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Beyond that multiplicity however, peasant agricultures present common characteristics, in particular in their most traditional forms. They are rooted in their environment and in local conditions. Family life structures social and economic activities. Existing relations between members of the family influence choices of activities, the organisation of family work, the distribution of responsibilities and incomes, the way factors of production are managed land, water, seeds, raw materials, equipment, credits… , growing techniques, and the transmission of the family patrimony.

The mobilization of domestic labour force is central. This homogeneity, notably ethnic, leads to a strong solidarity between households Sall et al. A large proportion of family groups are headed by women, and women play major roles at various levels such as in production, processing and marketing activities HLPE, , managing natural resources soil, water, forests and energy Sobha, or selecting seeds Barpujari, Yet despite their crucial roles in agricultural and food production, women are facing gender inequalities, which are prevalent in both traditional and modern agricultural value chains Tripathi et al.

Figure I. The rooting of traditional peasant agricultures in the social, cultural, ecological and economic local context induces important characteristics. Agricultural production is first and foremost dedicated to households needs or for local markets. Since local needs are very diverse, peasant agricultures are by their very nature multi-functional. While generating foodstuffs remain their primary task Colombo and Onorati, , their role includes producing food, feed, fibers, biomass, medicinal products, and performing environmental functions such as protecting biodiversity, preserving landscape, maintaining hydro-geological equilibria, or structuring social relations in rural areas Varghese, ; Colombo and Onorati, Food and other agricultural goods are not reduced to mere commodities.

In other words, in peasant farming, agriculture is not reduced to an economic activity although economic profitability matters , but is primarily a way of life: peasants are above all people who live and work on the land Colombo and Onorati, Non-monetary exchanges of products and services are important in th these forms of agriculture, as recognized for example by the CFS during its 40 6 Session in October Resources are, as much as possible, self- controlled and self-managed Hilmi, The struggle for autonomy is central to the peasant condition van der Ploeg, Adapted to the needs of each local ecosystem, indigenous knowledge and know-how guarantee, in a way, a natural symbiosis between communities needs and those of the natural environment.

In these traditional farming systems, the link between agriculture and ecology is strong and signs of environment degradation are seldom evident Altieri, Women play a crucial role as transmitters of traditional knowledge to the new generations. They are particularly aware of the usefulness of plant genetic diversity as they are in many regions the ones with primary responsibility for the production of subsistence crops that are essential to household food security Utviklingsfondet, Escaping the high costs of inputs and of imported knowledge, traditional peasant agricultures are weakly capitalized and mechanized.

Corollary, they are labour intensive and are mainly based on small-size farms. According to data compiled from the WCA covering 81 countries, in this set 73 percent of all farms units dispose of less than 1 ha of land and 85 percent less than 2 ha. Because of their efficient use of land, water, biodiversity and other agricultural resources, traditional peasant farms present a high productivity in terms of total output per ha productivity per unit of land , generally much higher than that of large industrial farms especially when these practice monoculture.

At last, traditional peasant forms of agriculture exhibit resiliency and robustness to cope with disturbances and change human and environmental , minimizing risks, as demonstrated by the ability of many of them to stand the test of time despite market or political adverse conditions Altieri et al. Their resilience results notably from their rich on-farm biodiversity, the importance of off- farms activities in providing with additional income and as a way of diversifying risks, and reciprocal ties relying on kinship and social proximity HLPE, This description of peasant agricultures refers to their most traditional forms.

Depending on the region of the world considered, such traditional forms have experienced more or less significant evolutions resulting from various factors including the growing influence of the model of industrialized agriculture, urbanization or market liberalization.

As an example, the mere introduction of money in rural areas has made possible the purchase of production inputs that are external to local communities fertilizers, health and phytosanitary products Dupriez, The introduction of these external production factors has broken, to some degree, the closed production process which was characterizing originally peasant agricultures, weakening the traditional natural symbiosis between agricultural practices and the ecosystem.

The evolution of their relation to markets offers another illustration. Although subsistence farming or quasi subsistence in all regions is not uncommon, it is rare to find peasants who are isolated from any type of market exchange, and if so these are no longer significant in social or economic terms HLPE, At last, the above description should not be misinterpreted and give the impression that real-world peasant agriculture guarantees optimal sustainability performance. On the contrary, this is far from being the case for the majority of peasant farms.

For example, for one billion rural people working solely with hand tools of a total active agricultural population amounting to 1,34 billion people Mazoyer, , potential yields or land productivity sustainable increases is huge. Peasant farms can also induce negative impacts on the environment. This is especially the case for those partially industrialized which make significant use of chemical inputs.

But even some traditional techniques can imply adverse impacts on the environment under certain conditions, although existing examples on this 7 matter are globally few. Moreover, just as industrial farmers, peasants are not necessarily keen to take positive actions when it comes to addressing adverse impacts of inappropriate practices.

