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This article briefly traces the origins of agroecology in Latin America, and its application by nongovernmental organizations in rural development, its evolution and contributions in academia, and its adoption and dissemination by social rural movements.
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Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems
ISSN: 2168-3565 (Print) 2168-3573 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/wjsa21
Agroecology: a brief account of its origins and
currents of thought in Latin America
Miguel A. Altieri & Clara I. Nicholls
To cite this article: Miguel A. Altieri & Clara I. Nicholls (2017) Agroecology: a brief account of its
origins and currents of thought in Latin America, Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems,
41:3-4, 231-237, DOI: 10.1080/21683565.2017.1287147
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/21683565.2017.1287147
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Agroecology: a brief account of its origins and currents
of thought in Latin America
Miguel A. Altieri
a
and Clara I. Nicholls
b
a
Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California Berkeley,
Berkeley, California, USA;
b
International and Area Studies, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley,
California, USA
ABSTRACT
This article briefly traces the origins of agroecology in Latin
America, and its application by nongovernmental organiza-
tions in rural development, its evolution and contributions in
academia, and its adoption and dissemination by social rural
movements.
KEYWORDS
Agroecology; Latin America;
peasant agriculture; social
rural movements
On the origins of agroecology
Although it is correct that the term agroecology can be traced back to
agronomists such as Bensin (Russia) and Hénin (France), the German ecol-
ogist/zoologist Tischler (Wezel et al. 2009), as well as Italian scientists Azzi
(1928) and Draghetti (1948), agroecologys re-emergence in the late 1970s
and early 1980s occurred in Latin America influenced by a number of
intellectual currents (anthropology, ethnoecology, rural sociology, develop-
ment studies, and ecological economics) that enriched the intellectual pedi-
gree of agroecology thus far dominated by agronomy and ecology. Since the
1980s, agroecologists have valued and sought to better understand the
experiential agroecological knowledge of farmers as a necessary component
to develop a more sustainable agriculture. This was clearly illustrated in
Gliessmans early work (Gliessman 2016; Gliessman, Garcia, and Amador
1981) in the Mexican tropics which focused on understanding the ecological
bases of traditional Mexican agriculture, and which drew from the scholar-
ship of Efraím Hernández-Xolocotzi (Duch 1985). This empirical informa-
tion, based on observation and practice, and which also integrates cultural
aspects, was viewed as a source of knowledge to conceptualize and apply
agroecology (Méndez, Bacon, and Cohen 2013). The contributions of Toledo
and Barrera-Bassols (2009) on ethnoecology describe how indigenous knowl-
edge about nature formed the base on which agricultural knowledge was of
great importance. Such knowledge led to complex farming systems, adapted
CONTACT Miguel A. Altieri agroeco3@berkeley.edu Department of Environmental Science, Policy and
Management, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.
Part of the special issue A Brief History of Agroecology in Spain and Latin America.
AGROECOLOGY AND SUSTAINABLE FOOD SYSTEMS
2017, VOL. 41, NOS. 34, 231237
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/21683565.2017.1287147
© 2017 Taylor & Francis
to the local conditions, which over centuries have helped small farmers to
sustainably manage harsh environments and to meet their subsistence needs,
without depending on mechanization, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or
other technologies of modern agricultural science.
Several tropical ecologists working in the Latin American tropics warned
that replacement of polycultures used by traditional farmers by monocultures
enhanced the possibilities for deforestation, soil erosion, nutrient depletion
disease and pest incidence, loss of genetic diversity, etc. (Dickinson 1972;
Igzoburike 1971; Janzen 1973). A central idea of many ecologists was that a
tropical agroecosystem should mimic the functioning of local ecosystems,
thus exhibiting tight nutrient cycling, complex structure, and enhanced
biodiversity. The expectation is that such agricultural mimics, like their
natural models, can be productive, pest-resistant, and conservative of nutri-
ents (Ewel 1986).
