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A Socially Inclusive Pathway to Food Security: The Agroecological Alternative

Authors:
June/2012 no. 23
research brief
The International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth is jointly supported by the
Bureau for Development Policy, United Nations Development Programme and the Government of Brazil.
By Ben McKay
A Socially Inclusive Pathway to Food Security:
The Agroecological Alternative
I. Introduction
With roughly 1 billion people unable to meet their minimum daily caloric intake, the issue of food security is imperative to
overcoming rural poverty. The way in which we produce food plays an extremely important role in solving the hunger epidemic
and reaching the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of eradicating extreme hunger and poverty. The dominant model of
agricultural development practised by many countries today is based on chemical-intensive agro-industrial complexes growing
monocultures for export. This model of corporate-controlled agro-industry has failed to produce positive results economically,
environmentally or socially. As one of the main contributors of greenhouse gas emissions, the agro-industrial model is
exacerbating global climate change, degrading arable land, deteriorating public health, decreasing food quality and disrupting
traditional rural livelihoods. Although this model was deemed to produce higher yields and increase productivity, it has failed
to increase food security around the world. In fact, since the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) started
calculating the number of undernourished persons worldwide in 1969, the number of hungry people has increased by
about 8 per cent —from 878 million in 1969 to an estimated 925 million in 2010 (FAO, 2012).
Based on a myriad of scientific research and satellite cases worldwide, there is a general consensus and growing support
among experts around the world that an agricultural model based on agroecology can provide a sustainable, socially inclusive,
productive and efficient way forward to increase food security and alleviate rural poverty.1 As a science and set of practices,
agroecology is very knowledge-intensive, participatory, organised and innovative. Derived from the convergence of two
disciplines—agronomy and ecology—agroecology implies farming methods based on diversification, biological interactions
and agroecosystem synergies which generate and enhance soil fertility, productivity and crop resilience. Despite its emphasis on
sustaining the environment and social inclusion through participatory frameworks, agroecology-based models have produced
impressive economic results in terms of yields, productivity and efficiency.2
This Policy Research Brief draws on case studies in Brazil and Cuba, as well as analytical papers on agroecology in theory
and practice, to contribute to the discussion on how countries can pursue a national agricultural development model based
on agroecology. Drawing on the case study experiences, the institutionalisation of an agroecology-based farm system must
come from both the state—with support services and investments—and society—with farmer-to-farmer networks and socially
inclusive participatory organisations. In Cuba, with the government lacking adequate resources, the agroecological movement
was largely based on societal actors in the form of rural labour organisations mobilising and creating farmer-to-farmer networks.
Although born out of necessity, the Cuban experience exemplifies the importance and effectiveness of farmers using social
capital to innovate and overcome difficulties with alternative forms of production. In Brazil, although rural labour organisations
are increasingly gaining influence and participating in policy discussions, the state’s comprehensive agricultural policies provide
substantial support, extension and investment for family farmers. The challenge is to scale up these programmes and create
increased incentives for agroecology-based production within the current policy framework.
II. An alternative Food System: Agroecology
The core principles of agroecology are based on using and recycling the nutrients and energy of the ecosystem in
complementary and diversified ways to create a biodiverse, resilient, fertile environment. It is a discipline that is extremely
innovative and knowledge-intensive, focusing on farmer knowledge and using farmer-to-farmer participatory methods and
exchange networks to share ideas, techniques and practices. Using the knowledge and expertise of those most familiar with the
ecosystem and its weather patterns, local farmers use a diversity of complex management schemes and adaptation techniques to
strengthen ecosystem resilience and minimise dependence on agro-chemical and energy inputs.3
In a comprehensive study of 57 less developed countries (LDCs), 286 agricultural sustainability projects consisting of 12.6 million
small farmers were evaluated after adopting agroecological practices. Occupying a total of 37 million hectares, or an average of
just under three hectares per farmer, the average increase in crop yield from using agroecology-based techniques was 79.2 per
cent. Based on a variety of farming systems—from smallholder-irrigated, rain-fed, wetland, humid, highland, mixed and urban—
International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth
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smallholder-irrigated and urban-based farms saw the
highest increases, with an average of 129.8 per cent and
79.2 per cent, respectively (Pretty et al., 2006). This study
exemplifies the potential of pursuing an agroecology-based
farm system. The 37 million hectares of farmland evaluated
in the study represent a mere 3 per cent of the total
cultivated area in LDCs. An agroecology-based farming
system implemented on a much larger scale would
undoubtedly increase crop yields per hectare in a socially
inclusive and sustainable manner.