And they will hardly move if they are not convinced that actions taken for addressing negative environmental externalities will maintain or improve their net incomes see Part III section A. Nonetheless, it remains true that traditional peasant agricultures tend naturally to take much better care of the environment than industrial farms, and that traditional agricultural knowledge and know-how represent a tremendous potential for meeting sustainability challenges today and in the future, as we will see later on in this paper.

The issue of its sustainability is highly debated. The logic of industrial agriculture While the primary aim of peasant farming is addressing local needs and livelihoods, the principal aim of industrial agriculture is profit Hilmi, This central preoccupation, driver of this model of agriculture, tends to reduce food and other agricultural goods to mere consumer goods.

This logic incites to mass produce on large scale with the view to multiply unit gains and realize economies of scale which lead to an increasing concentration of the production on a limited number of 8 large farms. It also encourages a constant, frantic search for yield increases. This in turn leads to the considerable reduction of the diversity of crops grown, often to the extent of reducing production to only one crop, most commonly as a monoculture, both in an effort to increase the yield per ha of the crop concerned and to facilitate management of the farm. Industrial agroecosystems hence tend to be based on homogenized production systems leading to a simplification of landscape and a specialization of territories Schaller, , thus encouraging a one-size-fits-all approach instead of context- specific schemes.

The extreme mechanization of industrial agriculture largely explains the much higher productivity per worker of industrial farms in comparison to peasant agricultures, not only through increased crop yields but also and more significantly by allowing each worker to cultivate more areas of acreage Douillet and Girard, Productivity per worker differentials are abysmal between, for example, an African peasant growing cereals solely with hand tools on one ha, and a European, Argentine or Australian farmer equipped with powerful tractors who cultivates up to several hundreds of ha.

According to Mazoyer and Roudart , in such extreme cases, the productivity per worker differential can reach a ratio of 1 to Mazoyer and Roudart, Another major feature of industrial farming compared with traditional peasant agricultures is the massive use of external inputs, which substitute for local natural resources in exercising the most elementary agricultural activities, such as 9 protecting the crops, fertilizing soils or feeding animals.

Pesticides most often synthetics, sometimes organic but in this case external to the environmental in which they are used replace indigenous natural control methods of insect pests, weeds and crop diseases. Inorganic fertilizers substitute for manure, compost and leguminous plants. Fossil fuels replace locally generated energy sources Sachs, Santarius, Imported feedstuff to feed livestock, especially soybeans from South America Ostendorff, replaces foodstuff grown on the farm traditionally used for fulfilling this task Colombo and Onorati, This use of external inputs instead of local resources generates the outsourcing of bodies of knowledge.

Indeed, knowledge does not depend any more on local indigenous communities: it comes from outside, being received following a 8 Although industrial agriculture can also be practiced at small scale. For the first time, the regeneration of soils fertility was depending on sources outside the farms and outside the rural economy, for guano was not part of the material used in Europe for the regenerative cycles in agriculture Sachs and Santarius, Farmers tend to be reduced into no-choice passive recipients of technology Medina, It also reflects a radical shift of relations with nature compared to traditional peasant agricultures.

Agricultural practices need not adapt to the specificities of the ecosystem in which they are implemented. To the contrary, it is the ecosystem which must adjust to the needs of foreign practices LRD, Industrial agroecosystems are highly artificialised, and the natural environment is practically considered as external to the system, both substrate and constraints to be mastered Schaller, Processes of production are progressively disconnected from ecosystems Hilmi, Furthermore, industrial agriculture implies having a significant economic capital as a first condition for initiating the activity and allowing the massive purchase of synthetic inputs, high-performance machinery or opulent farm buildings.

In turn this necessity of having significant funding resources generates the permanent concern for increasing financial return and profit. The high simplification and specialization of industrial farming systems, as well as their fundamental dependency on newest modern technologies, external inputs or credit, contributes to increasing their ecological and economic vulnerability Altieri, ; Swiderska et al. One of the main problems resulting from the homogenization of agricultural systems is an increased vulnerability of crops to insect pests and diseases.

This vulnerability can be devastating when pest and disease outbreaks infest a uniform crop, especially in large plantations Altieri, ; Altieri, Part of the instability and susceptibility of industrial farming systems to pest outbreaks can be linked to monocultures, as their adoption has concentrated resources for specialist crop herbivores and has increased the areas available for immigration of pests Altieri, Other examples of vulnerability lies in the increased dependence of industrial farms to external fluctuations such as commodity prices, markets, energy Hilmi, , or in the intensive use of hormones and diets designed to force unnaturally rapid growth of animals in livestock farming, which have made them more vulnerable to disease, e.

Last but not least, the obsessive search for maximization of profit puts into question the production of food as the first purpose of agriculture, by encouraging the conversion of large areas of land, up to then dedicated to food production, to other, commercial uses. As a matter of fact, the bulk of the expansion in monoculture production has not been about producing more food for people. Industrial livestock farming causes a major drain on food resources.