Agroecology and rural development
During the last two decades of the 20th century, Latin America was the world
region were agroecology expanded rapidly, initially adopted by hundreds of
NGOs concerned with the ecological and social consequences of the Green
Revolution (Altieri 1999). NGOs felt the urgent need to combat rural poverty
and to conserve and regenerate the deteriorated resource base of small farms,
and saw in agroecology a new approach to agricultural research and resource
management strategies that lent itself to a more participatory approach for
technology development and dissemination (Altieri 2002). Agroecologists
argued that to be of benefit to the rural poor, agricultural research and
development should operate on the basis of a bottom-upapproach, using
and building upon the resources already available: local people, their knowl-
edge, and their autochthonous natural resources.
Many agroecologists quickly recognized that the inventive self-reliance
of rural populations is a resource that must be urgently and effectively
mobilized. Today, hundreds of agroecologically based projects have been
promoted by NGOs throughout Latin America which incorporate ele-
ments of both traditional knowledge and modern agricultural science
(Altieri and Toledo 2011). Technological approaches emphasizing diver-
sity,synergy,recyclingandintegration,andsocialprocessesthatvalue
community involvement and participation point to the fact that human
resource development is the cornerstone of any strategy aimed at increas-
ing options for rural people and especially resource-poor farmers. The
growth and impact of the Campesino and Campesino (farmer to farmer)
movement in Central America and Mexico and later in Cuba is a testa-
ment of the impact of the mobilization of peasant creativity (Holt-
Gimenez 2006).
232 M. A. ALTIERI AND C. I. NICHOLLS
The Consorcio LatinoAmericano de Agroecologia y Desarrollo (CLADES),
a network of NGOs led by the Centro de Educacion y Tecnologia (CET) in
Chile, Centro de Investigacion, Educacion y Desarrollo in Peru, and
Agricultura Familiar e Agroecologia in Brazil, played a key role in capacity
building on agroecology of hundreds of NGO technicians and peasant
promoters which in turn disseminated agroecological principles and practices
which crystallized in a variety of projects featuring resource-conserving yet
highly productive systems (Altieri 1999). In general, data show that over time
these agroecologically managed systems exhibit stable levels of total produc-
tion per unit area, produce economically favorable rates of return, provide a
return to labor and other inputs sufficient for a livelihood acceptable to small
farmers and their families, and ensure soil protection and conservation as
well as enhanced biodiversity (Altieri and Nicholls 2012).
The academic growth of agroecology
At the end of the 1970s, Steve Gliessman and his group offered what may be
considered the first course on agroecology at the Colegio Superior de
Agricultura Tropical in Tabasco, Mexico, followed by a similar course taught
by Ivan Zuluaga and Miguel Altieri at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia
in Palmira, emphasizing an ecological approach to agriculture. After the
publication in 1982 of the Spanish version of Agroecology: the scientific
basis of alternative agriculture(Altieri 1987), interest in agroecology grew
rapidly especially among agronomists who started to see the value of ecology
in guiding agricultural design and management and also by some ecologists
who began to use the agricultural systems as study plots to test various
ecological hypothesis. Other books although not directly related to agroecol-
ogy (Gasto 1979; Montaldo 1982; Primavesi 1982; Hart 1985; among others)
reinforced the foundations of the new emerging agroecological science.
In 1992, CLADES was instrumental in developing a course to train
young university professors who later on introduced agroecology into the
agricultural curriculum of their institutions as well as developed research
programs that are still active (M. Astier and J. Sanchez in Mexico, S.
Sarandon in Argentina, J. Rodrigiez and A. Contreras in Chile, I.
GazzanoinUruguay,G.GuzmaninSpain,S.SiurainPeru,tonamea
few). Many agroecologists affiliated with CLADES supported the graduate
programs on agroecology developed by Eduardo Sevilla Guzmán at the
Universidad de Cordoba and Universidad Internacional de Andalucia in
Spain. This group developed the theoretical framework of the sociological
dimensions of agroecology (Sevilla and Woodgate 2013). Many students of
this program created important university initiatives in Bolivia, Brazil, and
Mexico,andsomesuchasF.Caporal,A.Costabeber,J.C.Canuto,E.
