What is agroecology?

Janet Maro and farmers

Agroecology is the science of sustainable farming as well as a political movement that aims to improve the way food is grown and processed globally. Fundamentally, agroecology is about shifting the control of the land, seeds, markets and labour out of the hands of big business and back into the hands of small-scale farmers.

Agroecology in action

Agroecology is not a marginal practice carried out by a handful of farmers. It is already widely practised across Africa and helps to feed millions of people. In many cases the techniques are inexpensive, simple and effective, which means there has been little commercial interest in researching, developing and distributing them. But the evidence is unequivocal. Agroecology can increase food yields, income, employment, agricultural biodiversity, and health and nutrition, and help to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

“Agroecology encourages a holistic approach and the integration of humans, plants, animals and the environment, into a system where all involved help each other and create important relationships which result in healthy people, healthy plants, healthy animals and a healthy environment” Janet Maro, Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania

For many more examples of agroecology in action, have a look at our short briefing On solid ground: How agroecology can feed Africa, or read our report From the roots up: How agroecology can feed Africa

What can you do?

We need a complete shift in who controls our food system. Power must be taken away from corporations and put back into the hands of the people and communities that produce and consume food. Only a movement of people calling for food sovereignty and agroecology will create this sort of change.

“The issue seems to be political or ideological rather than evidence or science based. No matter what data is presented, governments and donors influenced by big interests marginalize agroecological approaches focusing on quick-fix, external input intensive ‘solutions’ and proprietary technologies such as transgenic crops and chemical fertilisers. It is time for the international community to recognize that there is no other more viable path to food production in the twenty-first century than agroecology.” Miguel Altieri, Professor of Agroecology at the University of California, Berkeley, USA