For example, 1, Such factors include for example access to market information and links to buyers in the marketing chain, access to modern risk management tools such as insurance, and finance to cope with weather and price risks or the capacity to meet the standards of global value chains Wegner and Zwart, But those factors are exogenous to the intrinsic nature of peasant or industrial farming systems, and result from a range of policies that have precisely advantaged industrial agriculture.

Agrofuels also badly compete with food production. For example, it is estimated that if the land used to produce biofuels for the European Union EU in had been used to produce wheat and maize instead, it could have fed million people for the entire year Kelly, Box I. Key features of traditional peasant agricultures and industrial farming in their purest forms Aspects Traditional peasant agricultures Industrial agriculture Primary aim Addressing local needs and livelihoods, Maximizing economic profitability.

De- with food production as the primary prioritization of food production as the purpose. In-built logic Follow a multi-functional logic which Follows a commercial logic, which tends to does not reduce agriculture to an reduce food and other agricultural goods to economic activity but also values the mere consumer goods. Commercialization is non-monetary exchanges of products the priority, notably on international markets. Agricultural production is Agriculture is seen as a business like any first and foremost dedicated to other.

Nature of the Family— oriented. Entrepreneurial character.


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Diversity of Abundant biodiversity and diversity of Weak biodiversity and high uniformity of farming agroecosystems, notably due to a high farming systems. Very few crops grown and systems diversity of crops grown and to frequent tendency towards monoculture. Financial Weak financial capitalization and High financial capitalization and capitalization mechanization. Labor- Labor-intensive. Workforce reduced to the minimum. Productivity High land productivity total output per Weak land productivity.

High productivity per ha. Weak productivity per worker. Resilience to Resiliency and robustness to cope with High vulnerability to various natural and natural and disturbances and change human and economic shocks. As noted by Kremen et al. All these elements help maintaining the industrial agri-food system. This system creates substantial obstacles for attempts aiming to shifting towards more sustainable food systems, for example through a diversification of farming methods or the selling of products to viable markets.

The same system also leaves consumers and communities largely disconnected from the origins, qualities, and the social and ecological impacts of the production of their food, fuel, and fiber Kremen et al. The need for a radical shift The spread of industrial agriculture has substantially contributed to food production increases over the last 50 years Koohafkan, To some extent, this led to reducing poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition.

Indeed, it is commonly accepted that this increase in yields has contributed to lowering cereal prices, benefiting poor consumers Hazel, ; IFAD, The International Fund for Agricultural Development IFAD estimates, for example, that without the increased agricultural productivity affecting developing countries in the s and s, world cereal prices would have been 18 to 21 per cent higher in , calorie availability would have been lower and more children would have been malnourished IFAD, Evidence suggests however that simultaneously, through many other ways, agricultural industrialization has contributed significantly to worsen poverty, hunger and malnutrition levels, notably by increasing inequality among farmers between those accessing to the Green Revolution technologies and those who have been left out , economic debt resulting for example from an increased dependence on expensive external inputs or rural exodus Mazoyer, ; Utviklingsfondet, ; McKay, And this is only a small part of the story.

Undoubtedly, industrial agriculture has been responsible for major social and environmental costs in the last five decades as illustrated by Box II , so significant and obvious that a growing consensus has emerged on the need to shift to a much more sustainable agricultural paradigm De Schutter and Vanloqueren, ; Koohafkan, ; McKay, Clearly, further spreading the industrial agricultural model to allow the world to feed itself today and in the future is not an option in a resource constrained world, especially in the context of climate change and energy scarcity IAASTD, ; Altieri and Toledo, ; De Schutter and Vanloqueren, ; Utviklingsfondet, See for example McMichael Box II.

Some of the main social and ecological costs associated with industrial agriculture The spread of industrial agriculture in the last decades has led to major unsustainable impacts. In India, it is estimated that this indebtedness has significantly contributed to the decision of nearly Industrial agriculture has particularly badly affected women. As the main food producers and caregivers in most communities in developing countries, they are most affected where there is erosion of biodiversity. Environmental degradation impacts their daily life, for example by forcing them to walk long distances for water because of water scarcity.

Higher exposure of women to health problems resulting from the use of synthetic pesticides is another example. They are often the ones that are assigned these hazardous tasks, and are therefore particularly affected. This overall contribution includes direct methane and nitrous oxide gases from agriculture practices and indirect carbon dioxide from fossil fuel use and land conversion to agriculture. Agroecology as an alternative path to industrialized agriculture Despite the impressive growing number of scientific work published in this field Wezel and Soldat, ; Schaller, and the increasing global recognition the concept is enjoying, agroecology too often remains wrongly perceived as one particular set of agricultural practices which could substantially help increase agricultural sustainability but only in a few very specific, limited contexts, and therefore cannot pretend to be a credible solution at a global scale.

