespread poverty.

Authors Cox and Weir told Food Tank, “Since 2009, we have continued to hear a lot of agricultural interests claim that American farmers need to increase their production of commodities and meat products in order to ‘feed the world.’” Driven by concerns over how the call to intensify production to help curb hunger worldwide may obscure the environmental consequences of intensive forms of agriculture, Cox and Weir said, “We wanted to see if the U.S. is actually feeding those who are experiencing the highest levels of hunger.”

Through analysis of agricultural trade over the past decade, the authors demonstrated how the majority of U.S. agricultural exports do not contribute in a major way to the food supplies of the most undernourished countries. In the world’s hungriest countries, U.S. food exports, often as food aid, accounted for just 1.2 percent of the total food supply in the past ten years. The 19 hungriest countries received only one-half of one percent of the total value of U.S. agricultural exports in 2015. 59 percent of the goods exported to the hungriest countries were food grains like rice and wheat. And just two countries, Yemen and Haiti, received the majority of exported goods—63 percent—in the past decade.

Read the full article: Food Tank

Women and agroecology

Photo credit: Farming Matters

Perspectives: Shifting African policy towards women and agroecology

The role of rural women and smallholder farmers in African society has been highly undervalued. This is so despite the fact that around 80% of Africa’s population is dependent on smallholder agriculture, it is the backbone of the rural economy, and women provide over two-thirds of the farm labour. There is clear evidence that agroecology is crucial for women farmers. Now we face the challenge of discovering how its principles can best be promoted and how practice can inform policy at local and national level.

Farming Matters | 31.4 | December 2015

Recently, we have seen unequivocal changes in policies that are transforming African agriculture to facilitate a ‘Green Revolution’. These policies articulate and promote a form of agriculture that focuses on monocropping, expensive external inputs such as agrochemicals and synthetic fertilizers, hybrid/GM seeds and large-scale land acquisition. These changes in policies are a result of government alliance with institutions such as the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), multilateral institutions, donors and multinational corporations that aim to produce a layer of commercial surplus producers.  This was reaffirmed in a report published by African Centre for Biodiversity in 2014. For example, soil and seed programmes under AGRA tend to favour the introduction of synthetic fertilizers while supporting and preparing institutional and technical grounds for Public-Private Partnerships in the seed sector.

The G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (NAFSN) in Africa was launched in 2012, where 10 African countries made numerous policy commitments in order to ensure agricultural transformation within their countries and ultimately to ‘lift 50 million people out of poverty in 10 years’. The initiative is largely dominated by multinationals.  It requires states to revise their seed, land and tax policies and legislation in order to secure investment.
Such policy changes are evidenced through the adoption of Intellectual Property see laws by African countries at the national and regional level. These seed laws give strong rights to commercial breeders while restricting farmers’ rights to save, use, exchange and sell protected varieties/seeds and propagating materials. They favour the use and adoption of improved varieties that are uniformly bred and that must be used with agrochemicals in order to attain high yields.
Read the full article: Farming Matters

On agroecology

Photo credit: Permaculture News




Governments must shift subsidies and research funding from agro-industrial monoculture to small farmers using ‘agroecological’ methods, according to the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. And as Nafeez Ahmed notes, her call coincides with a new agroecology initiative within the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Modern industrial agricultural methods can no longer feed the world, due to the impacts of overlapping environmental and ecological crises linked to land, water and resource availability.

The stark warning comes from the new United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Prof Hilal Elver, in her first public speech since being appointed in June.

“Food policies which do not address the root causes of world hunger would be bound to fail”, she told a packed audience in Amsterdam.

One billion people globally are hungry, she declared, before calling on governments to support a transition to “agricultural democracy” which would empower rural small farmers.

Agriculture needs a new direction: agroecology

“The 2009 global food crisis signalled the need for a turning point in the global food system”, she said at the event hosted by the Transnational Institute (TNI), a leading international think tank.

“Modern agriculture, which began in the 1950s, is more resource intensive, very fossil fuel dependent, using fertilisers, and based on massive production. This policy has to change.

“We are already facing a range of challenges. Resource scarcity, increased population, decreasing land availability and accessibility, emerging water scarcity, and soil degradation require us to re-think how best to use our resources for future generations.”

