Agroecology – the bold future of Africa

A press release from AFSA – The African Alliance for Food Sovereignty

21 Oct. 2015. It’s time for us to recognize that agroecology is the future of farming in Africa! Industrial agriculture is a dead end. It claims to have raised yields in places but it has done so at great cost, with extensive soil damage, huge biodiversity loss and negative impacts on nutrition, food sovereignty and natural resources. Read more

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Declaration of the Forum for Agroecology

We are delegates representing diverse organizations and international movements of small-scale food producers and consumers, including peasants, indigenous peoples and communities (including hunters and gatherers), family farmers, rural workers, herders and pastoralists, fisherfolk and urban people. Together, the diverse constituencies our organizations represent produce some 70% of the food consumed by humanity. They are the primary global investors in agriculture, as well as the primary providers of jobs and livelihoods in the world.

We gathered here at the Nyéléni Center in Sélingué, Mali from 24 to 27 of February, 2015, to come to a common understanding of agroecology as a key element in the construction of Food Sovereignty, and to develop joint strategies to promote Agroecology and defend it from co-optation. We are grateful to the people of Mali who have welcomed us in this beautiful land. They have taught us through their example, that the dialogue of our various forms of knowledge is based on respectful listening and on the collective construction of shared decisions. We stand in solidarity with our Malian sisters and brothers who struggle – sometimes sacrificing their lives – to defend their territories from the latest wave of land grabbing that affects so many of our countries. Agroecology means that we stand together in the circle of life, and this implies that we must also stand together in the circle of struggle against land grabbing and the criminalization of our movements.


Our peoples, constituencies, organizations and communities have already come very far in defining Food Sovereignty as a banner of joint struggle for justice, and as the larger framework for Agroecology. Our ancestral production systems have been developed over millennia, and during the past 30 to 40 years this has come to be called agroecology. Our agroecology includes successful practices and production, involves farmer-to-farmer and territorial processes, training schools, and we have developed sophisticated theoretical, technical and political constructions.

In 2007 many of us gathered here at Nyéléni, at the Forum for Food Sovereignty, to strengthen our alliances and to expand and deepen our understanding of Food Sovereignty, through a collective construction between our diverse constituencies. Similarly, we gather here at the Agroecology Forum 2015 to enrich Agroecology through dialogue between diverse food producing peoples, as well as with consumers, urban communities, women, youth, and others. Today our movements, organized globally and regionally in the International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty (IPC), have taken a new and historic step.

Our diverse forms of smallholder food production based on agroecology generate local knowledge, promote social justice, nurture identity and culture, and strengthen the economic viability of rural areas. Smallholders defend our dignity when we choose to produce in an agroecological way.


Agroecology is the answer to how to transform and repair our material reality in a food system and rural world that has been devastated by industrial food production and its so-called Green and Blue Revolutions.  We see agroecology as a key form of resistance to an economic system that puts profit before life.

The corporate model over-produces food that poisons us, destroys soil fertility, is responsible for the deforestation of rural areas, the contamination of water and the acidification of oceans and killing of fisheries. Essential natural resources have been commodified, and rising production costs are driving us off the land. Farmers’ seeds are being stolen and sold back to us at exorbitant prices, bred as varieties that depend on costly, contaminating agrochemicals.  The industrial food system is a key driver of the multiple crises of climate, food, environmental, public health and others. Free trade and corporate investment agreements, investor-state dispute settlement agreements, and false solutions such as carbon markets, and the growing financialization of land and food, etc., all further aggravate these crises. Agroecology within a food sovereignty framework offers us a collective path forward from these crises.


The industrial food system is beginning to exhaust it’s productive and profit potential because of its internal contradictions – such as soil degradation, herbicide-tolerant weeds, depleted fisheries, pest- and diseaseravaged monocultural plantations – and it’s increasingly obvious negative consequences of greenhouse gas emissions, and the health crisis of malnutrition, obesity, diabetes, colon disease and cancer caused by diets heavy in industrial and junk food.