Such a narrow view is far from reality. In terms of agricultural practices or farming systems, agroecology is rather a holistic approach consisting in realizing key principles through the context-specific design of strategies and techniques. But agroecology is not only an agricultural approach. It is also referred to as a science and a social movement. While agroecology first emerged as a science, trajectories between science, social movement and agricultural approach are very diverse depending on 14 countries Schaller, The concept of agroecology encompasses different meanings depending on the actors and the given socio-historical context, and is a living concept, submitted to permanent evolution Wezel et al.

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It is however possible to identify common features beyond that diversity. This section is an attempt to do so, successively examining agroecology as a science, an agricultural approach and a movement, keeping in mind that these three dimensions are often closely related to each other in the real world. For example, the movement for agroecology builds on agroecological science and knowledge for promoting and practicing the agricultural approach.

As argued by Wezel et al. It is a federative concept of actions, intermediate between the three dimensions Wezel et al. Agroecology as a science As a first step, agroecology developed through an attempt to integrate the principles of ecology to the redefinition of agronomy Stassart et al. The term was first used in two scientific publications by Bensin , , a Russian agronomist, for describing the use of ecological methods in research on commercial crop plants.

Focused on the analysis of agroecosystems communities of plants and animals interacting with their physical and chemical 14 For example, in the USA agroecology has first emerged as a science, which has then contributed to the birth to an agroecological movement promoting agroecological farming.

In Brazil, agroecology is first born as a social movement aiming the promotion of family farming, whose development has stimulated researches and the development of agroecology as a science Wezel et al. This evolution can be well illustrated for example by Francis et al. As a scientific discipline, agroecology is increasingly considered as the science of sustainable food systems.

This close relationship results from the recognition of the phenomenal sustainability that traditional peasant farming systems have demonstrated throughout the ages, and as a corollary of the treasures of knowledge they represent for achieving sustainability today and in the future, including in the context of climate change. The myriad of existing traditional systems indeed reveals a tremendous diversity of domesticated crop and animal species maintained and enhanced by soil, water and biodiversity management regimes nourished by complex traditional knowledge systems Altieri and Toledo, These systems comprise a significant ingenious agricultural heritage reflecting the extreme diversity of agricultural systems adapted to different environments Altieri et al.

Agroecology therefore strongly recognizes the crucial importance of preserving them Koohafkan and Altieri, The practice of agroecology as scientific discipline has allowed for the identification of key principles that form the foundation of agricultural sustainability. Literature on agroecology most often refers to the following five core principles Altieri, ; Altieri, ; Rosset et al. Realizing these principles must notably lead to minimizing the use of non- renewable inputs that cause harm to the environment or to the health of farmers and consumers Pretty, The historical principles mentioned above are widely accepted as core pillars of agroecology.

However, identification of key principles remains a topic of debate and is subject to further theorization, especially when integrating broader social or political aspects of the agroecological paradigm. For example, based on criteria derived from the extensive literature on agroecology and sustainable agriculture, several authors including Altieri have highlighted a comprehensive list of 10 basic attributes that any agricultural system should exhibit in order to be considered sustainable see Annex 1 Koohafkan et al.

The conceptualization of these additional principles takes due account of the social ambitions of agroecology see Annex 2 Stassart et al.

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Agroecology as an agricultural approach Since the s, agroecology no longer referred simply to a scientific discipline or research area, but also to farming practices and a number of collective mobilizations mainly in response to the Green Revolution Schaller, In terms of farming systems, agroecology could be synthetically defined as a holistic approach consisting in seeking to make agroecosystems economically, ecologically and socially more sustainable by realizing key agroecological principles that are precisely understood as those which form the basis of agricultural sustainability as explained above for meeting local needs.

It also seeks to increase resilience. Usually defined as the propensity of a system to retain its organizational structure and productivity following perturbation Holling, , resilience is a constant preoccupation of agroecology Berton et al. Realizing agroecological principles consists primarily in mimicking natural processes, thus creating beneficial biological interactions and synergies among the components of the agroecosystem De Schutter, a through multiple, context-specific combinations of strategies and practices that are designed, applied and managed primarily by farmers themselves, building first and foremost on their traditional knowledge and know-how.

In other words, their concrete realization always requires context- specific solutions, since they must adapt to local realities Rosset et al. As a process of transition towards more sustainable agricultural systems, agroecology consists therefore essentially in designing and applying an adequate strategy for managing the transition, one that can improve sustainability in the particular context considered, through means that are adapted to local conditions. As a starting point for designing such strategy, agroecology implies proceeding to a comprehensive diagnosis of sustainability challenges and conditions specific to the given context Berton et al.

