Home » Posts tagged 'agroecology'

Tag Archives: agroecology

Olduvai
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai III: Catacylsm
Click on image to purchase

Post categories

Agroecology or Collapse Part III – Reclaiming the ‘archaic’, ‘anarchic’, and ‘utopian’ as the language of food system transformation

Food distribution in Rio de Janeiro during the pandemic. Source: AS-PTA.

Agroecology or Collapse Part III – Reclaiming the ‘archaic’, ‘anarchic’, and ‘utopian’ as the language of food system transformation

Agroecology is a struggle to overcome industrial agriculture and is simultaneously a practice, a science, and a movement. Detractors often criticize Agroecology saying it is archaic, anarchic, & utopian. Perhaps, paradoxically, this is where its potential lies. 

Agroecology is archaic, anarchic, and utopian – of course it is and thank goodness! In the final post of this three-part series, Paulo Petersen and Denis Monteiro push back against the arguments often made against agroecology. They engage with the language used to critique agroecology, and reverse it to articulate these as critical resources for social transformation. They go on to present the case for agroecology as the alternative model to prevent the looming collapse focusing on the Brazilian situation as a case in point. Click through to read Part I and part II. Earlier versions of this pieces were previously published in Portuguese.


Agroecology has been defined based on three interdependent dimensions: as a practice, as a scientific approach and as a social movement. As a social practice, it is expressed in the various ways in which peasant family farming and indigenous and traditional peoples and communities organize their work for the diversified production of food and other agricultural products. This is accomplished through cooperative processes developed in close interaction with ecological and socio-cultural dynamics of the territories in which they take root. By using systemic and participatory approaches, agroecology articulates frontier knowledge based on different scientific disciplines combined with popular biocultural knowledge.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Agroecology or Collapse: Part 1 – From Emergency Responses to Systemic Transformations

Annual demonstrations in defense of women’s lives and agroecology in the territory of Borborema. Foto: Nilton Pereira/AS-PTA

Agroecology or Collapse: Part 1 – From Emergency Responses to Systemic Transformations

In this first of a three-part contribution to Agroecology Now, Paulo Petersen and Denis Monteiro present the current moment as a crisis in capitalism that demands systemic and structural responses based in solidarity and feminist economics. This lays the foundations for agroecology as a new organizing paradigm for food systems that holds the key to preventing the collapse of our living systems as we know them. Earlier versions of these pieces were previously published in Portuguese. Part II available here.

As we try to reimagine our world, we must look at the countryside. There we can find a cooperative and sustainable production system based on peasant agriculture. Underestimated, even by orthodox Marxism, it is being rediscovered. Recognized and reinforced by the agroecological perspective, the peasantry  will be one of the foundations for post-capitalism. Based on the Brazilian experience, the political meaning of this proposal is presented in this historic moment of extreme gravity marked by the sudden deepening of pre-existing crises triggered by the spread of the coronavirus

The need for a systemic perspective

The growing number of ecological, health, economic and social crises situations are compounding and are based in an exceptionally complex political reality that demand a systemic and holistic perspective. Yet, governments and public policy around the world are plagued by sectoral approaches. These need to be overcome if we can respond to this crisis in a way that dismantles the vicious regressive circles that make the causes seem like the effects, and vice versa.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Food and Agroecology: Coping with Future Shocks

Food and Agroecology: Coping with Future Shocks

The food crisis that could follow in the wake of the various lockdowns that were implemented on the back of the coronavirus may have long-lasting consequences. We are already seeing food shortages in the making. In India, for instance, supply chains have been disrupted, farm input systems for the supply of seeds and fertilisers have almost collapsed in some places and crops are not being harvested. Moreover, cultivation has been adversely affected prior to the monsoon and farm incomes are drying up. Farmers closer to major urban centres are faring a bit better due to shorter supply chains.