Popular pressure has caused many multilateral institutions, governments, universities and research centers, some NGOs, corporations and others, to finally recognize  “agroecology”.  However, they have tried to redefine it as a narrow set of technologies, to offer some tools that appear to ease the sustainability crisis of industrial food production, while the existing structures of power remain unchallenged.  This co-optation of agroecology to fine-tune the industrial food system, while paying lip service to the environmental discourse, has various names, including “climate smart agriculture”, “sustainable-” or “ecologicalintensification”, industrial monoculture production of “organic” food, etc.  For us, these are not agroecology: we reject them, and we will fight to expose and block this insidious appropriation of agroecology.

The real solutions to the crises of the climate, malnutrition, etc., will not come from conforming to the industrial model. We must transform it and build our own local food systems that create new rural-urban links, based on truly agroecological food production by peasants, artisanal fishers, pastoralists, indigenous peoples, urban farmers, etc.  We cannot allow agroecology to be a tool of the industrial food production model: we see it as the essential alternative to that model, and as the means of transforming how we produce and consume food into something better for humanity and our Mother Earth.


Agroecology is a way of life and the language of Nature, that we learn as her children. It is not a mere set of technologies or production practices.  It cannot be implemented the same way in all territories.  Rather it is based on principles that, while they may be similar across the diversity of our territories, can and are practiced in many different ways, with each sector contributing their own colors of their local reality and culture, while always respecting Mother Earth and our common, shared values.

The production practices of agroecology (such as intercropping, traditional fishing and mobile pastoralism, integrating crops, trees, livestock and fish, manuring, compost, local seeds and animal breeds, etc.) are based on ecological principles like building life in the soil, recycling nutrients, the dynamic management of biodiversity and energy conservation at all scales.  Agroecology drastically reduces our use of externally-purchased inputs that must be bought from industry.  There is no use of agrotoxics, artificial hormones, GMOs or other dangerous new technologies in agroecology.
Territories are a fundamental pillar of agroecology. Peoples and communities have the right to maintain their own spiritual and material relationships to their lands. They are entitled to secure, develop, control, and reconstruct their customary social structures and to administer their lands and territories, including fishing grounds, both politically and socially. This implies the full recognition of their laws, traditions, customs, tenure systems, and institutions, and constitutes the recognition of the self-determination and autonomy of peoples.

Collective rights and access to the commons are fundamental pillar of agroecology. We share access to territories that are the home to many different peer groups, and we have sophisticated customary systems for regulating access and avoiding conflicts that we want to preserve and to strengthen.

The diverse knowledges and ways of knowing of our peoples are fundamental to agroecology.  We develop our ways of knowing through dialogue among them (diálogo de saberes). Our learning processes are horizontal and peer-to-peer, based on popular education. They take place in our own training centers and territories (farmers teach farmers, fishers teach fishers, etc.), and are also intergenerational, with exchange of knowledge between youth and elders. Agroecology is developed through our own innovation, research, and crop and livestock selection and breeding.

The core of our cosmovisions is the necessary equilibrium between nature, the cosmos and human beings. We recognize that as humans we are but a part of nature and the cosmos  We share a spiritual connection with our lands and with the web of life. We love our lands and our peoples, and without that, we cannot defend our agroecology, fight for our rights, or feed the world. We reject the commodification of all forms of life.

Families, communities, collectives, organizations and movements are the fertile soil in which agroecology flourishes. Collective self-organization and action are what make it possible to scale-up agroecology, build local food systems, and challenge corporate control of our food system. Solidarity between peoples, between rural and urban populations, is a critical ingredient.

The autonomy of agroecology displaces the control of global markets and generates self-governance by communities. It means we minimize the use of purchased inputs that come from outside. It requires the reshaping of markets so that they are based on the principles of solidarity economy and the ethics of responsible production and consumption. It promotes direct and fair short distribution chains. It implies a transparent relationship between producers and consumers, and is based on the solidarity of shared risks and benefits.

Agroecology is political; it requires us to challenge and transform structures of power in society. We need to put the control of seeds, biodiversity, land and territories, waters, knowledge, culture and the commons in the hands of the peoples who feed the world.

Women and their knowledge, values, vision and leadership are critical for moving forward. Migration and globalization mean that women’s work is increasing, yet women have far less access to resources than men. All to often, their work is neither recognized nor valued. For agroecology to achieve its full potential, there must be equal distribution of power, tasks, decision-making and remuneration.