Mussoi, and others tailored extension programs with an agroecological
AGROECOLOGY AND SUSTAINABLE FOOD SYSTEMS 233
approach directed at family farmers in many parts of Brazil. M. Gonzalez
de Molina and G. Guzmán have continued educational and research
initiatives in Spain which continue to impact the agroecological formation
of dozens of young professionals each year.
In the late 1990s, Peter Rosset, then at Food First, published the book
The greening of the revolution(Rosset and Benjamin 1994) which narrated
the efforts of Cuban scientists linked to ACAO (then Asociacion Cubana de
Agricultura Organica later absorbed by ACTAF-Asociacion Cubana de
Tecnicos Agricolas y Forestales) who together with many farmers offered a
technological production alternative during a time when the Soviet subsidy
in the form of petroleum, pesticides, and fertilizers was coming to an abrupt
end. Cuban researchers such as R. Garcia, F. Funes, M. Monzote, N. Perez, L.
Garcia, and others shared with the rest of Latin America their advances and
innovations (Funes et al. 2002).
The academic current of agroecology was consolidated at the regional
level, with the creation in 2007 of the Latin American Scientific Society of
Agroecology (SOCLA) which created two doctoral agroecology programs: at
the Universidad de Antioquia in Colombia with the collaboration of C.
Nicholls, T. Leon, S. Marquez, and G. Guzman and at the Universidad
Nacional Agraria de Nicaragua under the leadership of F. Salmeron. Both
doctoral programs have led to the formation of a high-level critical mass of
agroecologists. In collaboration with Centro para la Investigacon en Sistemas
Sostenibles de Produccion Agropecuaria (CIPAVwww.cipav.org.co) and
other organizations such as Swiss Aid in Nicaragua, Universidad Federal de
Santa Catarina in Brazil, CET-Yumbel in Chile, etc., SOCLA organizes
several short courses on agroecology that reach hundreds of people on a
yearly basis.
SOCLA also created regional research programs, such as the Red
IberoAmericana de Agroecologia para el Desarrollo de Sistemas Agricolas
Rsilientes al Cambio Climatico (REDAGRES-www.redagres.org), which
explore agroecological strategies to enhance the resiliency of farming
systems to climate change. SOCLA maintains an active publishing record
with numerous books and articles published in various journals (www.
socla.co).
SOCLA collaborates with several universities, as well as research and
extension institutions in the region, and has close links with agroecologists
in Europe and North America, and through alliances with the Third
World Network offered training courses in Africa and Asia. SOCLA also
collaborates with farmersorganizations such as the Via Campesina and
organizations at the national level (Asociación Nacional de Agricultores
Pequeños (Cuba), Asociación Nacional de Productores Ecológicos (Peru),
Federación Nacional Sindical Unitaria Agropecuaria (Colombia), and
others).
234 M. A. ALTIERI AND C. I. NICHOLLS
Agroecology and rural social movements
Early on, many agroecologists embraced the critiques of top-down rural
development and recognized and supported the peasantry in their new role
in the resistance against the advancement of industrial agriculture and
neoliberal policies. These political dimensions in agricultural research and
development contributed to the jumpof agroecology from academic insti-
tutions and development NGOs, to becoming a strategic ideological element
in agrarian social movements. Many organized peasant and indigenous-based
agrarian movements, that is, the Via Campesina, espouse a more militant
conception of agroecologyand consider that only by changing the export-
led, free-trade based, industrial agriculture model of large farms can the
downward spiral of poverty, low wages, ruralurban migration, hunger,
and environmental degradation be halted. These movements embrace the
concept of agroecology as a pillar of food sovereignty which focuses on local
autonomy, local markets, and community action for access and control of
land, water, agrobiodiversity, etc., which are of central importance for com-
munities to be able to produce food locally (Rosset and Martínez-Torres
2012).