The UN official said that new scientific research increasingly shows how ‘agroecology’ offers far more environmentally sustainable methods that can still meet the rapidly growing demand for food:

Read the full article: Permaculture News




Agroforestry program aims to protect Congo Basin rainforest while increasing yields for farmers


Rural farmers in Cameroon are boosting returns on their investments by introducing agroforestry techniques to their agricultural practices. Agroforestry involves integrating tree crops into both farming and ranching systems.  While farmers attest to higher yields and better incomes,  proponents also note that the model keeps carbon in trees, thereby fighting climate change.  FSRN’s Ngala Killian Chimtom reports.

A group of farmers in Nkenglikok, a small village about 30 miles from Cameroon’s capital Yaounde, welcome officials from the World Agroforestry Centre, or ICRAF, with a song. The organization introduced agroforestry practices here ten years ago with a pilot project that has since proven itself to be successful.

Agroforestry is a system of intensive land management that integrates fruit trees and crops on the same land for the purpose of optimizing the benefits of their biological interactions.

“With the integration of improved fruit trees in the farming system like plum, mango, pears or plantains, farmers now can be able to harvest some of these fruits while waiting for coffee that they don’t even eat, they only see people coming to carry it to a market,” explains Kuh Emmanuel, who used to farm mostly cocoa and coffee for market sale, as well as vegetables for family consumption. He says the integration of fruit-trees into his field has helped to stabilize and vary his income.

“Farmers in the domain of agroforestry have a stable lifestyle because the fruit trees integrated and medicinal plants cause them to harvest throughout the whole year, rather than waiting for coffee that comes only at the end of the year,” says Emmanuel. “When I started, I was doing mainly gardening, growing vegetables without integrating as much fruit trees. By the time that we got the technology in grafting, marketing, rooting of cuttings, we had now to start planting on our farms and now we have plums, mangoes that are already producing; and I would say that that has generated income ten times what we used to have.”

Most of the trees inter-cropped here are non-timber, fruit-bearing varieties. Dr. Zac Tchoundjeu, Regional Coordinator of ICRAF for West and Central Africa, explains the intent of the program from its beginnings.

Read the full story: FSRN



Dialogue on science and implementation experience of agroecology



Regional Meeting on Agroecology in Sub-Saharan Africa

A regional meeting for Africa on agroecology Saharan Africa will take place on 5 and 6 November 2015 in Dakar, Senegal. It aims at promoting dialogue on science and implementation experience of agroecology.


On 18-19 September 2014, FAO held an International Symposium on Agroecology for Food Security and Nutrition in Rome. This event took place in the context of the FAO’s Strategic Framework, in particular the Objective 2: “Make Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries more Productive and Sustainable”. The Symposium was considered a great success, and brought together 400 scientists, producers, policy makers and representatives from the private and public sectors and NGOs.

During the Symposium, the Director-General of FAO, José Graziano da Silva, announced that FAO would organize regional meetings on Agroecology in Latin America, Africa and Asia. This reflected a lesson learnt from the International Symposium, that effective work on Agroecology would have to be based on local realities and their economic, social and environmental conditions.

This note presents, therefore, the implementation of this decision at the African level. The regional meeting in Latin America took place in June 2015 and those in Asia and the Pacific will be held in November 2015.

The regional meetings will highlight existing best practices in the Region as well as challenges to the adoption of agroecology and identify strategies to overcome them. The meetings will be held with key stakeholders in agroecology: producers and social movements, the private sector, academia and agronomic research institutes, government representatives, FAO officials and representatives of indigenous peoples and local communities.


The holistic approach of agroecology incorporates the traditional knowledge and skills of communities around the world by integrating ecological, agronomic, economic and social research.

Read the full article: FAO

Smallholder farmers and agroecology

Photo credit: FOEI

In a new report launched today, small scale food producers present their first ever common vision on agroecology for Food Sovereignty to Governments assembled at the Committee on World Food Security. Representing the producers of 70% of the world’s food, they call for an immediate transformation of food system towards agroecology.


Small scale food producers launch the first ever joint vision for Agroecology

“Agroecology practiced by small scale producers generates local knowledge, promotes social justice, nurtures identity and culture and strengthens the economic viability of rural areas,” states the Report of the International Forum of Agroecology at the Nyeleni Center, Mali. “Agroecology is political; it requires us to challenge and transform structures of power in society. We need to put the control of seeds, biodiversity, land and territories, waters, knowledge, culture and the commons in the hands of the peoples who feed the world.”

