Agroecological revolution to achieve food democracy

In this article, Olivier de Schutter calls for an agroecological revolution to achieve food democracy, which is the ability for people to make real choices about how to produce food, what to produce, and how to eat. Firstly, he calls for a renewed understanding of nature. Agroecology stems from a renewed understanding of Nature and of our relationship to Nature. It is a social movement which puts farmers in the driver’s seat, encourages peer-to-peer exchanges of information between farmers and prioritises local solutions relying on local resources.
Secondly, agroecology is more than a set of agronomic techniques. It favours a gradual transition away from the fossil-energy-based farming of the earlier generation, and it seeks to preserve soil health and to reduce soil erosion. Increased support to agroecology will contribute to re-balancing competition between large, industrial-sized farms and smaller farms, which at the moment is significantly skewed in favour of the former.
Thirdly, agroecology promotes better nutrition, both because greater diversity on the farm results in greater diversity in the plates for the communities who produce their own food, and because of the proven significant benefits to health.
De Schutter cites four major obstacles to the agroecological revolution: (1) Technologies and infrastructures are biased in favour of achieving economies of scale through reliance on large monocultures that can be more easily mechanized; (2) Dominant agribusiness actors – the large commodity buyers and food processing companies – are better positioned to supply markets with low-priced foodstuffs, against which other actors, using other, more sustainable modes of production, are unable to compete; (3) Our lifestyles have evolved with the industrial way of producing food and we have become dependent on heavily processed foods; (4) Large agribusiness actors veto any significant change that would threaten their position in the system. He stresses that the agroecological revolution will only succeed if the above political economy obstacles are overcome.
The article appears in Volume 52 of the International Journal on Rural Development, “Rural 21”, which focuses on agroecology. Other articles examine how agroecology is the most convincing proposal for transforming unsustainable agro-food systems, and how it is a pathway to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, while also placing importance on farmers’ knowledge and people-centred rural development.
Rural 21 is published by DLG-Verlag GmbH with the support of BMZ (German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development), GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit), DLG (German Agricultural Society – Deutsche Landwirtschafts-Gesellschaft), SDC (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation) and Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation. – Third World Network