We are committed to furthering the development of agroecology and ensuring that the framework of food sovereignty is placed at the heart of the movement for creating agroecoloical food and farming systems here in the UK.
For us, there are several reasons why we feel that agroecology has the potential to transform our society for the better. Firstly, it provides a scientific basis for alternative forms of agriculture and therefore a method of interpreting and understand the benefits that these alternative can provide. In this way it holds the possibility of bridging the gap between conventional farming, with a strong productivist approach supported by the development of twentieth century science and other approaches to farming such as permaculture, organic farming and biodynamic with an emphasis on integrated systems and holistic design.
Alongside this technical appropriation of agroecology we also choose to identify with the surrounding movement towards the wider implementation of agroecological practices especially within the framework of food sovereignty.
Furthermore, we see the potential for agroeoclogy, as a discipline, to inform an integrative study of the ecology of the entire food system encompassing ecological, economic, social and cultural dimensions or, more simply, the ecology of our food system. We should begin to see how the food we eat not only has an impact on the environment but also affects our cultural relation to our landscape and our appreciate of our place in the natural world.
What is Agroecology?
Agroecology is a scientific discipline that uses ecological theory to study, design, manage and evaluate sustainable food and farming systems. Agroecological research considers interactions of all important biophysical, technical and socioeconomic components of farming systems and regards these systems as the fundamental units of study, where mineral cycles, energy transformations, biological processes and socioeconomic relationships are analysed as a whole in an interdisciplinary fashion.
Agroecology is concerned with the maintenance of a productive agriculture that sustains yields and optimises the use of local resources while minimising the negative environmental and socio-economic impacts of modern technologies. In industrial countries, modern agriculture with its yield maximising high-input technologies generates environmental and health problems that often do not serve the needs of producers and consumers. In developing countries, in addition to promoting environmental degradation, modern agricultural technologies have overlooked the circumstances and socio-economic needs of large numbers of resource-poor farmers.
The contemporary challenges of agriculture have evolved from the merely technical to also include social, cultural, economic and particularly environmental concerns. Agricultural production issues cannot be considered separately from environmental issues. In this light, a new technological and development approach is needed to provide for the agricultural needs of present and future generations without depleting our natural resource base. The agroecological approach does just this because it is more sensitive to the complexities of local agriculture, and has a broad performance criteria which includes properties of ecological sustainability, food security, economic viability, resource conservation and social equity, as well as increased production.
To put agroecological technologies into practice requires technological innovations, agriculture policy changes, socio-economic changes, but mostly a deeper understanding of the complex long-term interactions among resources, people and their environment. To attain this understanding agriculture must be conceived of as an ecological system as well as a human dominated socio-economic system. A new interdisciplinary framework to integrate the biophysical sciences, ecology and other social sciences is indispensable. Agroecology provides such a framework by applying ecological theory to the management of agroecosystems according to specific resource and socio-economic realities, and by providing a methodology to make the required interdisciplinary connections.