Principles of Agroecology

The following list attempts to describe the main principles and good practices that guide researchers, practitioners and social actors working in the field of Agroecology. It should not be viewed as comprehensive.

  • Recycle biomass; optimise and close nutrient cycles.
  • Improve the condition of the soil – in particular, by raising the organic matter content and biological activity of the soil.
  • Reduce dependence on external, synthetic inputs.
  • Minimise resource losses (solar radiation, soil, water, air) by managing the micro-climate, increasing soil cover, rainwater harvesting, etc.
  • Promote and conserve the genetic diversity of crops and animals.
  • Enhance positive interactions between the different elements of agro-ecosystems, by (re-)connecting crop and livestock production, designing agro-forestry systems, using push-and-pull strategies for pest control, etc.
  • Integrate the protection of biodiversity as an element of food production.
  • Make decisions for short-term and long-term results – i.e. aim for optimal yields rather than maximum yields; encourage resilience and adaptability.
  • Support the transition to sustainable agriculture and food systems. Identify socio-technical lock-ins in the dominant food systems and find ways of unlocking them. Propose new governance structures that support innovative niches of sustainability.
  • Acknowledge the similarities and linkages between agricultural systems in the global North and South for mutual benefits. As globalisation increases, developing sustainable food systems will require the integrated and simultaneous application of solutions in North and South.
  • Examine power structures, decision-making processes and opportunities for broader participation in food systems. Examine the role of citizens and consumers in food systems.
  • Appreciate the value of knowledge diversity (local and traditional know-how and practices; common knowledge and expert knowledge) for identifying research problems and relevant stakeholders, and in finding solutions.
  • Promote participatory research driven by the needs of society and practitioners, while at the same time guaranteeing scientific rigour.
  • Develop knowledge and innovation systems that conserve agro-ecological know-how and allow it to be shared. Local knowledge deserves special attention: it is a scarce resource and difficult to disseminate due to its very specific nature.

These principles should also be reflected in new methods of agricultural education and training. They should also encourage the autonomy of all the actors in the food chain and lead to “food sovereignty” – the right of people to define their own food and agricultural systems democratically, without harming other people or the environment.

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