By lessening, or removing altogether, dependence on
external, synthetically based inputs, smallholders will not
have to use their incomes or become indebted to nurture
their chemical-dependent crops. Although international
food prices have increased in the past few years, the price
of fertilisers and crude oil products have more than doubled
the rise in foodstuff prices, making these external inputs
increasingly more expensive for smallholders (de Schutter,
2011). Eliminating the reliance on such external inputs will,
therefore, have a positive impact, not only on smallholder
incomes but also on the long-term sustainability of their
land and available resources.
The nature of agroecology farm systems is based on
smallholder and cooperative farms. This is due to the
multi-functionality of agroecology farm systems, their less
mechanised nature and the inverse relationship between
farm size and output, rendering small farms more productive
than large farms in terms of total output per unit area.4
This implies much more labour-intensive and diverse
strategies in managing people, plants and animals.
Due to the higher levels of underemployment in rural
areas, a model of agriculture which is more labour-intensive
will increase employment, decrease rural-to-urban migration
and provide social protection for rural livelihoods through
cooperatives, farmer-to-farmer support systems and
participation in peasant organisations.
III. Gaining Ground:
the Agroecology Movement in Latin America
Brazil
In Brazil, agroecology started gaining ground in academia
as an alternative vision of agriculture in the 1980s.
Researchers and non-governmental organisations (NGOs)
such as Assessoria e Servicos a Projetos em Agricultura
(AS-PTA) first started disseminating information on the
agroecology alternative. This became central to farmer-to-
farmer cooperation and knowledge sharing.5 Under the
Ministry of Science and Technology (MCT), the National
Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq)
incorporated agroecology into its research initiatives, as
did the Coordination of Improvement of Higher Education
Personnel (CAPES) under the Ministry of Education.
This played a major role in the institutionalisation process
of agroecology into research and implementation processes
in both academic and independent research institutions,
governmental departments and, ultimately, on the farm.
The Brazilian Association of Agroecology (ABA)—comprised
of small farmers, researchers and NGOs—has also been
instrumental in the institutionalisation and implementation
of agroecology in Brazil. The ABA works in conjunction with
the Latin American Scientific Society of Agroecology (SOCLA),
a regional network of researchers, professors, experts etc.
which promotes agroecology as an alternative to the crisis
Table 1
Brazil’s Assessoria e Servicos a Projetos em Agricultura (AS-PTA) Participatory Farmer Network
Source: Cohn et al., 2006.
StepOneEngagewithlocalfarmerorganisationsaboutalternativefoodsystems
StepTwoIdentifymai nproblemsandpote nt i alsoffarmers’agroecosystems
StepThreeAnalyseproblematiccausesusingaparticipatoryruralappraisal(PRA),engagingfa r mer s ,scientists,
technicians,academicsetc.
StepFourBroadcastth eresultsofthePRAon localradio,televisions,communityboards.
Results
Participatoryandpr o d uc ti v e
100,000agroecologybasedfamilyfarmers
100%–3 00%averag eyi e ldincreases
ASPT APRAsyste mspreadtoover 200communitiesin15municipalities,involving10,000
far mers inthestateofPar ana alone.
Sustainabilityandresilience
Agro no micproblemsresolvedissuesofsoilmanagement,fertilisation,pes tcon trols,
traditionalvarietyseedproductionandimpr ovement,agroforestry.
Traditionalcropvarietiesrecovered:beans,corn,potatoes,rice,wheat,manio c.
Efficientandcosteffective
Governmentexten si onagencythroughPRONAFcalculatesayearlycostof$5 0 0pe r farmer
assisted,whichis10time smorethanagroec ologicalparticipatorydevelopm entappr oac hes
whic halsoin clude researchandfarmerorganisations’capac itybuildingcosts.
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of industrial agriculture. In 2002, the National Articulation of
Agroecology (ANA) emerged as an arena for movements,
networks and civil society organisations to promote and
share experiences of agroecology systems in practice.
Even the agri-business-oriented Brazilian Agricultural Research
Corporation (EMBRAPA) has programmes on agroecology
and collaborates with ABA and ANA on agroecology-based
research. The largest rural labour organisations in Brazil—the
Landless Worker’s Movement (MST), the National Confederation
of Rural Trade Unions (CONTAG) and the Federation of Family
Farmers (FETRAF)—have also been active, though to different
degrees, in promoting and pursuing agroecology in practice.