Simply put, the question is: what are the priorities in this context for improving agricultural sustainability and how can they be concretely addressed? This diagnosis requires a holistic approach. This also implies identifying all human economic, social, cultural, political… and environmental constraints, as well as the ways through which those elements interact with each other Altieri, , and mapping all assets natural, social, human, physical and financial locally available.

Agricultural systems at all levels indeed rely on the value of services flowing from the total stock of assets that they influence and control Pretty, Moreover, the holistic approach means defining expected benefits in the short, medium and long term Berton et al. This is the case for example of environmental challenges such as the sustainability of varietal resistance within territories, biodiversity maintenance at the landscape level, GHG emissions at the global level, etc.

The need for analysis at the landscape or territory level implies thinking in terms of collective actions, thus requiring coordination between different actors Schaller, Coordination among actors is particularly important in case of conflicting expectations as to the use of land, water or other natural resources Berton et al. This explains why ensuring responsible governance of natural resources is important from an agroecological perspective. All these different elements are essential components of the agroecological equation consisting in designing the best options for improving sustainability.

As previously mentioned, solving this equation requires conceiving farming systems that rely primarily on functionalities given by ecosystems and built on traditional local knowledge. The relevance of making the best use of traditional knowledge for designing agroecological systems is obvious since this knowledge is intrinsically adapted to local conditions in a given environment.

And it crystallizes an extreme diversity of options that for centuries have helped 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 Altieri et al. However, agroecology does not imply excluding all modern technologies on ideological grounds. If a technology works to improve productivity for farmers and does not cause undue harm to the environment, then it is likely to have some sustainability benefits Pretty, Agroecology therefore does not include the full prohibition of any chemical input.

But in each and any case, they should only be used as a last resort and at the lowest level possible. Rosset et al. Besides, it necessarily excludes any use of genetically modified organisms GMOs Altieri, Box III. Relying first and foremost on traditional knowledge does not mean excluding modern science.

For instance, in Central America the coffee groves grown under high-canopy trees were improved by the identification of the optimal shade conditions, minimizing the entire pest complex and maximizing the beneficial microflora and fauna while maximizing yield and coffee quality De Schutter, a. Generally speaking, the role of agronomists and other researchers is very important for making agriculture more agroecological, not only for contributing significantly to agroecological innovations, but also for helping better understand and address global sustainability challenges beyond the farm, at the territorial level.

Open models for sustainability

Moreover, agroecology should not be seen as incompatible with the mechanization of agriculture. While a forced path toward a rapid mechanization of farming that does not meet peasants needs should be avoided, agroecological farming is perfectly compatible with a gradual and adequate mechanization of farming De Schutter, a: De Schutter and Vanloqueren, One illustration is provided by the in-depth analysis of the evolution of the agrarian systems of the Nile Valley, which has shown a successful adaptation of mechanization to the size and needs of these peasant farming systems, with most of the soil preparation work and water pumping and gain threshing being mechanized.

The small scale of plots is not an obstacle, for example, to mechanized water pumping because water is brought by gravity to the third level canals where it is usually pumped and brought to private canals running along the land parcels. This in-depth analysis has shown that decent living conditions could be reached for a family with a plot of good land of a size between 0.

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The challenge is to identify the most efficient socio-technical arrangements in heterogeneous environments, the right combinations of practices that will best allow for realizing agroecological principles Schaller, Those combinations will necessarily vary from one context to another, since each context has its own characteristics and therefore its own conditions to achieve sustainability.

Agricultural sustainability does not depend on the intrinsic characteristics of a few magic bullet solutions that would be independent from the environment to which they apply. It relies on the quality of complex interactions that result from an entire package, adequate combination of various practices whose operationalization in particular circumstances will necessarily have to change 15 depending on each context.

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Box IV. Types of practices typically promoted as agroecological Jules Pretty, from University of Essex in the United Kingdom UK , has highlighted seven agroecological practices and resource-conserving technologies: 1. Integrated pest management IPM , which uses ecosystem resilience and diversity for pest, disease and weed control, and seeks only to use pesticides when other options are ineffective.

Integrated nutrient management, which seeks both to balance the need to fix nitrogen within farm systems with the need to import inorganic and organic sources of nutrients, and to reduce nutrient losses through erosion control. Conservation tillage, which reduces the amount of tillage, sometimes to zero, so that soil can be conserved and available moisture used more efficiently. Agroforestry, which incorporates multifunctional trees into agricultural systems, and collective management of nearby forest resources. Aquaculture, which incorporates fish, shrimps and other aquatic resources into farm systems, such as into irrigated rice fields and fishponds, and so leads to increases in protein production.

Water harvesting in dry land areas, which can mean formerly abandoned and degraded lands can be cultivated, and additional crops grown on small patches of irrigated land owing to better rainwater retention. Livestock integration into farming systems, such as dairy cattle, pigs, and poultry, including using zero-grazing cut and carry systems.

