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International Developments

Agroecology: the Real Solution to Feed the World

Agroecology is political; it requires us to challenge and transform structures of power in society. We need to put the control of seeds, biodiversity, land and territories, waters, knowledge, culture and the commons in the hands of the peoples who feed the world

-Declaration of the International Forum for Agroecology

Nyéléni, Mali 27 February 2015

In September 2014 FAO organized a two-day International Symposium on Agroecology for Food Security and Nutrition, which culminated in a High-Level Round Table among the Ministries of Agriculture of different countries taking stock of recent experiences in this area. More than 50 experts, including researchers, government delegates, representatives of private sector entities and of civil society organizations and social movements spoke as panelists took part in this event. Based on the success of the event, FAO committed to hold three forthcoming regional meetings on the subject in 2015, to be held in Latin America, Africa and Asia, under the leadership of FAO regional offices.

Although it is important that FAO and governments are taking the issue of agroecology seriously, there is a clear attempt to water down what agroecology actual is. For social movements and many food producers and consumers, agroecology is the alternative to industrial agricultural; the institutional approach sees agroecology as another “method” or “tool” to be used, but not as a rejection of the current unsustainable mode of production. This approached is often masked in terms such as “climate smart agriculture” or ecological intensification” that can be compatible with the use of GMOs, pesticides, and other practices that are damaging to our natural resources, our health and rural livelihoods.

The Nyéléni Center in Mali is a special place with an important history. It was in this location that the International Forum on Food Sovereignty was held in 2007, and the Nyéléni Declaration on Food Sovereignty was drafted. It was in this place where the food sovereignty movement had the opportunity to organize and establish the roots that continue to grow, and it is here where civil society returned from 24-27 February 2015 to reclaim the traditional ways communities and peoples manage lands and territories, seas and rivers, as well as the relationships that food creates between consumers and producers, rural to urban.

The International Agroecology Forum, organized by the Coordination Nationale des Organisations Paysannes (CNOP) in Mali welcomed some 250 delegates representing peasant farmers, fishing communities, pastoralists, urban communities, consumers, and support NGOs, with over half of the participants coming from Mali; the HIC delegation participated as the “urban communities” and included persons from the Housing and Land Rights Network office, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and the Mazingira Institute, as well as Mali-based colleagues from our close partners No Vox also representing urban struggles. During these four days, participants joined together to create a common understanding of agroecology and the challenges that it faces: the privatization of the commons, climate change largely fueled by the global agribusiness model, and the recognition of social movements and small scale food producers as providing direction for social and economic development as well as being stewards of natural resources.

The Forum created the opportunity to learn and exchange with the people of Mali, which has a rich history of agroecology and a very complicated peasant struggle, as well as with the various global delegates in attendance; there was also separate sessions dedicated for meetings of the Women’s and Youth Caucuses.

A core point throughout the forum was co-option of agroecology by governments, corporations, and other actors as merely a set of scientific principals, ignoring the issues of the dominant model of agribusiness. The Forum agenda created thematic working group sessions that divided into nine central themes related to agroecology.

  • Agroecology grows from our diverse experiences and practices
  • Our knowledge and the threat of co-optation
  • International policy and false solutions
  • Agroecology sustains livelihoods and the commons
  • Agroecology cools the planet, resists climate change and cares for genetic resources
  • Agroecology respects Mother Earth: territories, lands, soils, pastures and water
  • Agroecology is economically viable
  • Organization, articulation, knowledge sharing and movement building
  • Building a common political agenda to defend our way of life

Time was also dedicated to give the different regions an opportunity to meet and prepare for the FAO regional conferences on Agroecology that will be held in Asia, Africa and the Americas. We will share more information on this when it becomes available.

The Declaration of the International Forum of Agroecology outlines the core agreements reached in this meeting as well as strategies moving forward. Some of the core points that emerged from the document are:

  • Land and territories are central as is the recognition of the full range or land rights, including customary law, collective ownership, and other traditional systems;
  • Population education and knowledge sharing and the importance of peer-to-peer learning processes at a local and international level;
  • Building local economies including the development of alternative financing and institutional structures as well as solidarity economy;
  • The autonomy of agroecology displaces the control of global markets and generates self governance by communities;
  • Solidarity  among movements including peasants, fisherfolk and fishing communities, pastoralists, indigenous persons, consumers, urban dwellers and food producers, and food workers;
  • Protect biodiversity and genetic resources including reclaiming control of seeds and reproductive material and the right to use, sell and exchange our own seeds and animal breeds;
  • Agroecologiocal production is the solution to climate change, not “green-washed” corporate models of intensive, unsustainable production;
  • Movements, organizations, researchers and communities must continue to denounce and fight corporate and institutional capture of agreoclogy;

The full declaration can be found here in English, French, and Spanish 


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