The MST has created 12 Agroecology Autonomous Schools,
as well as the Centro ‘Chico Mendez’ and the Escuela
Latinoamericana de Agroecologia in Parana. This type of
grassroots support from below has encouraged and
influenced policy implementation from above.
In practice, it is the small family farms which have
implemented agroecological techniques. Approximately
100,000 family farms have adopted agroecological farming
practices in Brazil today—showing average yield increases of
300 per cent and 100 per cent for black beans and corn, as
well as increasing resilience to irregular weather patterns
(Cohn et al., 2006).
Family farms in Brazil account for 84.4 per cent of all farm
production units but occupy just 24.3 per cent of the total
area of rural establishments.6 With an average farm size of
18.37 hectares, family farms employ 74.4 per cent of the total
agricultural workforce and produce 70 per cent of all food
products consumed by Brazilians daily (IBGE, 2009).
Although family farms do not guarantee agroecological
techniques, they are conducive to the development of an
agroecological model. Small farms are more productive in
terms of overall outputs per hectare, more efficient, diverse
and resource-conserving and employ more people. Due to
the inherent connection to the land that most family farms
have, they are also much better stewards of the environment
and natural resources.7 Supporting small family farms is,
therefore, an important component of agroecology. Due to
their increasing importance, the Brazilian government has
implemented several programmes specifically targeting
family agriculture within its overall national strategy on
food and nutritional security, Zero Hunger.
Under The Ministry of Agrarian Development (MDA), the
National Programme for the Strengthening of Family
Farming (PRONAF) provides access to low-interest credit for
family farmers. The Technical Assistance and Rural Extension
(ATER) programme provided technical support and extension
for 2.3 million families in 2010 (MDA, 2010). ATER provides
technical support for crop-diversification techniques and
irrigation systems and aims to strengthen productive
organisation and stimulate agroecology-based productive
systems. ATER also has a sectoral policy which specifically
focuses on support for women, which was established under
the National Technical Assistance and Rural Extension
Programme (PRONATER) in 2004. By 2009, 90 projects were
established through a R$16 million investment, benefiting
31,000 women (MDA, 2010).
Brazil’s Food Acquisition Programme (PAA) was launched
in 2003 to ensure the public purchase of family farming
products to meet the needs of populations facing food and
nutrition insecurity. Family farmers receive a fair price from
the federal government based on a regional market value
average. These products are then donated to people facing
food insecurity through schools, day care centres, shelters,
hostels, nursing homes, hospitals and NGOs. Between 2003
and 2009, 764,000 family farms participated in the PAA,
benefiting 7.5 million people per year (MDA, 2010).
To encourage agroecological-based production, the PAA
offers a 30 per cent price increase above the market average
to agroecological producers.
To further strengthen family farmers’ market access,
the School Meal Law of the National School Meal
Programme (PNAE) was established and passed in 2009,
which determines that at least 30 per cent of school meal
funds transferred by the National Education Development
Fund (FNDE) must be purchased from family farms. The PNAE
provides meals to public schools, feeding 47 million
students with crops from local family farmers.
Although these programmes exclusively support family
farms, they do not exclusively support agroecology.
However, they exemplify how agricultural policies can be
designed with a dual-track approach of supporting (family
farm) production and social protection for poor people.
Brazil has now successfully established the institutional
capacity to effectively implement such a strategy, and with a
few changes of increased incentives, support and protection
specifically for agroecological practices within the existing
framework, the country could further transform its family
farm agriculture into one based on agroecological practices.
In December 2011, the Brazilian Association for Agroecology
hosted the VII Brazilian Congress of Agroecology (CBA) in
Fortaleza. This brought together over 4000 participants
including the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food
Supply, farmer organisations, experts and academics to
discuss strategies for building policy to involve the public
and private sectors. Moreover, discussions regarding a
National Policy for Agroecology and Organic Production
are currently underway, with a workshop held in early March
2012 with numerous organisations led by ANA as well as
several governmental bodies such as MMA, MAP, MDS, MDA,
CONAB and INCRA.8 The coordinator of agroecology at the
Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (MAPA), Rogerio
Dias, also plans to address agroecology as a main subject at
the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in
Rio de Janeiro in June 2012.