Source: Pretty Depending on how it is concretely applied and completed or not by other practices, one particular technique can sometimes either be an active component of a truly agroecological farming system, or on the contrary contribute to non- sustainable externalities. This can be well illustrated with no-till. Detailed scientific evidence exists showing that no-till conserves the natural resources in the soil and water through various mechanisms.

Decreases in soil erosion and water losses are often spectacular and are reported from many sites Gattinger et al. But since tillage impacts include some weed, pest, nutrient or water management effects, if a farmer abolishes tillage without changing anything else in the cropping system, this will induce in most cases problems with weeds, pests and nutrient availability and might require more herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers Friedrich and Kassam, No-till can therefore easily be one component of industrial farming systems.

As a matter of fact, scientific sources and 15 For various illustrations of design of agroecological transition strategies adapted to specific challenges and constraints, see for example Agrisud International But no-till can also be combined with natural control mechanisms for managing insect pests, pathogens and weeds and therefore reducing the need of further artificial interventions Friedrich and Kassam, For example, in Santa Catarina, southern Brazil, many hillside family farmers have modified the conventional no-till system.

Instead of relying on herbicides for weed control, these innovative organic minimum tillage systems rely on the use of mixtures of summer and winter cover crops which leave a thick residue mulch layer, on which after the cover crops are rolled, traditional grain crops corn, beans, wheat, onions, tomatoes, etc. Depending on the cover crop or cover crop combination used, residues have the potential to suppress weeds.

Agroecological performance does not depend on specific species or techniques, but is linked to processes optimized by the whole system Altieri et al. Assessing the sustainability of a given farm hence can be seen as consisting in assessing its degree of agroecological integration, ranging from an industrial monoculture negligible agroecological integration , to a monoculture-based organic farm with input substitution low level of integration , to complex peasant agroforestry system with multiple annual crops and trees, animals, rotational schemes, and perhaps even a fish pond where pond mud is collected to be used as an additional crop fertilizer high level of agroecological integration Rosset et al.

Applying a bottom-up, farmer-led approach While the Green Revolution model has favored a top-down approach which tends to reduce peasants to no-choice passive recipients of technology received from extension agents or inputs suppliers, agroecological transition requires bottom-up processes in which farmers take the front seat. Conventional top-down extension can be demobilizing for farmers, as technical experts have all too often had the objective of replacing peasant knowledge with purchased chemical inputs, seeds and machinery Rosset and Martinez-Torres, Different methodologies have been developed for promoting farmer innovation and horizontal sharing and learning.

The Campesino-a-Campesino farmer-to- farmer, or peasant-to-peasant methodology CaC is one of the most often used. According to Freire, before there can exist progress between two communities there must exist a teacher-student, student-teacher relationship. The learning process must be mutual and reciprocal. The next step is not to work for a community but rather with the community to meet its needs and demands.

Based on local peasant needs, culture and environmental conditions, CaC is mobilizing because it makes peasants the protagonists in their own processes of generating and sharing their own and appropriated technologies Rosset and Martinez-Torres, In this group-based discovery-learning process, farmers observe, record, and discuss what is happening in their own fields instead of listening to lectures or watching demonstrations. Agroecology as a movement As we have seen, since the s the concept of agroecology has also refered to a number of collective mobilizations, originally in response to the Green Revolution Schaller, Agroecology as a movement has been particularly strengthened politically in the last 5 years through LVC, the largest transnational peasant movement, as one of the key pillars of Food Sovereignty Rosset and Martinez-Torres, The inclusion of agroecology in the broader framework of Food Sovereignty is therefore not surprising.

Indeed, as an attempt to protect peasant agricultures from the growing pressure of industrial agriculture, the whole point of agroecological farming is precisely to achieve sustainable agriculture for meeting local needs through ways that enhance the autonomy and control of peasants over their own production systems, instead of making them more dependent on off-farm inputs and external experts. Just as the industrial agri-food system supports industrial agriculture and opposes attempts to shift it towards sustainable agriculture, AAFNs are frequently supportive of and rooted in agroecological farming, and seek to decrease reliance on industrialized agri-food systems.

They work against the logic of bulk high volume and low cost commodity production, redistribute value through the food chain, rebuild trust between producers and consumers, and articulate new forms of political association and market governance Kremen et al. For LVC it is clear: agroecology cannot be reduced to its technical ecological content but also encompasses social and political dimensions. It politicizes what used to be seen as purely technical questions of farming Rosset et al. It opposes the industrial agricultural and food, capitalist rural development model, giving to agroecological transition processes emancipatory potential Lopes and Jomalinis, This understanding of agroecology has led LVC to strive politically for its scaling-up.