Youth, together with women, provide one of the two principle social bases for the evolution of agroecology. Agroecology can provide a radical space for young people to contribute to the social and ecological transformation that is underway in many of our societies.  Youth bear the responsibility to carry forward the collective knowledge learned from their parents, elders and ancestors into the future. They are the stewards of agroecology for future generations. Agroecology must create a territorial and social dynamic that creates opportunities for rural youth and values women’s leadership.


I.Promote agroecological production through policies that…

1.Are territorial and holistic in their approach to social, economic and natural resources issues.
2.Secure access to land and resources in order to encourage long term investment by small-scale food producers.
3.Ensure an inclusive and accountable approach to the stewardship of resources, food production, public procurement policies, urban and rural infrastructure, and urban planning.
4.Promote decentralized and truly democratized planning processes in conjunction with relevant local governments and authorities.
5.Promote appropriate health and sanitation regulations that do not discriminate against smallscale food producers and processors who practice agroecology.
6.Promote policy to integrate the health and nutrition aspects of agroecology and of traditional medicines.
7.Ensure pastoralists’ access to pastures, migration routes and sources of water as well as mobile services such as health, education and veterinary services that are based on and compatible with traditional practice.
8.Ensure customary rights to the commons. Ensure seed policies that guarantee the collective rights of peasants’ and indigenous peoples’ to use, exchange, breed, select and sell their own seeds.
9.Attract and support young people to join agroecological food production through strengthening access to land and natural resources, ensuring fair income, knowledge exchange and transmission.
10.Support urban and peri-urban agroecological production.
11.Protect the rights of communities that practice wild capture, hunting and gathering in their traditional areas – and encourage the ecological and cultural restoration of territories to their former abundance.
12.Implement policies that ensure the rights of fishing communities.
13.Implement the Tenure Guidelines of the Committee on World Food Security and the Smallscale Fisheries Guidelines of the FAO.
14.Develop and implement policies and programs that guarantee the right to a dignified life for rural workers, including true agrarian reform, and agroecology training.

II.Knowledge sharing

1.Horizontal exchanges (peasant-to-peasant, fisher-to-fisher, pastoralist-to-pastoralist, consumer-and-producer, etc.) and intergenerational exchanges between generations and across different traditions, including new ideas. Women and youth must be prioritised.
2.Peoples’ control of the research agenda, objectives and methodology.
3.Systemize experience to learn from and build on historical memory.

III.Recognition of the central role of women

1.Fight for equal women’s’ rights in every sphere of agroecology, including workers’ and labour rights, access to the Commons, direct access to markets, and control of income
2.Programs and projects must fully include women at all stages, from the earliest formulation through planning and application, with decision-making roles.

IV.Build local economies

1.Promote local markets for local products.
2.Support the development of alternative financial infrastructure, institutions and mechanisms to support both producers and consumers.
3.Reshape food markets through new relationships of solidarity between producers and consumers.
4.Develop links with the experience of solidarity economy and participatory guarantee systems, when appropriate.

V.Further develop and disseminate our vision of agroecology

1.Develop a communications plan for our vision of agroecology
2.Promote the health care and nutritional aspects of agroecology
3.Promote the territorial approach of agroecology
4.Promote practices that allows youth to carry forward the permanent regeneration of our agroecological vision
5.Promote agroecology as a key tool to reduce food waste and loss across the food system

VI.Build alliances

1.Consolidate and strengthen existing alliances such as with the International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty (IPC)
2.Expand our alliance to other social movements and public research organizations and institutions

VII.Protect biodiversity and genetic resources

1.Protect, respect and ensure the stewardship of biodiversity
2.Take back control of seeds and reproductive material and implement producers’ rights to use, sell and exchange their own seeds and animal breeds
3.Ensure that fishing communities play the most central role in controlling marine and inland waterways

VIII.Cool the planet and adapt to climate change

1.Ensure international institutions and governments recognize agroecology as defined in this document as a primary solution for tackling and adapting to climate change, and not “climate smart agriculture” or other false versions of agroecology
2.Identify, document and share good experiences of local initiatives on agroecology that address climate change.