Cuba
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Cuba lost its trade
preferences with the Soviet Bloc and entered its ‘Special
Period in Time of Peace’. With a substantial decrease in
trade, Cuba suffered an immediate decline in agricultural
production with the loss of petroleum-based imports,
machinery, fertilisers and pesticides (Altieri and Funes-
Monzote, 2012). From 1990 to 1993, Cuba’s Food Production
Index dropped by nearly 40 per cent, causing massive food
shortages across the country. Due to this crisis, the Cuban
National Programme of Action and Nutrition (PNAN) was
International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth
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Table 2
Support for Family Farming in Brazil
Source: MDA, 2010.
Pro gra mme Mand ate Res ults
NationalProgrammefor
theStre ngth eningof
FamilyFar mi ng
(PRONAF)
Provid esfourtypesofcreditlinesforfamilyfarmers
Defrayal
Investment
Agroindustry
Agroecology
PRO NAFfundsin2010–2011:R$16 billion
Aver ageloan:R$7478 perfamily
PRO NAFfinancedover2million
cont ractsin2009
Tech nicalAssistance and
RuralExtension
(ATER)
Provid estec hni ca lsupportandexte nsionforfamily
farmersandsmallfarmerssettledundertheland
refo rm progr amme
ATERfundsin2010:R$626million
ATERprovidesrura lex tens io nservicesto
ov er 2.3millionpe op l e
ATERSe ctor alPolicyfor
Wom en
Specificallydesignedforwomentostrengthen
pr od u cti v eorganisation,stimulateag roeco lo gyand
ecologicallybase dproductionan dincreaseaccessto
pu bl ic po li cies
By2009,31,000womenha dbenefittedfrom
ATE Rpr oj ects withR$16millionininvestments
FoodAcquisition
Programme(PAA)
Gover nmentpurchasesfooditemsdir e ct ly from
familyfarmersatasetfairprice(basedonre gi onal
marke taverage)anddist ributestope op l efacing
foodinsecurity.A30%priceincreaseisoffer edto
agroec ological producers
PAA2003–2009
76 4,0 00 fam i lyfarmparticipants(suppliers)
Annua lav erageincomefromPAA:
R$3900perfamily
Foodproductsprocured:2.5milliontons
PAAfundsforproc uringfood:R$2.7billion
Beneficiaries:7.5million/year
NationalSchoolMeal
Programme(PNAE)
SchoolMealLawrequiresthat30%ofschoolmeal
fundsmustcomefromlocalfamilyfar me rs
PN AEprovidesfoodfor47millionstudents
across Brazil
Ove ra llpotentialmarketforfamilyfar ms
with inthePNAEisR$1billion/year
Familyfarmscangenerateanestimated
R$9000/year
FamilyFar mi ng Insurance
(SEAF)
Ins uranc eschemewh ichcoverscroplosseswhich
exceed 30%ofaharvestduetonatur alevents
Since2004 SEAFhasassisted500,000 fa mi lie s
with pa ym e n ts amountingtoR$200million/year
Garantia Safra
(HarvestInsurance)
Designedforsmallfamilyfarmersproducinginnon
irrigatedareasmeasuringfrom0. 6to10hectares
locatedinsemiaridzonesofMinasGeraisand
no rt hregionofEspiritoSantastate
GarantiaSa fr a covers860municipalitiesand
assisted66 1, 00 0familyfar me rs in2009–2010
PriceGuarantee
ProgrammeforFamily
Farming(PGPAF)
Pr ot ect sfamilyfarmerbeneficiariesofPRO NAF ’s
defrayalandinvestmentlinesagainstpricevolatility
20 09 –20 10 :35cropswereinsured
Pri ceguarante ecoversuptoR$ 50 00
annuallyperbe ne fic iary
FamilyFar mi ng SealCertifiesproductsthatuseatleast51%ofraw
materialsprod ucedbyfamilyfarming
Benefitsthe4,36 7,902familyfar munitsinBrazil
with pr ef er r e dma rketac cess
established as a result of the International Nutrition
Conference in Rome in 1992. PNAN implemented a
widespread decentralisation of landholdings, management
and production. More autonomy was given to small
farmers and peasants—who, in the end, became
the key actors in the transformative process.
Farmers were forced to re-orient their agricultural production,
based on innovative methods of agroecology. Using a
model of agricultural development not based on chemical
fertilisers and heavy machinery, Cuba increased its food
production by 37 per cent from 1995 to 2004—an annual
average of 4.1 per cent—far surpassing the regional average
of 0 per cent during the same period (FAO, 2012). The Cuban
model of agroecology in both rural and urban areas has
produced impressive results—largely due to strong farmer-
to-farmer networks, organisation and the dissemination of
knowledge through participatory sharing organisations.
