Agroecological innovations for sustainable food systems: FAO

The High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN) of the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) released its report on “Agroecological approaches and other innovations for sustainable agriculture and food systems that enhance food security and nutrition” on 3 July, 2019, in Rome, stating that “profound transformation is needed”.The report comes at a time when the world is ready for an agroecological transition process. It describes an agroecological approach to sustainable food systems as one that recognizes that agri-food systems are coupled with social-ecological systems from the production of food to its consumption with all that goes on in between. The report provides a consolidated set of 13 agroecological principles related to recycling; reducing the use of inputs; soil health; animal health and welfare; biodiversity; synergy (managing interactions); economic diversification; co-creation of knowledge (embracing local knowledge and global science); social values and diets; fairness; connectivity; land and natural resource governance; and participation.
The report starts with the recognition of human rights as the basis for ensuring sustainable food systems. It requests the CFS to add ‘agency’ as the fifth pillar of FSN (the other four being: ‘availability’, ‘access’, ‘utilization’ and ‘stability’) to ensure that ordinary people have the power to define and secure their own food security in their everyday lives. The report also identifies the potential of adding ‘ecological footprint’ as a fourth operational principle for sustainable food systems and distinguishes it from resource efficiency which can still be degradative.
If the CFS adopts these recommendations, it can help advance sustainable food systems that enhance food and nutrition security globally. For a transdisciplinary approach such as agroecology to flourish, these recommendations should also be adopted by their counterparts in other fora making decisions on the climate crisis (UNFCCC), biodiversity loss (UNCBD), soil health (UNCCD) and especially on advancing the Sustainable Development Goals on poverty and food security (Item 2).
It is not surprising that those with financial interests in the current input-intensive systems are responding to growing calls for agroecology with attacks on its efficacy as a systematic approach that can sustainably feed a growing population (Item 3). As the new expert report however shows, and as countless ecological scientists around the world can attest, agroecology brings much-needed innovations to prevailing smallholder practices. With a long track record of achievements in widely varying environments, the approach has been shown to improve soil fertility, increase crop and diet diversity, raise total food productivity, improve resilience to climate change, and increase farmers’ food and income security while decreasing their dependence on costly inputs.
– Third World Network