Closing remarks
The expansion of agroecology in Latin America initiated an interesting
process of cognitive, technological, and sociopolitical innovation, intimately
linked to new political scenarios such as the emergence of progressive
governments and resistance movements of peasants and indigenous people.
Thus, a new agroecological scientific and technological paradigm is being
built in constant reciprocity with social movements and political processes.
The technological dimension of the agroecological revolution emerges from
the fact that contrary to Green Revolution approaches that emphasized seed-
chemical packages and magic bulletrecipes, agroecology works with prin-
ciples that take multiple technological forms according to the local socio-
economic needs of farmers and their biophysical circumstances.
Agroecological innovations are born in situ with the participation of
farmers in a horizontal (not vertical) manner, and technologies are not
standardized but rather flexible and respond and adapt to each particular
situation.
There are many epistemological innovations that have characterized the
agroecological movement in the region (Altieri and Toledo 2011), including:
agroecology integrates natural and social processes joining political
ecology, ecological economics, and ethnoecology among the hybrid
disciplines;
AGROECOLOGY AND SUSTAINABLE FOOD SYSTEMS 235
it uses a holistic approach; therefore, it has long been considered as a
transdiscipline that integrates the advances and methods of several other
forms of knowledge around the concept of the agroecosystem viewed as
a socioecological system;
it is not neutral and is self-reflexive, giving rise to a critique of the
conventional agricultural paradigm;
it recognizes and values local wisdom and traditions, creating a dialogue
with local actors via participatory research that leads to a constant
creation of new knowledge;
it adopts a long-term vision that sharply contrasts with the short-term
and atomistic view of conventional agronomy; and
it is a science that carries an ecological and social ethics with the goal of
creating nature-friendly and socially just production systems.
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AGROECOLOGY AND SUSTAINABLE FOOD SYSTEMS 237
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... Agroecology is the name given to science developed from ancestral knowledge and traditional agricultural systems that, for centuries, Indigenous people and local communities have used to deal with hostile environments. They have been practising sustainable agriculture to feed their communities without depending on mechanisation, chemicals, or other modern science technologies (Altieri & Nicholls, 2017). But agroecology is not only an agricultural practice; it is also a way of being, understanding, living, and feeling the world (Giraldo & Rosset, 2018). ...
... Agroecology has been recognised as a social and political movement, an agricultural practice, and a scientific discipline (Altieri & Toledo, 2011;Wezel et al., 2009). As a social movement, it has been developing on different fronts against the economic, social, and ecological costs originated by agroindustry (Altieri & Nicholls, 2017;M endez et al., 2013). It has been pressing to transform the neoliberal discourse on food security towards a focus on food sovereignty (Altieri & Toledo, 2011;Mart ınez-Torres & Rosset, 2014). ...
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Chapter
Eighteen megadiversity countries are home to 70% of the species in the world. They also host more than 64% of the languages spoken on the planet. This paper builds on this strong correlation to argue that diversity of cultures is an expression of biological diversity. These two components of diversity must, therefore, be treated jointly by science, policy and practice to a much greater extent than is currently the case. We also present the risks and opportunities for the megadiversity countries from scientific, socioeconomic and political viewpoints.
... Long-standing practices of ecological agriculture by many Indigenous and campesino farmers in Latin America-and their resistance to the expansion and intensification of industrial agriculture-provided the basis for the institutionalized and technical agroecology that became more visible in the 1980s and 1990s (Sevilla Guzmán 2015). Perceived as more knowledge-intensive and less resource-intensive than industrial agriculture (Anderson et al. 2018;Marchetti et al. 2020), agroecology takes a bottom-up approach, relying on the knowledge and natural resources of local communities for agricultural production (Altieri and Nicholls 2018). Agroecology is increasingly recognized as a foundation for transforming entire agrifood systems, through reconciling environmental, economic, and social dimensions of sustainability (Gliessman 2020). ...