The Cuban Association of Agricultural and Forest Technicians
(ACTAF) was a key component of this agroecological movement,
providing training and extension based on their research
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activities. This research and technical advice was coupled
with strong peasant organisations such as the National
Association of Small Farmers (ANAP) and the Campesino-a-
Campesino (farmer-to-farmer) Agroecology Movement (MACAC).
During the ‘Special Period’, large farm estates were also
redistributed as Basic Units of Cooperative Production
(UBPCs) which gave usufruct rights to farmers who were
previously workers of state farm enterprises. Small family
farms that own their own land also established Credit
and Service Cooperatives (CCSs) in which family farms
collaborate and group together to achieve economies of
scale in marketing harvests, obtaining credit and sharing
equipment, knowledge and practices. Landless peasants also
joined together to form Agriculture Production Cooperatives
(CPAs) in which all assets, including the land, are owned
collectively (Rosset et al., 2011).
From 2000 to 2003 MACAC spread to all Cuban provinces
as a nationwide farmer-to-farmer network in affiliation
with ANAP, CPAs and CCSs. In 2009, about one third (110,000)
of family farmers had joined MACAC, with an additional
12,000 farmer-promoters, 3,000 facilitators and 170 coordinators
(Rosset et al., 2011). MACAC has proven to be one of the most
effective participatory farmer networks and has allowed
farmers to access support services and expert advice and
share production practices in an inclusive framework.
Family farms in Cuba occupy just 25 per cent of total arable
land and produce over 65 per cent of the domestic food
supply (Altieri and Toledo, 2011). Depending on the region,
it is estimated that 46–72 per cent of small family farms use
agroecological techniques. Not only have studies shown
that agroecological farming systems are more productive—
feeding 15–20 people per hectare per year—but they have
also proven to be more resilient during natural disasters.
After Hurricane Ike swept over the island in 2008,
agroecological farms suffered damage levels of around 50
per cent, while monocultures were nearly completely destroyed
at levels of 90–100 per cent (Altieri and Toledo, 2011).
Furthermore, Cuba has also been a leader in urban
agriculture. An estimated 383,000 urban farms cover 50,000
hectares of urban landscape and produce over 1.5 million
tons of vegetables. These urban farms, registering top yields
of 20 kg/m,2 are not only extremely productive but are also
using otherwise unused land for productive food security
measures (Altieri and Toledo, 2011).
The Cuban experience of agroecological production is very
different from that of Brazil. The ‘Special Period’ forced small
farmers to transform their agricultural practices as a matter
of necessity. Farmers and technicians came together to share
experiences, expertise and innovative ideas with strong
supportive organisations and networks. In Brazil the
government’s policy framework for family farming supports
agroecological practices, but not in any exclusive or favoured
manner. Brazil’s framework also encourages industrial
agriculture—based on external/chemical-dependent inputs—
much more than agroecology-based practices. Brazil’s policy
framework for supporting family farmers, as shown in
Table 2, does provide an opportunity for the government
to encourage agroecological practices with an incentive
structure emphasising this type of production. The growing
support among rural labour organisations is also beginning
to encourage pro-agroecology policies and incentives
for such practices.
IV. State and Societal Challenges and Policy
Implications for an Agroecological Food System
To implement an effective agroecological food system at the
local and national levels, the state and societal actors must
be proactive. The challenges include high degrees of
organisation and using social capital to create vibrant,
participatory environments. With support and investment
from the state, peasant organisations and networks can
build an effective agroecological food system, but many
challenges exist. The two country case studies examined
exemplify some of the key policy pathways that can be
implemented to encourage and support an agroecology-
based farming system.
First, the participatory nature of agroecological
systems requires inclusive, community-oriented arenas
for networking and sharing techniques. Localised
farmer-to-farmer networks are extremely important
for the dissemination of information between farmers
in similar agroecological zones. Highly organised peasant
organisations are crucial for the success of this interactive,
knowledge-sharing, peasant-led alternative. This requires
establishing, encouraging and supporting farmer-to-farmer
networks such as AS-PTA, ABA, ANA and MST in Brazil
and ANAP and MACAC in Cuba. Numerous other networks
around the world, such as La Via Campesina, consisting
of 148 organisations in 69 countries, are essential for
the dissemination of knowledge. These socially inclusive
environments allow farmers to share their regional
expertise in a participatory mode of learning.
Table 3
Change in Crop Production and Agrochemical Use in Cuba
Source: Altieri and Funes-Monzote, 2012.