Striving for scaling-up agroecology consists both in advocating for policy measures and regulations specifically supportive of agroecology, and in challenging the obstacles, resulting from a range of various policies and economic practices e. Addressing those obstacles is needed to unleash the tremendous sustainability potential that peasant agricultures traditionally hold as demonstrated by agroecology as a science , a potential which then, through an agroecological modernization process, can be strongly increased by combining traditional knowledge and know-how with the best available modern agroecological science.

But the importance of advocating politically for defending and scaling-up agroecology is not carried by all civil society actors. Historical divisions exist between farmer-to-farmer and NGO-based networks whose work has concentrated on promoting the adoption of agroecological farming to more farmers horizontal scaling-up , and agrarian-based farmer organizations and movements such as LVC who have engaged politically vertical scaling-up.

For political advocates, these practitioners have historically tended to reduce agroecology to technical and apolitical approaches to agricultural development. Progress in the agenda for Food Sovereignty however is being made. Convergence is growing progressively between practitioners and advocates. Slowly but surely, distinct groups begin to see themselves as part of a larger movement to develop civil society. Such evolution and many others suggest that the international struggle for Food Sovereignty, as understood by LVC, is beginning to take root in smallholder agroecology networks.

Looking at it more closely, one can understand how privileging this term rather than advocating more directly for scaling-up agroecology is far from being anodyne. Promoted as a solution for small farmers in developing countries, sustainable intensification is presented as a step change in agricultural science and development, re-conciliating sustainable agriculture with intensive farming, creating an environmentally benign agriculture that also improves yields Diamond Collins and Chandrasekaran, This sounds close to agroecological farming.

But this is only an appearance. We do not consider that these approaches are mutually exclusive: improvements to all systems require high-quality science. Global food insecurity is the product of a set of interrelated local problems of food production and consumption. The diversity of these problems needs to be reflected in the diversity of scientific approaches used to tackle them. Rather than focusing on particular scientific tools and techniques, the approaches should be evaluated in terms of their outcomes. The Royal Society promotes GMOs as a potential option notably for increasing farmers resilience to climate change e.

Other influential actors mentioned above also typically promote GMOs as a potential solution when advocating for a sustainable intensification of agriculture. As we have seen, the consideration of GMOs as part of the solution is highly problematic, since it is simply incompatible with a truly agroecological development paradigm for obvious reasons see Box III Part I section D.

It notably concludes that while claiming to include agroecological farming, the sustainable intensification agenda in practice seems to focus primarily on technology-based approaches including GMOs, further consolidating industrial agriculture. Relying on the philosophy of sustainable intensification that it defines as being close to conventional intensive agriculture, its research strategy notably includes developing drought and stress tolerant crops, disease and pest resistant crops, crops with improved nitrogen use efficiency and yield improvements.

According to the campaign, the Gates Foundation has allocated more than eight times as much money to the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa AGRA for a project to distribute artificial fertilizers as its main activity than to researching improved soil fertility using local resources, and funding for research involving transgenics outstrips that for soils by more than ten-fold GM Freeze, But the sustainable intensification agenda does not just give only a small amount of available funds to agroecology when investing in agriculture.

It also reduces it to its ecological technical content, essentially ignoring its social and political dimensions. In that sense, agroecology can be seen as co-opted by actors who fundamentally do not want to question the prevailing system since their objective interests depend on it but rather seek to proceed to the minimum adjustments that are necessary for ensuring the reproduction of the dominant industrial, corporate food regime.

Can agroecological principles be technically applied to large-scale industrial agriculture? The close relationship between agroecology and peasant agricultures is obvious: agroecological systems are deeply rooted in the ecological rationale of traditional small-scale agriculture Altieri and Toledo, Modernizing agroecologically traditional small-scale farms is thus especially appropriate for improving significantly their sustainability performances, notably for boosting yields and productivity per unit of land see Part II section A.

This is good news for traditional peasants who do not use a tractor, working animal, selected purchased seeds, mineral fertilizers, or pesticides. According to Mazoyer, the number of such peasants would amount to roughly million people of a total active agricultural population estimated to 1,34 billion people Mazoyer, Indeed, the conversion of degraded, simplified production systems to diverse, agroecological, resilient, low carbon systems, is challenging.

The challenge will notably consist in avoiding excessive decline of yields and land productivity that would result from a too sudden abandon of synthetic inputs. As a consequence, the transition processes 19 will need to be more progressive. However, shifting those farms into agroecological systems remains technically very much possible.

With regard to the technical feasibility of agroecological transition processes to various agricultural systems, the real challenge concerns large-scale industrial farms. To what extent can agroecological principles be applied to those farms? Is it realistic? Very few references in the agroecological literature provide elements to answer this question. Among them, Altieri et al. They posit that although the diversity of crops and the integration animal-crop may be less obvious than it is on small plantations, the same overall principles apply Altieri et al. On the other hand, few authors stress the limitations of attempts to increase the degree of agroecological integration of large industrial farms.