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Rosario, Argentina, a city of more than one million people strategically located on the Paraná River in the heart of a fertile agricultural region, is home to a significant industrial corridor where ongoing urbanization for industry, including that associated with the port complex and agroexport industries, vies for real estate space with peri-urban and urban farming production. The city is also the site of thriving municipal programs seeking to change food production and consumption outcomes through urban and peri-urban agriculture projects rooted in agroecology. This paper identifies the socio-natures critical for the formation and endurance of these agroecology assemblages. Based on interviews with 30 stakeholders in government, civil society, and agricultural production, we describe the integrated approach to environmental, social, and economic sustainability embedded in Rosario’s institutional agroecology programs. In particular, we discuss the actors and strategies (which seek to preserve land for agricultural uses), discursive renderings of socio-natures (as valuable biodiverse territories and productive diverse bodies), and the marketing of agroecological materialities (through production for public markets) that form and are formed by these assemblages. We also discuss the power dynamics embedded in sustaining urban and peri-urban agroecological projects through institutional means. This research contributes to literature on agroecology, urban agriculture, and the urban metabolism through providing empirical examples of socio-natural entanglements in urban agroecological assemblages.
... Acknowledging the economic dominance of the agribusiness and food empires over alternative social regimes and modes of agriculture, Brazil's Zero Hunger FAP emerged as a social/political response to some of the uneven consequences of historical processes of global capitalism: the marginalisation of non-industrial and non-financial modes of agriculture, such as domestic, civic, and aesthetic modes of agriculture. These alternatives encompass what has been referred to as more sustainable, adapted, or locally-embedded food systems, which includes ecological agriculture, or agroecology, along with the promotion of food sovereignty and security, defence of peasant identities and diversities, short-circuits of commercialisation, and traditional and localised products, adapted to local cultural and environmental identities (Chambers and Conway, 1991;McMichael, 2008;Pretty, 2008;Jackson et al., 2010;Martínez-Torres and Rosset, 2010;Garnett, 2014;Blesh and Wittman, 2015;Daw et al., 2015;Altieri and Nicholls, 2017;Niederle, 2017). ...
Thesis
This thesis examines the politics and impacts of mediated markets for rural development in light of the austerity regime recently established in Brazil. Theory and praxis tend to overlook relational complexities between rural people and the state and their interplay with livelihood opportunities and self-reported wellbeing. Focused on Brazil’s Fome Zero Food Acquisition Programme, we analyse the political economy surrounding its establishment and subsequent retrenchment and the impacts of this rise and fall on rural people in two contrasting study areas. Paying attention to geographical, economic and demographic differences, we adapt political ecology and livelihood frameworks to investigate how peasants in São Paulo and Amazonas have coped with austerity. The research uncovers an underlying tension in nested markets for rural development, in which principles of equity and social justice are to some extent subsumed as policy principles by a modernisation project represented by a ‘pedagogy of marketisation’. Under this project, rural people are encouraged to move away from community self-provisioning to a market economy - which would transform them from being people belonging to the country (peasants or camponeses) into workers or controllers of the land (family farmers or rural entrepreneurs). This tension threatens to absorb peasants into the corporate food regime and undermine ecological and cultural diversity. Our findings suggest a complex set of impacts such as income-poverty alleviation, progress towards gender equality but limited effects on structural inequality or market integration. The significance of this thesis is that it informs our theoretical understanding of rural development through nested markets by introducing a political economy/ecology focus hitherto lacking – and informs our empirical understanding of wellbeing, public procurement, food, agrarian, environmental and social policy. Keywords: Rural Development; Nested Markets; Public Procurement; Food Acquisition Programme; Brazil.