Cro p Percentage
productionchange
Percentchange
inagrochemi caluse
1988 –199 41988–200719 88–2 007
Generalvegetables65+145‐72
Beans77+351‐55
Rootsandtubers42+145‐85
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Through the advancement of these participatory
networks, working groups and knowledge-sharing
initiatives, gender empowerment should be prioritised.
Identifying discrimination against women in agricultural
policies is an important issue.
The United Nation’s Special Rapporteur to the Right to Food,
Olivier de Schutter, has noted that despite the numerous
obstacles faced by women in rural areas, gender issues are
incorporated in less than 10 per cent of development
assistance in agriculture. Moreover, women farmers receive
just five per cent of agricultural extension services
worldwide (de Schutter, 2011).
Programmes such as Brazil’s ATER Sectoral Policy for Women
can work to address this bias through an agroecology-based
framework. Through these participatory initiatives and
practices, women can be further empowered through
socially inclusive policies and programmes.
Equally as important as peasant participation and
networking are the infrastructure and support services
available to rural livelihoods. Smallholders and cooperatives
pursing agroecological practices must have the proper
infrastructure and support services to work, use their
resources effectively and efficiently and access local markets.
Key services such as infrastructure (roads, electricity and
irrigation systems) and extension and access to credit,
insurance and distribution channels are necessary
components to support rural smallholder livelihoods.
In Brazil and Cuba, support for family farmers through
credit access programmes (PRONAF, CCS), technical assistance
(ATER, ACTAF, CAC), insurance (SEAF, Garantia-Safra, PGPAF)
and access to channels of distribution (PAA, PNAE, CPA) are
critical components of an agroecology-based farm system.
To further encourage a national model of agricultural
development based on agroecology, these policies
and programmes could offer increased incentives for
agroecological practices and offer programmes of credit
access, technical assistance, insurance and distribution
channels exclusively for agroecology-based family farmers.
Of particular importance is the need for market access.
The conventional agro-industrial model practised today is
dominated by a few large corporations controlling the
distribution channels between farmers and consumers—
shaping the current food system like an hourglass.
These intermediaries more often than not purchase crops
at (unfair) low prices and sell them to consumers at unfair
(high) prices. This exploitation should be co-opted by the
government by replacing private intermediaries with state-
run marketing and distribution agencies. Market access
programmes such as Brazil’s PAA and PNAE provide family
farms with guaranteed market access. Other programmes
such as the Family Farm Seal and PGPAF give family farms
guaranteed price support for their crops and recognition as
a family farm producer. These government-subsidised food
programmes could easily be adjusted to further encourage
agroecological farming practices by offering better prices
for agroecology-based production.
As emphasised throughout, agroecology is a knowledge-
intensive practice. This requires investment in research and
education and the dissemination of that research and know-
how to farmer-to-farmer networks. Prioritising agroecology
as a model for rural development will also lessen
dependence on highly expensive industrial agriculture
inputs such as chemical-based pesticides and fertilisers, as
well as genetically modified (GMO) seeds. Redirecting this
investment to applied research, education and developing
innovative technologies with the help of farmers, scientists,
academics, agricultural economists and other experts in the
field will create a vibrant environment for new
developments and knowledge-sharing.
A global food system which leaves one in seven people
hungry every day is unacceptable. It is clear that the way
in which we produce and distribute food today is not only
ineffective at feeding the world’s population, it is destroying
our natural environment and using natural resources at
unsustainable rates. However, there is a solution gaining
ground which has proved to be successful at the local level.
The agroecological food system has proven to be
productive, resource-conserving, socially inclusive and
highly sustainable. Agricultural policies directed at local-level
agroecological development will have long-lasting, highly
contagious positive effects for local populations and
increase food security in a sustainable manner.
1. See, for example, Altieri, M. and Nicholis, C. (2005). Agroecology and the Search for a
Truly Sustainable Agriculture. Mexico, UNEP; Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
(2007). ‘Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (SARD)’, Policy Brief 11.
Rome, FAO; International Assessment of Agricultural Kn owledge, Science and Technology
for Development (IAASTD)( 2008). Summary for Decision Makers of the Global Report
approved by 58 governments in Johannesburg, April 2008. Washington, DC, IAASTD; de
Schutter, O. (2010). Report submitted by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food,
Olivier De Schutter, United Nations Human Rights Council, 16th session, agenda item 3.
New York, United Nations General Assembly.
