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Agroecology Connects us With the Rest of the World, our Future and Ourselves

March 22, 2014

Agroecology (primarily soil management and biological diversity for social, economic and environmental sustainability) connects us with the rest of the world, connects us with a sustainable future for our children, and connects us with ourselves.

1. Agro-ecology connects us with the rest of the world

Most of the world is already practicing some form of agroecology.

Fifty percent of the food consumed domestically in the world comes from 350 million small farms cultivated by 1.5 billion smallholders, mostly located in the developing world, and occupying only 20-30% of the arable land. Many traditional farming communities and indigenous peoples have over generations developed agricultural systems that can be considered agro-ecologically-based. Such traditional farmers domesticated 5,000 crop species and 1.9 million plant varieties, mostly grown without agrochemicals (ETC, 2009, referenced in http://www.e-alliance.ch/typo3conf/ext/naw_securedl/secure.php?u=0&file=fileadmin/user_upload/docs/All_Food/2012/Rio___20/Members/Nourishing-the-World-Sustainably-Scaling_up_acro-ecology.pdf&t=1346247361&hash=10524a83c979f8fd558db309befc743c).

As a way to improve the sustainability of food systems, agroecology is now being advocated by wide range of experts within the scientific community, and by international agencies and organizations such as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Traditional systems and agro-ecology are generally based on polycultures, which produce yields per unit land area that are in the range of 20 to 60 percent higher than those produced from monocultures with the same management level.ftp://ftp.fao.org/SD/SDA/SDAR/sard/SARD-agroecology%20-%20english.pdf

The FAO has even developed a global agroecological zoning system for determining agricultural production potentials and carrying capacity of the world’s land area. http://www.fao.org/nr/land/databasesinformation-systems/aez-agro-ecological-zoning-system/en/

“The cases reported above show that in Africa, Asia and Latin America there are many NGO and farmer led initiatives promoting agro-ecological production that have demonstrated a positive impact on the livelihoods of millions of people living in small farming communities in various countries.  Agro-ecology has consistently proven capable of sustainably increasing productivity and has far greater potential for fighting hunger, particularly during economic and climatically uncertain times that in many areas are becoming the norm.” http://www.e-alliance.ch/typo3conf/ext/naw_securedl/secure.php?u=0&file=fileadmin/user_upload/docs/All_Food/2012/Rio___20/Members/Nourishing-the-World-Sustainably-Scaling_up_acro-ecology.pdf&t=1346420896&hash=97ed3dd6bbf7af2175c0c6d0557fadae

2. Agroecology connects us with a sustainable future for our children

Agroecology is accepted as being able to meet future food requirements without further destruction of our environment and our social structure.

The United Nations prepared a report entitled “Agro-ecology and the Right to Food” in 2010. This report suggests that agroecology can double food production within 10 years while mitigating climate change, protecting and enhancing our environment, and alleviating rural poverty. This report included an extensive literature review.  http://www.srfood.org/images/stories/pdf/officialreports/20110308_a-hrc-16-49_agroecology_en.pdf

The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) prepared a report that was endorsed by 59 countries in 2008. Its stated mission was to assess the situation of agriculture worldwide, draw conclusions, and formulate recommendations for the future. Its main assertion is that “business as usual is not an option.” Its recommendations are designed to implement sustainable farming practices such as agroecology and organic agriculture worldwide.

http://www.agassessment.org/reports/IAASTD/EN/Agriculture%20at%20a%20Crossroads_Global%20Report%20(English).pdf

“Agroecological, eco-efficient, and organic agriculture, which are among the several good agricultural practices under the label “sustainable agriculture,” cannot only nourish a world population of some 9 to 10 billion people, but are the only approaches that will be able to do it in the face of climate change, natural resource scarcity, and growing demand challenges. Unless we have the resilience provided by these systems at the basis of our multi-functional production systems, we will face major problems.

So the solutions are at hand, there is evidence from the field for now over three decades that sustainable agriculture cannot only nourish the world, but can do so for the long haul.”

quotation by Hans Herren, Ph.D. co-chair of IAASTD, an initiative sponsored by the World Bank and United Nations in partnership with the World Health Organization that assessed global agriculture and recommended agroecological solutions to world hunger. http://www.non-gmoreport.com/articles/december2011/scientistsaysagroecologyfeedsworld.php

The “Scaling-Up Agro-Ecological Food Production” sponsored by the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance brought together science and theology to reflect on how sustainable, smallholder-based, agro-ecological methods of food production can be scaled-up sufficiently to feed the world. This discussion attempted to contribute to the outcome of UNCSD/Rio+20 by:

“(1) sharing information on the different farming systems that are encompassed in agro-ecological food production and the demonstrable benefits of these methods;

(2) stimulating discussions about how agro-ecological food production could reduce pollution while rebuilding the fertility of the soil and safeguarding the biodiversity of the planet;

(3) profiling the extent to which these methods can reduce food waste and post harvest losses from the producer to the consumer and ensure the most efficient use of natural resources;

(4) showcasing the extent to which agro-ecological food production can be an effective climate change adaption and mitigation strategy;

(5) demonstrating how these food production methods could assist in reducing global poverty and ensuring the right to food and nutritional security by supporting livelihoods;

(6) advocating for the support of the small holder food producers, whose production capacity is the foundation of food security in much of the developing world, but whose interests are often ignored in relevant policy formulation and/or implementation; and

 (7) highlighting what is required for scaling up the use of these methods and encourage policy makers and public commitment to investing in agro-ecological food production with the necessary finance, research and capacity building.”  http://www.e-alliance.ch/en/s/food/rio-plus-20/scaling-up-agro-ecology/

3. Agroecology connects us with ourselves

Agroecology is not simply organic farming, it connects agriculture with the environment, our economy and our social well being. Agroecology connects us with the whole people that we were created to be.

The first people who took care of this land before we came, understood that stewardship is about caring for the land.

“We are stewards of the land and we need to look after it. The Creator won’t make more. We need to assume our responsibilities. This is the basis of our culture and traditions. We need to leave something for our children.”    Seabird Island Chief Clem Seymour

For many of us who came to this land afterward, our Judeo-Christian heritage advocated caring for the creation and all of the people in it is simply part of our God given mandate. Rev. Fuchs of the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance wrote a great theological reflection on agroecological farming:

“God made the universe and formed humans in God’s image to be God’s flagpole on earth and to act according to the divine preservative purpose. God’s caressing breath into humans’ nostrils shows that God’s priority is relationship.

God loved the world so much that God sent Jesus to serve and suffer for reconciliation and abundant life, in order that we may learn to love and serve each other.

When we experience that God speaks to us with love and that he suffers when his creatures suffer, we feel challenged and are set free to be God’s partners in the project of God’s kingdom of social and environmental justice.

For agro-ecology the social and environmental aspects are related.  We take care of the garden because of ourselves, because of the consistency with our humanness, and because of our privileged condition as beloved interlocutors with God. Abundant life is always life shared with others, empowering the impoverished and strengthening the weak, as Jesus did and promised for all.”

http://www.e-alliance.ch/typo3conf/ext/naw_securedl/secure.php?u=0&file=fileadmin/user_upload/docs/All_Food/2012/Rio___20/Members/Inthebeginning.pdf&t=1346419036&hash=16c2fe0d295f20d7f895f2d6a9197cbe

Abbotsford is the home for many faith based international organizations that work to help others around the world. Many church based groups and non government organizations (NGOs) have already been connecting with others throughout the world on promoting agroecological principles.

“Since the early 1980s, hundreds of agro-ecologically-based projects have been promoted by NGOs and church-based groups throughout the developing world, which incorporate elements of both traditional knowledge and modern agricultural science. A variety of projects exist featuring resource-conserving yet highly productive systems, such as polycultures, agroforestry, soil conservation, water harvesting, biological pest control and the integration of crops and livestock, etc. Approaches to training farmers on agro-ecological methods and disseminating best practices encompass a great variety: field days, on-farm demonstrations, training of trainers, farmers cross-visits, etc. Much of the spread of Conservation Agriculture in southern Africa reaching >50,000 farmers has been attained via one or more these methods.” http://www.e-alliance.ch/typo3conf/ext/naw_securedl/secure.php?u=0&file=fileadmin/user_upload/docs/All_Food/2012/Rio___20/Members/Nourishing-the-World-Sustainably-Scaling_up_acro-ecology.pdf&t=1346420896&hash=97ed3dd6bbf7af2175c0c6d0557fadae

Let’s reflect on the following quotation prepared by a multistakeholder group facilitated by the FAO. Does this not apply to our agricultural activity right here in Abbotsford as well?

“Agriculture and rural development are sustainable when they are ecologically sound, economically viable, socially just, culturally appropriate, humane and based on a scientific approach. Rural development policy must aim to meet the nutritional and other human needs of present and future generations; and maintain, and where possible, enhance the productive and regenerative capacity of the natural resource base, It must also provide for the durable employment of those generations, reduce their vulnerability and strengthen their self-reliance.” ftp://ftp.fao.org/SD/SDA/SDAR/sard/SARD-agroecology%20-%20english.pdf

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