IX.Denounce and fight corporate and institutional capture of agroecology

1.Fight corporate and institutional attempts to grab agroecology as a means to promote GMOs and other false solutions and dangerous new technologies.
2.Expose the corporate vested interests behind technical fixes such as climate-smart agriculture, sustainable intensification and “fine-tuning” of industrial aquaculture.
3.Fight the commodification and financialization of the ecological benefits of agroecology.

We have built agroecology through many initiatives and struggles. We have the legitimacy to lead it into the future. Policy makers cannot move forward on agroecology without us. They must respect and support our agroecological processes rather than continuing to support the forces that destroy us.  We call on our fellow peoples to join us in the collective task of collectively constructing agroecology as part of our popular struggles to build a better world, a world based on mutual respect, social justice, equity, solidarity and harmony with our Mother Earth.

Nyéléni, Mali,  27 February 2015

Source: More and Better (MaB) Network

Declaración del Foro Internacional sobre Agroecología [ES]


The International Forum on Agroecology was organized at the Nyeleni Center in Mali, from 24 to 27 February 2015 by the following organisations: Coordination Nationale des Organisations Paysannes du Mali (CNOP Mali) as chair; La Via Campesina (LVC), Movimiento Agroecológico de América Latina y el Caribe (MAELA), Réseau des organisations paysannes et de producteurs de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (ROPPA) , World Forum of Fish Harvesters and Fishworkers (WFF), World Forum of Fisher Peoples (WFFP), World Alliance of Mobile Indigenous Peoples (WAMIP), More and Better (MaB)

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The future role of agroecology in the world

June 2014: The growing support for agroecology on the international political agenda was discussed on May 18th in Juazeiro, Brazil. Experts shared the various challenges they face in their respective countries when promoting agroecology.

The panel was part of the Third National Encounter on Agroecology (III ENA). It opened with a video message by Olivier De Schutter, former special UN rapporteur for the human right to food. He emphasised that we are already beyond the question whether or not agroecology is an option for the future of agriculture. In his opinion, facing the worsening of the food crisis, this question no longer makes sense: “The questions to be answered are “when” and “how” the international community will promote agroecology as an alternative to the dominant patterns of production and consumption. We cannot let the crisis get even worse. We need to prepare a transition, and the time to act is now.

De Schutter stressed the important role that Brazil has to play when it comes to the institutionalisation of agroecology. He thinks that the debate about the Sustainable Development Goals, which are to be adopted in September 2015 to replace the Millennium Development Goals, is a unique opportunity to include agroecology clearly in the political agenda of countries all over the world.

According to Paulo Petersen, executive director of AS-PTA and moderator of the panel, the growing international recognition of agroecology is a sign that people are now more aware of the unsustainability of the dominant agro-food systems: “The agroecological approach is being increasingly recognised for its compelling answers to the global systemic crisis that threatens the foundations of our societies today.

Voices from Latin America, Africa and Europe

After the video message, representatives of civil society organisations from Latin America, Africa and Europe talked about the challenges they face when promoting agroecology in their countries and regions. Like Olivier De Schutter, they stressed the importance of the Brazilian agroecology movement as a basis for building a more sustainable agriculture in the future.

Germán Alonso Vélez from the Seeds Network in Colombia said: “In Brazil, the government recognises and supports the agroecological movement. In Colombia, many peasant families are persecuted because they keep native seeds. It is considered to be a crime.” He explained how free trade and other dynamics of globalisation are destroying family farming in Colombia. “Therefore, we all look very carefully at the experiences and lessons of the agroecological movement in Brazil.

Karen Read of Biowatch South Africa described how many years of colonisation and the influence of outside cultures mark agriculture in her country, where social movements are also fighting for the creation of a national policy on agroecology. “But we are still working on a draft proposal and nothing has been made official yet.” She said that she will take home the slogan of the women participating in the Encounter on Agroecology: No feminism, no agroecology. “Women in agriculture need to be empowered. After all, they are the ones that protect seeds and biodiversity”, said Karen Read.

