Agroecology as Innovation

Article by Timothy A. Wise, originally published on Food Tank

Summary by Becca Fogel, AGRA Watch Intern

While financial interests in the current input-intensive systems are responding to growing calls for agroecology with attacks on its efficacy, it is surprising that they are so ill-informed about the scientific innovations agroecology offers to small-scale farmers who are being so poorly served by “green revolution” approaches.

On July 3, 2019, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released a report entitled Agroecological and other innovative approaches for sustainable agriculture and food systems that enhance food security and nutrition, signalling the agency’s continued shift toward agroecology. The report stresses the importance of “diversified and resilient production systems…that preserve and enhance biodiversity.”

Attacks on agroecological methods come from those with financial interests in the current input-intensive systems; however, as the recent report explains, agroecology brings much-needed innovations to current small-holder farming practices, and “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.”

The main promoter of input-intensive agriculture in Africa, the Gates Foundation’s Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), hopes to double the productivity and incomes of 30 million small-holder households in Africa by 2021. However, there is no evidence that AGRA’s biotechnology-dependent approach will come anywhere near meeting these goals. Critics claim that agroecology is a backwards, do-nothing approach to traditional agriculture practices that are already in use across Africa; in actuality, agroecology offers the innovations that small-holder farmers need to “increase soil fertility, raise productivity, improve food and nutrition security, and build climate resilience”, including biological pest control, push-pull technology, participatory plant breeding, agroforestry, and reintroducing small livestock.

Many farmers have concluded that the Green Revolution, not agroecology, is a dead end for Africa.

Posted in Agra Watch Blog Posts, agroecology, Slider.

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