Veteran rural reporter P Sainath has urged India’s farmers to move away from planting cash crops and to start cultivating food crops, saying that you cannot eat cotton. It’s a good point. For instance, according to a report that appeared on the ruralindiaonline website, in a region of southern Odisha, farmers have been pushed towards a reliance on (illegal) expensive genetically modified herbicide tolerant cotton seeds and have replaced their traditional food crops. Farmers used to sow mixed plots of heirloom seeds, which had been saved from family harvests the previous year and would yield a basket of food crops. They are now dependent on seed vendors, chemical inputs and a volatile international market to make a living and are no longer food secure.

But what is happening in India is a microcosm of global trends. Reliance on commodity monocropping for international markets, long global supply chains and dependency on external inputs for cultivation make the food system vulnerable to shocks, whether resulting from public health scares, oil price spikes (the industrial global food system is heavily fossil-fuel dependent) or conflict. An increasing number of countries are recognising the need to respond by becoming more food self-sufficient, preferably by securing control over their own food and reducing supply chains.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

These Extraordinary Times: Indigenous Peoples and coalition building for agroecology and food sovereignty

These Extraordinary Times: Indigenous Peoples and coalition building for agroecology and food sovereignty

Members of a Euro-American motorcycle club work alongside citizens of the Athabascan Nation to launch a fish wheel in the Copper River, Alaska.

Above: Members of a Euro-American motorcycle club work alongside citizens of the Athabascan Nation to launch a fish wheel in the Copper River, Alaska.


This post is based on what Indigenous Peoples (IPs) have shared with me and urged me to build on in the nearly 30 years of work I’ve been honored to do with them, mostly in their communities and in the policy-making arenas of dominant societies.* During that time I’ve seen that, at the heart of IPs’ actions to assert their inherent right of self-determination and their food sovereignty, is the relationship that IPs have with their lands and territories. This relationship includes the millennial interdependence between IPs’ cultures and the biodiversity within their territories.

I’ve also seen and been part of IPs’ efforts to broaden and deepen relationships among themselves and with non-Indigenous allies, especially as trade liberalization, imposed development and other stressors increasingly threaten IPs’ agroecological foodways.

The various ecological and political crises now in effect are rooted in an economic system that relies on the rupture of relationships, including within human communities and between humans and the natural world that we’re a part of. A component of that economic system is industrial agriculture.

In this post I aim to elaborate my belief that, to build or spread food sovereignty, there is an increased need for diverse Peoples, communities and social movements to strengthen relationships and coalitions with one another. Our exchange of knowledges, strategies and practices will keep producing tangible results, and on the less tangible but equally important side, our solidarity will reinforce our resilience in the face of increasing unpredictability.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Approaching Development: GMO Propaganda and Neoliberalism vs Localisation and Agroecology

Approaching Development: GMO Propaganda and Neoliberalism vs Localisation and Agroecology

What people communicate is a matter of choice. But what can be more revealing are the issues they choose to avoid. There are certain prominent pro-GMO activists who describe themselves as ‘science communicators’. They hit out at those who question their views or who have valid criticisms of GM technology and then play the role of persecuted victim, believing that, as the self-appointed arbiters of righteousness, they are beyond reproach, although given their duplicity nothing could be further from the truth.

Instead of being open to questioning, they attempt to close down debate to push a flawed technology they have a vested (financial-career) interest in, while all the time appealing to their self-perceived authority, usually based on holding a PhD in molecular biology or a related discipline.

They relentlessly promote GM and industrial agriculture and unjustifiably cast critics as zealots who are in cahoots with Greenpeace or some other group they have a built-in dislike of. And they cynically raise or lower the bar of ‘credibility’ by ad hominem and misrepresentation so that studies, writers and scientists who agree with them are commended while those who don’t become subjected to smear campaigns.