For example, Lin implicitly emphasizes how unsuitable to biodiverse farming systems industrial mechanization is, since it is designed for optimizing productivity for one crop type and one crop structure Lin, Douillet and Girard write along the same lines when emphasizing that the standardization of cropping systems has precisely promoted industrial mechanization Douillet and Girard, Though it is hard to provide a comprehensive answer to the question, logical conjectures suggest that in most cases agroecological integration of large industrial farms can be increased, but that room for maneuver is necessarily limited.

For example, it is difficult to imagine how exactly large farms managed by just one or at best a few people could adopt farming management systems that entail enhancing significantly on-farm biodiversity, or total output per ha, to the same extent as peasants do on small plots of land. However, this remains a hypothesis to be tested.

Whether fully applying agroecological principles to large industrial farms is technically possible or not is an important question, since it gives us indications as to the feasibility of transitioning from industrial farming systems towards truly more sustainable farms. The question is relevant. As a matter of fact, there is an ongoing debate on the nature of relationship between farm size and productivity of outputs like crop yields and biodiversity Wibbelmann et al. Does it mean that large farms should be converted into smaller farms?

Not necessarily. It should be so in countries that are highly dependent on agriculture and where peasants and communities are suffering from an inequitable access and control over land and other natural resources due to an unfair competition with large industrial farms. In such contexts there is no justification, from a social equity perspective, for not fragmenting large farms into smaller units through adequate redistributive land reforms.

By contrast, since agroecological farming is labor intensive see Part II section A. In such regions, increasing the agroecological integration of large industrial farms to the extent possible may be the best option for improving agricultural sustainability, through adequate incentives, both positive and negative for encouraging the best and discouraging the worse practices respectively.

In particular, in such areas the adoption of LEI low-external-inputs agriculture practices by large-scale farming will be crucial to mitigate adverse environmental impacts Wegner and Zwart, This is especially the case in many industrialized countries. Hendrickson et al. However, constraints imposed by the size of the farms are far from applying everywhere in the developed world. In Europe for example, the average surface area used per farm varies considerably from one region to another. It should also be noted that in Europe land grabbing is a reality as well, including for agricultural purposes, as documented in a joint, comprehensive publication launched in April by ECVC and the Hands off the 22 Land network.

Among other issues, young people wishing to set up farming are facing major barriers to land ownership and access, including increasing costs of agricultural land Wibbelmann et al. These elements indicate that in many European countries the room for agroecological transitions is real. Moreover, in some of these countries, the continuing decline of agricultural jobs is put into question in the name of non-market functions of agriculture, such as land occupancy, or due to enthusiasm for short circuits, connecting urban citizens and producers Douillet and Girard, It refers to agricultural systems that integrate livestock and crop production or integrate fish and livestock and may sometimes be known as Integrated Biosystems CARDI, Agricultural and food systems are confronted with multiple sustainability challenges, and all of them need to be addressed: ensuring that everyone has access to sufficient, high-quality nutritional, healthy and culturally appropriated food, not only today but also in the future; contributing to sustainable economic growth and eradicating poverty; preserving biodiversity and natural resources; making agriculture resilient to climate change while mitigating global warming; empowering women; and putting peasants back in control of agricultural and food systems for realizing Food Sovereignty.

The need for addressing all of them simultaneously is not only justified because they all matter, but also and fundamentally because they are all closely interconnected to each other. In other words, at least on the global scale, none of these needs can be properly addressed without taking simultaneously care of the others.

La carotte et le bâton de l’Oncle Sam

This is one important lesson that can be drawn from analyzing the expansion of industrial agriculture in the last decades, demonstrating for example that a narrow focus on increasing productivity per ha of a few commercial crops without enhancing natural soil fertility by returning organic matter to the soil, is counter-productive on the long term for agricultural productivity in and of itself, or increases significantly the risk of crop failures by making farms far less resilient to climate change, pest or diseases outbreaks.

Biodiversity preservation is a great way of illustrating the need for developing holistic approaches for achieving sustainable agricultural and food systems. It is not only important per se. For instance, it is also a crucial precondition for ensuring long-term higher yields and land productivity, making agriculture resilient to climate change, ensuring varied diets which is essential from a right to food perspective or even for empowering women.

This might be where agroecology can best make a difference with other sustainable agriculture approaches: it represents the best effort ever made to address simultaneously, through holistic approaches, sustainability challenges. Availability relates to there being sufficient food on the market to meet the needs.

Accessibility requires both physical and economic access: physical accessibility means that food should be accessible to all people, including the physically vulnerable such as children, older persons or persons with disabilities; economic accessibility means that food must be affordable without compromising other basic needs such as education fees, medical care or housing. Increasing the availability of food by enhancing yields substantially Based on the fact that the adoption of agroecological approaches can sometimes decrease yields temporarily in the short term as explained later on in Part I section A.