2. See, for example, Pretty, J. N., Noble, A. D., Bossio, D., Dixon, J., Hine, R. E., Penning de
Vries, F. W. T. and Morison J. I. L. (2006). ‘Resource-Conserving Agriculture Increases Yields
in Developing Countries’, Environmental Science and Technology 40 (4), 1114–1119; and
Pretty, J. et al. (2011)‘Sustainable intensification of African Agriculture’, International
Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, 9 (1).
3. For a thorough review of agroecology as a concept, science and practice, see Wezel et
al. (2009). ‘Agroecology as a science, a movement and a practice: a review’, Agronomy
for Sustainable Development, Vol. 29, 503–515.
4. The ‘inverse relationship between farm size and output’ is widely recognised by
agricultural economists; see Barret, C. (1993). ‘On Price Risk and the Inverse Farm
Size–Productivity Relationship’, Staff Paper Series no. 369. Madison, WI, University
of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Agricultural Economics; Ellis, F. (1993). Peasant
Economics: Farm Households and Agrarian Development, 2nd Edition. Cambridge,
Cambridge University Press; Rosset, P. (1999). ‘The Multiple Functions and Benefits of
Small Farm Agriculture in the Context of Global Trade Negotiations’, FAO/Netherlands
Conference on the Multifunctional Character of Agriculture and Land. Oakland, CA,
FoodFirst; Deninger, K. (1999). Making Negotiated Land Reform Work: Initial Experience
from Columbia, Brazil and South Africa. Washington, DC, The World Bank; Binswanger, H.
P., Deininger, K. and Feder, G. (1995). ‘Power, Distortions, R evolt and Reform in
Agricultural Land Relations’ in J. Behrman and T.N. Srinivasan (eds), Handbook of
Development Economics, Volume III. Amsterdam, Elsevier Science B.V.
5. See Table 1.
6. A family farm is predominantly operated by a family and can be no greater
than four fiscal modules (Law No. 11,326 of 24 July 2006).
7. See, for example, Holt-Gimenez, E. and Shattuck, A. (2009). Smallholder Solutions
to Hunger, Poverty and Climate Change. Oakland, CA, ActionAid International
and FoodFirst.
8. For more information, refer to document discussing a National Policy for Agroecology
available at <http://www.agroecologia.org.br/temas-prioritarios/politicas-publicas-
com-enfoque-agroecologico/Documento%20subsidio%20da%20
ANA%20Politica%20Nacional%20de%20Agroecologia%20fev%202012.doc/view>.
Ben McKay, Visiting Researcher at the International Policy Center
for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG) in Brasilia.
Email: Benedict.mckay@gmail.com
The views expressed in this brief are the authors’ and not necessarily those of the Government of Brazil or the United Nations Development Programme.
International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth
Esplanada dos Ministérios, Bloco O, 7º andar
70052-900 Brasilia, DF - Brazil
Telephone +55 61 2105 5000
E-mail: ipc@ipc-undp.org URL: www.ipc-undp.org
References:
Altieri, M. and Funes-Monzote, F. (2012). ‘The Paradox of Cuban Agriculture’, Monthly Review, 63 (8).
Altieri, M. and Toledo, V. M. (2011). ‘The agroecological revolution in Latin America: rescuing nature,
ensuring food sovereignty and empowering peasants, Journal of Peasant Studies, 38 (3), 587–612.
Cohn, A., Cook, J., Fernandez, M., Reider, R. and Steward, C. (2006). Agroecology and the Struggle for Food Sovereignty
in the Americas. International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), the Yale School of Forestry and the
Environmental Studies (Yale F&ES) and the IUCN Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy (CEESP).
De Schutter, O. (2010). Report submitted by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter,
United Nations Human Rights Council, 16th session, agenda item 3. New York, United Nations General Assembly.
Food and Agriculture Organization (2011). ‘Agriculture and Greenhouse Gases: FAO’s approach to addressing the unique
challenges faced by agricultural statisticians’. Rome, FAO, <http://typo3.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/ess/pages/rural/
wye_city_group/2011/documents/session4/Tubiello__Mayo__Salvatore_-_Paper.pdf> (accessed 7 February 2012).
Food and Agriculture Organization (2012). ‘Hunger Statistics’. Rome, FAO, <http://www.fao.org/hunger/en/>
(accessed 7 February 2012).
Instituto Brasileiro de Geographia e Estatistica (IBGE) (2009). ‘Censo agropecuario 2006’. Rio de Janeiro, IBGE.