Often with ties to neoliberal think tanks, pro-GMO lobbyists call for more deregulation and criticise elected governments or regulatory bodies which try to protect the public interest, especially where genetic engineering and associated chemical inputs (for instance, glyphosate) are concerned. The same people push the bogus idea that only GM agriculture can feed the world, while seeking to discredit and marginalise alternative models like agroecology and ignoring the structural violence and injustices brought about by global agricapital interests (from whom they receive funding) which help determine Codex, World Bank, IMF and WTO policies. By remaining silent or demonstrating wilful ignorance about the dynamics and injustices of the political economy of food and agriculture, they tacitly approve of its consequences.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Farming for a Small Planet

Farming for a Small Planet

People yearn for alternatives to industrial agriculture, but they are worried. They see large-scale operations relying on corporate-supplied chemical inputs as the only high-productivity farming model. Another approach might be kinder to the environment and less risky for consumers, but, they assume, it would not be up to the task of providing all the food needed by our still-growing global population.

Contrary to such assumptions, there is ample evidence that an alternative approach—organic agriculture, or more broadly “agroecology”—is actually the only way to ensure that all people have access to sufficient, healthful food. Inefficiency and ecological destruction are built into the industrial model. But, beyond that, our ability to meet the world’s needs is only partially determined by what quantities are produced in fields, pastures, and waterways. Wider societal rules and norms ultimately shape whether any given quantity of food produced is actually used to meet humanity’s needs. In many ways, how we grow food determines who can eat and who cannot—no matter how much we produce. Solving our multiple food crises thus requires a systems approach in which citizens around the world remake our understanding and practice of democracy.

Today, the world produces—mostly from low-input, smallholder farms—more than enough food: 2,900 calories per person per day. Per capita food availability has continued to expand despite ongoing population growth. This ample supply of food, moreover, comprises only what is left over after about half of all grain is either fed to livestock or used for industrial purposes, such as agrofuels.1

Despite this abundance, 800 million people worldwide suffer from long-term caloric deficiencies. One in four children under five is deemed stunted—a condition, often bringing lifelong health challenges, that results from poor nutrition and an inability to absorb nutrients. Two billion people are deficient in at least one nutrient essential for health, with iron deficiency alone implicated in one in five maternal deaths.2

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Farming for a Small Planet: Agroecology Now

Farming for a Small Planet: Agroecology Now 

The primary obstacle to sustainable food security is an economic model and thought system, embodied in industrial agriculture, that views life in disassociated parts, obscuring the destructive impact this approach has on humans, natural resources, and the environment. Industrial agriculture is characterized by waste, pollution, and inefficiency, and is a significant contributor to climate change. Within so-called free market economics, enterprise is driven by the central goal of bringing the highest return to existing wealth. This logic leads inexorably to the concentration of wealth and power, making hunger and ecosystem disruption inevitable. The industrial system does not and cannot meet our food needs. An alternative, relational approach—agroecology—is emerging and has already shown promising success on the ground. By dispersing power and building on farmers’ own knowledge, it offers a viable path to healthy, accessible food; environmental protection; and enhanced human dignity.

Hidden, Vast Inefficiencies | A System Logic of Disassociated Parts | Climate Change Culprit | Perversely Aligned with Nature | A Better Alternative | Democratizing Farming | Lessons from Tigray, Ethiopia | A Viable Vision? | The Right Path | Endnotes

People yearn for alternatives to industrial agriculture, but they are worried. They see large-scale operations relying on corporate-supplied chemical inputs as the only high-productivity farming model. Another approach might be kinder to the environment and less risky for consumers, but, they assume, it would not be up to the task of providing all the food needed by our still-growing global population.

Contrary to such assumptions, there is ample evidence that an alternative approach—organic agriculture, or more broadly “agroecology”—is actually the only way to ensure that all people have access to sufficient, healthful food. Inefficiency and ecological destruction are built into the industrial model. But, beyond that, our ability to meet the world’s needs is only partially determined by what quantities are produced in fields, pastures, and waterways.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Cuba’s sustainable agriculture at risk in U.S. thaw

Organic farm, Alamar. Melanie Lukesh Reed/FlickrCC BY-NC-ND

President Obama’s trip to Cuba this week accelerated the warming of U.S.-Cuban relations. Many people in both countries believe that normalizing relations will spur investment that can help Cuba develop its economy and improve life for its citizens.

But in agriculture, U.S. investment could cause harm instead.