Complementing this contribution, Zayaan Khan from the organisation Surplus People Project in South Africa said that by supporting agribusiness, the South African government marginalises the majority of the population. “Big companies access water for a very low price while people are thirsty. In addition, all food products based on maize and soybean are contaminated with GMOs. But for us, access to land is the main problem.

Edith van Walsum, director of ILEIA in the Netherlands, recalled that her country is the second largest importer of soybeans from Brazil. “China, while being 100 times larger than the Netherlands, is the only country that imports more. What do we do with that much soybean in such a small country? We feed it to animals, we produce milk and pork meat and have become the largest exporter of dairy products in the world.” Van Walsum called for a global agroecological movement that is able to radically transform the dominant food system, which conceives food as another global commodity. In her opinion, “a global movement will strongly depend on strong national and local movements, just as in Brazil. It is important to be ‘globally connected, locally rooted’, which is the motto of the AgriCultures Network.” In Brazil, AS-PTA is the organisation that supports the connection between the Brazilian agroecological movement and the AgriCultures Network worldwide. Brazilian experiences are published in magazines in English, Spanish, French, Chinese and local Indian languages to an audience of over one million people from 150 countries. Edith van Walsum concluded: “We consider the Brazilian agroecology movement a source of inspiration. And this meeting is an example of the strength of this bottom-up movement.

Agroecology in the International Year of Family Farming

Petersen made reference to the 2014 International Year of Family Farming (IYFF). “We have to celebrate the IYFF. After all, the decision of the UN to give visibility to family farming was an achievement from civil society. But we must not only point out why family farming has to be recognised, but we must also discuss the ways in which we expect it to be promoted and developed. There are already several countries such as Brazil that have established specific policies for family farming. But the Brazilian experience has shown that broad and general support from the state is not enough. If we continue to shape agricultural policies using the productivist bias of agricultural modernisation, we end up increasing the dependence of family farms on global agribusiness chains and the financial markets. That way, family farming will become nothing but a a subordinate link to agribusiness.

In closing the panel, Onaur Ruano from the Brazilian Ministry of Agrarian Development stressed the importance of civil society mobilisation during processes of change. He recalled that both the International Year of Family Farming and the Brazilian government’s National Policy on Agroecology and Organic Production are the result of pressure by civil society organisations. Ruano said: “The implementation of the specific proposals that come out of the Encounter on Agroecology will depend strongly on the continuous coordination and collaboration of social movements both inside and outside of Brazil.

Posted by AgriCultures Network

Click here to watch the video message by Olivier De Schutter


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Voices of Transition

On the 17th of January, to coincide with the UN Year of Family Farming and the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (17. – 26.1214), French-German filmmaker and sociologist Nils Aguliar released his award-winning film, Voices of Transition, on DVD. The documentary highlights pioneering examples from France, England and Cuba which show that we can feed the world: by re-localising agriculture and freeing it from dependence on fossil fuels. The international DVD (with subtitles in 15 languages) will be released on the 21st of March. For more information and to be informed about the international DVD release, please go the Voices of Transition website. Please click here to see the trailer of the film, in English, German and French

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Agricultural Transition

AGRICULTURAL TRANSITION – a different logic  is a publication released by the More and Better Network in the occasion of the Rio+20 Conference and quite different from other reports. The booklet (116 pages) is published in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese

A transition of agriculture is needed, from the agro-industrial and other form of not sustainable agriculture into agro-ecology and other forms of viable food production. A transition is needed that takes into account what farming is and who the farmers are. Rather than perpetuating the idea of the poor small farmer, it is time to understand family farmers, also called peasants, for what they are: solid professionals with wide skills, rooted in time and space, with the ability to produce value at local level and wealth at global level. Viable forms of farming exist and are evolving  in different parts of the world and many transitions are  proving  successful. Twelve steps are proposed here in AGRICULTURAL TRANSITION – a different logic.

Click here to view the references/bibliography and other links.