The common vision was developed at the historic Forum through dialogue among food producers such as peasants, artisanal fisherfolk, the landless, rural workers, indigenous peoples, hunters and gatherers, pastoralists and nomadic peoples, urban communities and consumers. They warn against the corporate co-option of agroecology through initiatives such as Climate Smart Agriculture. These attempt to redefine agroecology as a narrow set of technologies without challenging the industrial food system, or its existing structures of power.

Small scale food producers demand that policy makers respect and reinforce their agroecological processes rather than support forces that destroy them.

Read the full article: Friends of the Earth Intern.


The political support that agroecology deserves and needs

Photo credit: Foodtank

Forms of agroecological transformation are already happening. But more must be done to bring examples to light, and to garner the political support that agroecology deserves and needs.
Blend Images – Peathegee Inc


Agroecology is Working – But We Need Examples to Inspire Others

by Olivier De Schutter and Steve Gliessman

Using the wrong measure of success is certain to lead to the wrong solutions being adopted. In the economy at large, the narrow pursuit of GDP growth remains the primary tool used by policymakers to assess progress. This has motivated economic strategies that have delivered short-term GDP boosts, but in ways that have harmed the environment and disadvantaged many groups in society.

Food systems are no different. If the measures of progress are too narrow or too focused on the short term, the long-term outlook will suffer. In food systems, success is often reduced to increased yields, net outputs and net calorie availability on a global level. More is better and quantity trumps quality.

This allows many crucial factors to fall through the cracks. How resilient are yields in the face of environmental shocks and disease outbreaks? How much do they vary from year to year? Where and to whom is food made available, and with what nutrient content? How well do these systems preserve the natural resource base for the future? How much employment do they generate, and under what conditions? Do consumers know where their food comes from and how it was grown?

Though some proposals have been made to address this gap, there is no consensus yet on the metrics that can capture these factors comprehensively. But we do have emerging examples of food and agriculture systems that are capable of sustaining, stabilizing and improving yields, preserving the environment, providing decent employment and secure livelihoods, and delivering diverse, nutrient-rich foods – in the places where they are needed most.

Agroecology is an approach that seeks to address all these questions together by re-integrating modern agriculture with the ecosystems it relies on. Agroecology replaces external chemical inputs with alternative approaches that mimic natural processes and enhance beneficial biological interactions and synergies on the farm. For example, trees are reintroduced into farming landscape to provide shade for crops, sequester carbon, and provide habitat for beneficial organisms, while rice and fish in integrated systems regulate the conditions for each other to flourish.

Read the full article: Foodtank

“Agro-ecology” in Ethiopia


Regreening program to restore one-sixth of Ethiopia’s land

Tree and shrub-planting program has transformed degraded and deforested land across Africa, with Ethiopia planning to restore a further 15m hectares by 2030

by J

Fifteen years years ago the villages around Abrha Weatsbha in northern Ethiopiawere on the point of being abandoned. The hillsides were barren, the communities, plagued by floods and droughts, needed constant food aid, and the soil was being washed away.

Today, Abrha Weatsbha in the Tigray region is unrecognisable and an environmental catastrophe has been averted following the planting of many millions of tree and bush seedlings. Wells that were dry have been recharged, the soil is in better shape, fruit trees grow in the valleys and the hillsides are green again.

The “regreening” of the area, achieved in just a few years for little cost by farming communities working together to close off large areas to animals, save water and replant trees, is now to be replicated across one sixth of Ethiopia – an area the size of England and Wales. The most ambitious attempt yet to reduce soil erosion, increase food security and adapt to climate change is expected to vastly increase the amount of food grown in one of the most drought- and famine-prone areas of the world.

“Large areas of Ethiopia and the Sahel were devastated by successive droughts and overgrazing by animals in the 1960s and 1970s,” says Chris Reij, a researcher with the World Resources Institute in Washington.

Read the full article: The Guardian






Sustainable intensification as a potential solution to improving agricultural productivity

Photo credit: Food Tank

Terminology matters: “ecological intensification” means something very different from “sustainable intensification” among scientific experts.