For the past 35 years I have studied agroecology in most countries in Central and South America. Agroecology is an approach to farming that developed in the late 1970s in Latin America as a reaction against the top-down, technology-intensive and environmentally destructive strategythat characterizes modern industrial agriculture. It encourages local production by small-scale farmers, using sustainable strategies and combining Western knowledge with traditional expertise.

Cuba took this approach out of necessity when its economic partner, the Soviet bloc, dissolved in the early 1990s. As a result, Cuban farming has become a leading example of ecological agriculture.

But if relations with U.S. agribusiness companies are not managed carefully, Cuba could revert to an industrial approach that relies on mechanization, transgenic crops and agrochemicals, rolling back the revolutionary gains that its campesinos have achieved.

The shift to peasant agroecology

For several decades after Cuba’s 1959 revolution, socialist bloc countries accounted for nearly all of its foreign trade.

The government devoted 30 percent of agricultural land to sugarcane for export, while importing 57 percent of Cuba’s food supply. Farmers relied on tractors, massive amounts of pesticide and fertilizer inputs, all supplied by Soviet bloc countries. By the 1980s agricultural pests were increasing, soil quality was degrading and yields of some key crops like rice had begun to decline.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Shaun Chamberlin on the Ecological Land Coop.

Shaun Chamberlin on the Ecological Land Coop.

Food is an issue that galvanizes so many Transition communities, but many of the classic Transition activities around food, like Landshare and Abundance projects, are to some extent ways of making the best of the ever-shrinking space available for ecological growing.  Nothing wrong with that, but it meant I was rather excited when – via a post on the Transition Network site in 2011 – I discovered the fledgling Ecological Land Co-operative working on a model for actually reclaimingland from industrialized agriculture and making it available to local, small-scale agroecology and permaculture projects.  I quickly got involved, and was elected as a director in the summer of 2012.

Apple NurseryApple Nursery

Since then we’ve delivered three new ecological smallholdings into the hands of eager growers, and plan to reach twenty-five(!) new holdings in the next five years, and then spread from there, influencing planning policy as we go.

 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Agroecology Can Help Fix Our Broken Food System. Here’s How.

Agroecology Can Help Fix Our Broken Food System. Here’s How.

The various incarnations of the sustainable food movement need a science with which to approach a system as complex as food and farming.

Thumb through U.S. newspapers any day in early 2015, and you could find stories on President Obama’s “fast-track” plans for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, antibiotic scares and theworsening California drought. Economists reported on steadily rising income inequality, while minimum-wage food workers took to the picket lines. Americans fled their kitchens and Chipotle welcomed them with farm-friendly appeal. Scientists recorded the warmest winter in history.

These seemingly disconnected events have a common thread: They all are symptoms of a political economy out of kilter with the welfare of the planet and the people who live on it. They are also nestled deep in the way food is grown, distributed and consumed today. What we sometimes call the “agri-food system” is clearly broken — just ask farmworkers and food workers (exploited and underpaid), honeybees (collapsing), forested landscapes (fragmenting), the climate (warming), and the ever-growing number of people without access to nutritious food, or the land and resources with which to produce it.

“Sustainable food” attempts to heal this fragile system, and it’s been a buzzword for three decades. Its mushrooming incarnations — local, organic, biodynamic, fair trade and “slow,” among others — suggest a broad yearning for something better. But modern capitalism is wondrously efficient at disciplining outliers. It hasn’t taken much for the dynamics of competition and price to sweep countercultural ideas into the industrial mainstream, forcing enterprises in many – not all – sustainable food niches to expand in size, adopt monoculture techniques and replicate the basic model of industrial overproduction.

 

What some have described as “input-substitution organic,” for example, swaps out chemical inputs for biological ones. These farms are therefore marginally better in terms of pollution but have barely budged the needle on monoculture cropping, not to mention labor issues. In any of these alternatives, price is prohibitive: Most low- to middle-income earners — and this includes most workers in the food system — cannot afford to buy the fruits of this so-called food revolution. 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
Click on image to purchase