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Contrarily to “nation-based” or “classic” internationalism, internationalism as political praxis today shows a dynamic relationship between different scales of action that influence each other, notably according to structural changes in the social, cultural, and political-economic system. Furthermore, it differs from classic internationalism in focusing on different political struggles and debates, mobilizing more horizontal methods of organization, acknowledging a diversity of tactics, embracing a larger set of political principles and struggles (going beyond class to address the environment, race, and gender), and being more concerned with empowerment than with taking power. What is more, although contemporary internationalism is still guided by “socialism,” the term is loosely defined, allowing for ideological plurality based on political experimentation. Ao contrário do internacionalismo baseado na nação ou “clássico”, o internacionalismo como práxis política hoje mostra uma relação dinâmica entre diferentes escalas de ação que se influenciam mutuamente, notadamente de acordo com as mudanças estruturais no sistema social, cultural e político-econômico. Além disso, concentra-se em diferentes lutas e debates políticos do internacionalismo clássico, mobiliza métodos mais horizontais de organização, reconhece a diversidade de táticas, abraça um conjunto maior de princípios e lutas políticas (indo além da classe para abordar o meio ambiente, raça e gênero), e está mais preocupado com o empoderamento do que com a tomada de poder. Além disso, embora o internacionalismo contemporâneo ainda seja guiado pelo “socialismo”, o termo é vagamente definido, permitindo a pluralidade ideológica baseada na experimentação política.
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Given the multi-benefits, enset cultivation has been continuously underutilized in Ethiopia. We assess best practices, processing technologies, environmental maintenance, multi-benefits of enset and its potency in hunger reduction in Ethiopia by reviewing evidence on good farm practices, improved technologies, sustainability, hunger reduction, inputs cost, and yields advantage of enset. The review results identify those best practices that optimize enset yield, technologies that facilitate extension services, processing and food qualities of enset. Moreover, we find that enset is a first-rated climate-smart crop, superior hunger solution because of its apparent capability to endure long periods (more than 5 years) of drought, highest yield, energy food supply, and costs advantages. In contrast, its long-period maturity, cultural perceptions, and little development policy attention given to enset limit its expansion. Therefore, exploring and creating universal access mechanism of early maturing and high-yielding varieties, processing technologies and mobile-based advices, involving best practices of enset in regular agricultural extension services, changing social perceptions optimize enset yield and production thereby it contributes environmental sustainability and cuts hunger challenges.
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This article provides a historical account of the emergence of crop ecology, a precursor of modern agroecology, in the twentieth century. It focuses on the transnational career of agronomist Ioannis Papadakis, a founding figure in this scientific discipline, while contextualizing his work as part of broader state-led projects of agricultural modernization in Europe and Latin America. This study has two implications concerning the history of agroecology. First, that agricultural productivism and a cosmopolitan outlook on plant breeding, often considered to be at odds with agroecology’s principles, were in fact necessary elements for the emergence of crop ecology, and therefore of agroecological thought more generally. Second, we argue that the excesses of the Green Revolution, against which agroecology reacted in the last decades of the twentieth century, did not just stem from a disregard for the agricultural knowledge of indigenous peasants. They also resulted from the marginalization of intellectual dispositions that had taken shape in peripheral areas within the global geography of scientific production. A third implication, specific to the history of Greek agriculture, is that the claim that interwar Greece’s rural economy failed to substantially develop needs to be nuanced when the priorities of Greek agronomists are taken into consideration.
