Article written by Inês Costa Pereira, from the Caravana Agroecológica project.

What is Agroecology?

Although with a difficult start and its nature is subject to some confusion, currently agroecology plays a central role in the speeches of policies on food and agriculture. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) organized, in 2018, an international symposium on agroecology, where it affirmed the essential role (of agroecology) in the transformation of agricultural systems in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) ) (Pimbert, 2018).

Defined by some as science and by others as movement, agroecology has brought a new way of approaching agriculture: not only as techniques that seek to maximize agricultural production, but as a system – an agro-ecosystem that includes environmental and human elements.

The industrialization of agriculture emerged after the Second World War, with the Green Revolution. It emerged as a response to a dramatic global situation, looking for ways to feed many people in a short time. The goal was the maximum production, in a minimum time using external inputs to speed up the process. Farmers chose to use intensive monoculture. Countries slowly recovered, but the industrialization of agriculture continued – processes were accelerating, but now with the aim of increasing yields. The growing awareness of the environmental impact of industrial agriculture encouraged the union between agronomy and ecology for a more sustainable agriculture.

Agroecological production seeks to recycle nutrients, rotate organic matter, close energy flows, conserve water and soil and balance natural populations that are enemies of diseases and plagues. It enhances the complementarities and synergies that result from the combination (in time and space) of crops, trees and animals (eg. crop rotation, polyculture, agroforestry systems, cover crops, and / or the integration of animals) (Altieri, sd).

Agroecology is a process that is always in transition. It is based on ecological principles of management of productive agroecosystems that preserve natural resources, respect local culture, and are socially just and economically viable (Altieri, 1989). It aggregates science, social movement and sustainable agricultural practices (such as organic, biodynamic, syntropic, regenerative, agroforestry, among others) in the pursuit of sustainable food systems. It seeks to support small local producers, short supply circuits, family farming, rural communities, seed biodiversity and indigenous breeds, and healthy, accessible and fair food through food sovereignty and sustainable food systems and diets.

Contrary to conventional agricultural research, the agroecological approach seeks to aggregate the practical knowledge of farmers with the most current ideas in science. It intends to interpret the knowledge and dynamics of local management – usually the most effective response to the specific challenges and opportunities of each location (Pimbert, 2018).

Agroecology is our relationship with nature mediated by popular culture, that is, it is enjoying listening to the thrush singing and the revelry of kings! (Cardoso, 2020).

References:

Altieri, M., (1989).  Agroecologia: as bases científicas da agricultura alternativa. 2ª ed. Rio de Janeiro: PTA- FASE, 240p

Altieri, M., sd. Agroecology: principles and strategies for designing sustainable farming systems, University of California, Berkeley http://www.agroeco.org/doc/new_docs/Agroeco_principles.pdf

Cardoso, I., (2020). Definições de agroecologia (documento de trabalho), Universidade Federal de Viçosa, Brasil

Pimbert, M., (2018). Global Status of Agroecology – A Perspective on Current Practices. Potential and Challenges, Economic & Political Weekly, vol LIII, nº 41

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