Harvesting the Research: Ecological Intensification Can Feed The World

Food Tank spoke with Dr. Brian Petersen, co-author of a paper that examined expert views on sustainable intensification. Some environmental and agriculture scientists propose sustainable intensification as a potential solution to improving or maintaining agricultural productivity while minimizing harmful effects of agriculture on the natural environment.

The overall message: The biological and intensification components of sustainable intensification remain unclear to experts in the field, and the authors found that the term is not based on theory. Alternative concepts such as ecological intensification, which have a more theoretical basis, may be more useful.

The research: The authors interviewed 30 experts in fields related to sustainable intensification, examining their perceptions and definitions of the term. The research investigated whether experts believed that sustainable intensification represented a departure from business-as-usual agriculture or incremental improvements in the efficient use of land and natural resources.

Food Tank (FT): What are two key points of your paper? Why is your research relevant for the transition to sustainable agriculture?


Read the full article: Food Tank

An agroecological family farm in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Photo credit: Google

“Muito mais que alimentos, ela tem gerado muito aprendizado sobre como a agricultura pode gerar, além da colheita, um ambiente mais rico do que era antes” –

How to Create Abundance Without Destroying the Planet

by Sarah Small

In a recent video by Agenda Gotsch, the success of Fazenda da Toca’s Burrow Farm- an organic, agroecological family farm in Sao Paulo, Brazil covering 2,130 football fields- is highlighted. “I believe it is possible to create abundance without destroying the planet. We could thrive with it instead,” explained Pedro Diniz, founder of Fazenda da Toca.

Fazenda da Toca uses methods from applied research in agroforestry systems oriented for large-scale production according to agroecologist Ernst Gotsch’s principles. Gotsch developed complex crop systems in the 1970s by experimenting with multi-species consortia, such as planting corn with beans or apples with cherries. His methods restore degraded soils, produce high yields, and eliminate the use of pesticides.

Read the full article: FoodTank

Ingénierie écologique dans les zones sèches d’Afrique de l’Ouest

Photo credit: CSFD

Récolte du Fonio (Guinée) © A. Barnaud

Harvesting fonio (Digitaria grass) in Guinea © A. Barnaud




Parution de la fiche thématique du CSFD consacrée à l’ingénierie écologique dans les zones sèches d’Afrique de l’Ouest

Dans le contexte actuel de contraintes croissantes, à la fois climatiques et socioéconomiques, les agricultures des zones sèches doivent évoluer afin de s’adapter et de répondre à un double défi : produire plus pour satisfaire les besoins alimentaires importants de populations en croissance, mais aussi produire mieux de façon viable et durable. Une évolution rapide des agricultures de ces zones vers des modes de production à la fois plus productifs, économes en ressources naturelles et résistants aux aléas climatiques, est indispensable.

Lire le texte entier: CSFD

Read the full text: CSFD


Gender and food security: How to bolster food production ?

Photo credit: Google

Providing women with equal access to productive resources and opportunities may be the key to bolstering the struggling global agricultural sector

Africa: Towards Gender – Just Food and Nutrition Security

Institute of Development Studies (Brighton)



This week sees the launch of a new resource on Gender and Food Security from the IDS-based BRIDGE team. The Gender and Food Security Cutting Edge Pack makes the case for a new, gender-aware understanding of food security, arguing that partial, apolitical and gender-blind diagnoses of the problem of food and nutrition insecurity are leading to insufficient policy responses and the failure to realise the right to food for all people.

Achieving Gender Equality in Agriculture -
Achieving Gender Equality in Agriculture –

How can we better achieve nourishing food for all?

The pack identifies examples of practices, policies and programmes at the regional, national and local levels which use strategies that are often simple, yet innovative, to address food and nutrition insecurity in rights-focused, gender-aware and often gender-transformative ways. These include enhancing coherence between policies on gender, agriculture, nutrition, health, trade and other relevant areas, through national and regional processes, and developing ecologically sound approaches to food production, such as agro-ecology, that promote sustainable farming and women’s empowerment.

Women make up 43% of the agriculture workforce in developing countries. Photograph: Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images -
Women make up 43% of the agriculture workforce in developing countries. Photograph: Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images –

Over the course of the three year programme, five core principles have emerged which are essential to underpinning thinking and action on food and nutrition security:

Read the full article: allAfrica

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