<http://www.ibge.gov.br/home/estatistica/economia/agropecuaria/censoagro/agri_familiar_2006/
familia_censoagro2006.pdf> (accessed 9 February 2012).
Ministry of Agrarian Development (MDA) (2010). A new rural Brazil. Brasilia, MDA.
Pretty, J. N., Noble, A. D., Bossio, D., Dixon, J., Hine, R. E., Penning de Vries, F. W. T. and Morison J. I. L. (2006).
‘Resource-Conserving Agriculture Increases Yields in Developing Countries’, Environmental Science and
Technology 40 (4), 1114–1119.
Rosset, P., Sosa, B. M., Jaime, A. M. R. and Lozano, D. R. A. (2011) ‘The Campesino-to-Campesino agroecology movement
of ANAP in Cuba: social process methodology in the construction of sustainable peasant agriculture and food
sovereignty’, Journal of Peasant Studies, 38 (1), 161–191.
United Nations Environment Programme (2009). The environmental food crisis—The environment’s role in averting
future food crises. Nairobi, UNEP.
World Bank (2007). World Development Report 2008: Agriculture for Development. Washington, DC,
The World Bank Group.
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... Thus, participation and collaboration are inherent to the nature of agroecology, and are essential for upscaling it. In particular, the creation of networks could facilitate the access of farmers to markets, or the generation of bottomup policies (Altieri, Funes-Monzote, and Petersen 2012;Holt-Giménez and Altieri 2013;McKay 2012). ...
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... An acute awareness of energy use and energy production is a characteristic of most of these alternatives. These knowledge-based agro-ecological alternatives ensure employment, and the generation of rural purchasing power and aggregate demand (UN-HRC, 2010;mCkay, 2012;SCrieCiu, 2011). They use their systems perspectives and capacities within communities and networks to build resilience and handle stress. ...
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2 CD-ROM: 1978-1999 and 1978-2010 (Archives: ask a librarian / En archives: demander au Centre de documentation)
Report submitted by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food United Nations Human Rights Council, 16 th session, agenda item 3Agriculture and Greenhouse Gases: FAO's approach to addressing the unique challenges faced by agricultural statisticians
  • De Schutter
De Schutter, O. (2010). Report submitted by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, United Nations Human Rights Council, 16 th session, agenda item 3. New York, United Nations General Assembly. Food and Agriculture Organization (2011). 'Agriculture and Greenhouse Gases: FAO's approach to addressing the unique challenges faced by agricultural statisticians'. Rome, FAO, <http://typo3.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/ess/pages/rural/ wye_city_group/2011/documents/session4/Tubiello__Mayo__Salvatore_-_Paper.pdf> (accessed 7 February 2012).
Agroecology and the Struggle for Food Sovereignty in the Americas
  • A Cohn
  • J Cook
  • M Fernandez
  • R Reider
  • C Steward
Cohn, A., Cook, J., Fernandez, M., Reider, R. and Steward, C. (2006). Agroecology and the Struggle for Food Sovereignty in the Americas. International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), the Yale School of Forestry and the Environmental Studies (Yale F&ES) and the IUCN Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy (CEESP).
The environmental food crisis—The environment's role in averting future food crises
United Nations Environment Programme (2009). The environmental food crisis—The environment's role in averting future food crises. Nairobi, UNEP.
Agroecology and the Search for a Truly Sustainable Agriculture. Mexico, UNEP; Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
  • See
  • M Altieri
  • C Nicholis
See, for example, Altieri, M. and Nicholis, C. (2005). Agroecology and the Search for a Truly Sustainable Agriculture. Mexico, UNEP; Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) (2007). 'Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (SARD)', Policy Brief 11.
Visiting Researcher at the International Policy Center for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG) in Brasilia
  • Ben Mckay
Ben McKay, Visiting Researcher at the International Policy Center for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG) in Brasilia.
  • See
  • J N Pretty
  • A D Noble
  • D Bossio
  • J Dixon
  • R E Hine
  • F W T Penning De Vries
  • J I L Morison
  • J Pretty
See, for example, Pretty, J. N., Noble, A. D., Bossio, D., Dixon, J., Hine, R. E., Penning de Vries, F. W. T. and Morison J. I. L. (2006). 'Resource-Conserving Agriculture Increases Yields in Developing Countries', Environmental Science and Technology 40 (4), 1114–1119; and Pretty, J. et al. (2011)'Sustainable intensification of African Agriculture', International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, 9 (1).