Translations in other Languages

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Who produces our food?

by Aksel Naerstad
International co-coordinator of the More and Better Network

Small scale food producers produce 70% of the total global food production according to United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP)[1] and the well acknowledged international organization ETC-group There are, however, no exact figures of how much food which is produced by different kind of food producers. Neither is there a clear definition of who are the small scale food producers or a distinct definition of industrial food production. There are for instance four different definition of family agriculture in Brazil, based on regional differences. A farm of 50 ha in Argentina is considered small, and a farm of 5 ha is considered a large farm in many countries in Asia.[2] In many reports small farms are categorized as farms with less than 2 hectares of land, but some propose to categorize all farms of less than 10 hectares as small.

Some figures
In the report Who will feed us? [3] ETC-group estimates, based on different sources, that small scale farmers / peasants produce 50% of the global food production; small scale food producers in the cities produce 7,5%; hunting, fishing and other forms of gathering and harvesting from nature counts for about 12,5%; and that the industrial food production produce about 30% of the total global food production.

The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) Global Report,[4] gives also an estimate of how much of the food is being produced by small scale food producers. The figures in the report are based on FAO data from 525 million farms all over the world. 90% of these farms are small farms, defined as farms with less than 2 hectares of land, and they contribute substantially to the global food production. The IAASTD-report highlights that in Africa 90% of the agricultural production comes from these small farms.

FAO (2010) 2000 World Census of Agriculture has statistics from 84 countries with a total of 436 million farms, which is 83% on all farms in the world, based on the figures in IAASTD. 85% of the farms in the census are small farms – calculated on the basis of farms less than 2 hectares for all countries and territories, except for Uruguay, USA and New Zealand where the statics are on less than 5 hectares.
FAO has estimated that about 15% of the annual consumption of food by peasants and their families in rural areas in developing countries come from areas which are not cultivated,[5] and that 75-90% of all staple food is produced and consumed locally.[6]

Food First published in 2008 an article from M. Altieri[7] with the following figures:
“At present, small farms (2 hectares and less) produce the majority of staple crops for urban and rural inhabitants across the world – in Latin America 17 million peasant farms produce 51 percent of the maize, 77 percent of the beans, and 61 percent of the potatoes consumed domestically; 33 million small (mostly female– run) farms in Africa, representing 80 per­cent of the farms, produce a ‘significant amount of basic food crops with virtually no or little use of fertilizers and improved seed;’ and in Asia most of the rice consumed is produced by more than 200 million small farmers”.

Worldwatch Institute estimates that urban agriculture produce 15-20% of all food in the world.4 Other institutes use similar figures, but the studies do not cover the whole world. FAO estimate that urban agriculture provides the food for about 700 million people. [8]

In an article by 16 scientists in the well acknowledged magazine Science in 2010 [9] they state that two third of the global population is linked to a kind of mixt crop-livestock systems, mainly small farms with less than 2 hectare of land;
“According to the CGIAR analysis, the world’s one billion poor people (those living on less than $1 a day) are fed primarily by hundreds of millions of small-holder farmers (most with less than 2 ha of land, several crops, and perhaps a cow or two) and herders (most with fewer than five large animals) in Africa and Asia (3). Furthermore, mixed crop-livestock systems could be the key to future food security; two-thirds of the global population already live in these systems, and much of the future population growth will occur there. Already, mixed systems produce close to 50% of the world’s cereals and most of the staples consumed by poor people: 41% of maize, 86% of rice, 66% of sorghum, and 74% of millet production (3). They also generate the bulk of livestock products in the developing world, that is, 75% of the milk and 60% of the meat, and employ many millions of people in farms, formal and informal markets, processing plants, and other parts of long value chains (3).”[10]

The Norwegian government states in the budget proposal for 2012 that small-scale farmers produce 80% of the food in developing countries.[11] This means that peasants in developing countries produce the food for 65% of the population in the world, if we keep export and import out of the picture. Even if import of food is important for many countries, also for developing countries, is the share of the food which crosses borders only about 10% of the total food production.[12]

The President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is also using the same figure; that small scale farmers in developing countries produce 80% of the food in developing countries.[13]

I would like to underline that none of the figures above are accurate. There is a need for better statistics, but there are many more sources than used in this article which have similar figures. Some people have challenged the figures above, and said that industrial food produce most of the food in the world. I have not been able to find any sources or references which tell that.
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