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Agroecology involves various approaches to solve actual challenges of agricultural production. Though agroecology initially dealt primarily with crop production and protection aspects, in recent decades new dimensions such as environmental, social, economic, ethical and development issues are becoming relevant. Today, the term 'agroecology' means either a scientific discipline, agricultural practice, or political or social movement. Here we study the different meanings of agroecology. For that we analyse the historical development of agroecology. We present examples from USA, Brazil, Germany, and France. We study and discuss the evolution of different meanings agroecology. The use of the term agroecology can be traced back to the 1930s. Until the 1960s agroecology referred only as a purely scientific discipline. Then, different branches of agroecology developed. Following environmental movements in the 1960s that went against industrial agriculture, agroecology evolved and fostered agroecological movements in the 1990s. Agroecology as an agricultural practice emerged in the 1980s, and was often intertwined with movements. Further, the scales and dimensions of agroecological investigations changed over the past 80 years from the plot and field scales to the farm and agroecosystem scales. Actually three approaches persist: ( 1) investigations at plot and field scales, ( 2) investigations at the agroecosystem and farm scales, and ( 3) investigations covering the whole food system. These different approaches of agroecological science can be explained by the history of nations. In France, agroecology was mainly understood as a farming practice and to certain extent as a movement, whereas the corresponding scientific discipline was agronomy. In Germany, agroecology has a long tradition as a scientific discipline. In the USA and in Brazil all three interpretations of agroecology occur, albeit with a predominance of agroecology as a science in the USA and a stronger emphasis on movement and agricultural practice in Brazil. These varied meanings of the term agroecology cause confusion among scientists and the public, and we recommend that those who publish using this term be explicit in their interpretation.
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The Green Revolution not only failed to ensure safe and abundant food production for all people, but it was launched under the assumptions that abundant water and cheap energy to fuel modern agriculture would always be available and that climate would be stable and not change. In some of the major grain production areas the rate of increase in cereal yields is declining as actual crop yields approach a ceiling for maximal yield potential. Due to lack of ecological regulation mechanisms , monocultures are heavily dependent on pesticides. In the past 50 years the use of pesticides has increased dramatically worldwide and now amounts to some 2.6 million tons of pesticides per year with an annual value in the global market of more than US$ 25 billion. Today there are about one billion hungry people in the planet, but hunger is caused by poverty and inequality, not scarcity due to lack of production. The world already produces enough food to feed nine to ten billion people, the population peak expected by 2050. There is no doubt that humanity needs an alternative agricultural development paradigm, one that encourages more ecologically, biodiverse, resilient, sustainable and socially just forms of agriculture. The basis for such new systems are the myriad of ecologically based agricultural styles developed by at least 75% of the 1.5 billion smallholders, family farmers and indigenous people on 350 million small farms which account for no less than 50% of the global agricultural output for domestic consumption.
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These habitats are misunderstood by the temperate zones, mismanaged by the tropics.
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This article traces multiple directions in the evolution of agroecology, from its early emphasis on ecological processes in agricultural systems, to its emergence as a multidimensional approach focusing on broader agro-food systems. This review is timely, as agroecology is being increasingly applied within a diversity of scientific-, policy-, and farmer-based initiatives. We contrast different agroecological perspectives or agroecologies and discuss the characteristics of an agroecology characterized by a transdisciplinary, participatory and action-oriented approach. Our final discussion describes the contents of the special issue, and states our goal for this compilation, which is to encourage future work that embraces an agroecological approach grounded in transdisciplinarity, participation, and transformative action.
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Rural social movements have in recent years adopted agroecology and diversified farming systems as part of their discourse and practice. Here, we situate this phenomenon in the evolving context of rural spaces that are increasingly disputed between agribusiness, together with other corporate land-grabbers, and peasants and their organizations and movements. We use the theoretical frameworks of disputed material and immaterial territories and of re-peasantization to explain the increased emphasis on agroecology by movements in this context. We provide examples from the farmer-to-farmer movement to show the advantages that social movements bring to the table in taking agroecology to scale and discuss the growing agroecology networking process in the transnational peasant and family farmer movement La Vía Campesina.
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This article examines the origins and impacts of agricultural modernization to reveal the social foundations of agroecology as both ‘scientific discipline’ and ‘agrarian social movement’. The impacts of capitalism on rural societies have provided a focus for social thought and mobilization since the 1800s and so we consider some of the competing discourses that have accompanied the development of industrial agriculture. We also reflect on the emergence of modern environmental concern and how growing preoccupation with the negative impacts of industrialization has prompted radical proposals for the reformulation of longstanding sociological assumptions and approaches to agricultural and rural development.