ecological farming

by danielaterrile

BRUSSELS (22 June 2010)
– “Governments and international agencies urgently
need to boost ecological farming
techniques to increase food production and
save the climate,” said UN Special
Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier
De Schutter, while presenting the findings
at an international meeting on agroecology
held in Brussels on 21 and 22 June.

Along with 25 of the world’s most renowned
experts on agroecology, the UN expert
urged the international community to
re-think current agricultural policies and
build on the potential of agroecology.

“One year ago, Heads of States at the G20
gathering in Italy committed to mobilizing
$22 billion over a period of three years
to improve global food security. This was
welcome news, but the most pressing issue
regarding reinvestment in agriculture is
not how much, but how,” Olivier De
Schutter said .

“Today, most efforts are made towards
large-scale investments in land –
including many instances of land grabbing
– and towards a ‘Green Revolution’ model
to boost food production: improved seeds,
chemical fertilisers and machines,” the
Special Rapporteur remarked. “But scant
attention has been paid to agroecological
methods that have been shown to improve
food production and farmers’ incomes,
while at the same time protecting the
soil, water, and climate.”

The widest study ever conducted on
agroecological approaches (Jules Pretty,
Essex University, UK) covered 286 projects
in 57 developing countries, representing a
total surface of 37 million hectares: the
average crop yield gain was 79%. Concrete
examples of ‘agroecological success
stories’ abound in Africa.

In Tanzania, the Western provinces of
Shinyanga and Tabora used to be known as
the ‘Desert of Tanzania’. However, the use
of agroforestry techniques and
participatory processes allowed some
350,000 hectares of land to be
rehabilitated in two decades. Profits per
household rose by as much as USD 500 a
year. Similar techniques are used in
Malawi, where some 100,000 smallholders in
2005 benefited to some degree from the use
of fertilizer trees.

“With more than a billion hungry people on
the planet, and the climate disruptions
ahead of us, we must rapidly scale up
these sustainable techniques,” De Schutter
said. “Even if it makes the task more
complex, we have to find a way of
addressing global hunger, climate change,
and the depletion of natural resources,
all at the same time. Anything short of
this would be an exercise in futility.”

The experts gathering in Brussels
identified the policies that could develop
agroecological approaches to the scale
needed to feed the world in 2050. They
based their work on the experiences of
countries that have pro-agroecology
policies – such as Cuba or Brazil – as
well as on the successful experiences from
international research centres such as the
World Agroforestry Center in Nairobi, and
on the programmes of La Via Campesina, the
transnational peasant movement, which runs
agroecology training programmes.

“We can scale up these sustainable models
of agriculture, and ensure that they work
for the benefit of the poorest farmers.
What is needed now is political will to
move from successful pilot projects to
nation-wide policies,” the UN Special
Rapporteur said. In conclusion, he
announced that he would ask the Committee
on World Food Security – what should
become in time the ‘Security Council’ for
food security – to work during its October
session on the policy levers to scale up
agroecology. “This is the best option we
have today. We can’t afford not to use

(*) The international seminar “The
contribution of agroecological approaches
to meet 2050 global food needs” was held
in Brussels on 21 and 22 June. Convened
under the auspices of the mandate of the
UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to
Food, Prof. Olivier De Schutter, it
brought together agroecology experts,
decision makers at national and
international levels, and representatives
of farmer organizations.