Is agroecology a relevant and achievable pathway for sustainable food systems ?

 

Is agroecology a relevant and achievable pathway for sustainable food systems ? (version updated on May 16th, 2015)

Philippe Baret

Abstract for the 17th European Weed Research Society Symposium

Developed by Miguel Altieri in the eighties (Altieri and others 1983), the concept of agroecology was recently put forward as a promising pathway for the future of agricultural systems (Buttel 2003; De Schutter 2008; Wezel et al. 2009; De Schutter and Vanloqueren 2011; Van Dam et al. 2012; Stassart et al. 2012; Robin 2012; Altieri, Nicholls, and Funes 2012; Dumont et al. 2013). Agroecology is not only the application of ecological concepts to agricultural practices; it is a new way of designing the food systems with a new vision of the agency of actors(Ruiz-Rosado 2006; Warner 2006; Warner 2008; Caporali 2011; Stassart et al. 2012). Indeed, prospective exercises such as Agrimonde demonstrated the need for a joint action on both production and consumption of food (Dorin, Treyer, and Paillard 2011). The food systems conceptual framework is efficient to discuss issues such as production, access to food, resilience and vulnerability (Francis et al. 2003; Ericksen 2008; Lang and Barling 2012). Moreover, analyses of the present state of agricultural and food systems emphasize the importance of lock-ins and path dependency mechanisms in the persistence of sub-optimal agricultural systems (Cowan and Gunby 1996; Vanloqueren and Baret 2008; Vanloqueren and Baret 2009).

Developed by Miguel Altieri in the eighties (Altieri and others 1983), the concept of agroecology was recently put forward as a promising pathway for the future of agricultural systems (Buttel 2003; De Schutter 2008; Wezel et al. 2009; De Schutter and Vanloqueren 2011; Van Dam et al. 2012; Stassart et al. 2012; Robin 2012; Altieri, Nicholls, and Funes 2012; Dumont et al. 2013). Agroecology is not only the application of ecological concepts to agricultural practices; it is a new way of designing the food systems with a new vision of the agency of actors(Ruiz-Rosado 2006; Warner 2006; Warner 2008; Caporali 2011; Stassart et al. 2012). Indeed, prospective exercises such as Agrimonde demonstrated the need for a joint action on both production and consumption of food (Dorin, Treyer, and Paillard 2011). The food systems conceptual framework is efficient to discuss issues such as production, access to food, resilience and vulnerability (Francis et al. 2003; Ericksen 2008; Lang and Barling 2012). Moreover, analyses of the present state of agricultural and food systems emphasize the importance of lock-ins and path dependency mechanisms in the persistence of sub-optimal agricultural systems (Cowan and Gunby 1996; Vanloqueren and Baret 2008; Vanloqueren and Baret 2009).

Various case studies on pesticide management in potato and dairy systems in Belgium or banana based systems in Africa will be presented (Van Damme, Ansoms, and Baret 2014; Lebacq, Thérésa, n.d.). The main conclusions of the studies are: a) a problem based approach is more prone to the identification of long term and relevant innovations than a solution based approach, b) systemic approaches are easing the appropriation of technical innovations and supporting long term redesign of systems when required, c) articulation of short term efficient technical solutions and long term redesign for building self-sufficient food systems may be cumbersome, d) most of the solutions developed at the plot or plant level will require a reconfiguration of the value chain (transformation, consumers.

 

The principles of agroecology provide a framework to think and assess innovation. Their application requires new research investment and a better integration of actor and scientist knowledge’s.  Implementations of agroecology today are mainly based on technical practices (biological control, soil fertility management, agroforestry), sometimes combined . Most of the examples of full redesign of systems are experimental or limited to very specific conditions. Organic agriculture is a long-term alternative pathway where many technical solutions where developed (Lamine and Bellon 2009).

 

Agroecology is a new scientific approach of agricultural and food systems. It offers a serious option to simultaneously address emerging ecological and social challenges. Combination of the agroecological framework with the theory of transition may pave the way for new agricultural systems and open new avenues for transdisciplinary research (Dedeurwaerdere 2013).

 

Altieri, Miguel A., Clara Nicholls, and Fernando Funes. 2012. “The Scaling up of Agroecology: Spreading the Hope for Food Sovereignty and Resiliency.” SOCLA’s Rio+ 20 Position Paper. http://futureoffood.org/pdfs/SOCLA_2012_Scaling_Up_Agroecology_Rio20.pdf.

Altieri, Miguel A., and others. 1983. “Agroecology: The Scientific Basis of Alternative Agriculture.” Agroecology: The Scientific Basis of Alternative Agriculture. http://www.cabdirect.org/abstracts/19850530579.html.

Buttel, F. 2003. “Envisioning the Future Development of Farming in the USA: Agroecology Between Extinction and Multifunctionality?” New Directions in Agroecology Research and Education.

Caporali, Fabio. 2011. “Agroecology as a Transdisciplinary Science for a Sustainable Agriculture.” In Biodiversity, Biofuels, Agroforestry and Conservation Agriculture, 1–71. Springer. http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-90-481-9513-8_1.

Cowan, Robin, and Philip Gunby. 1996. “Sprayed to Death: Path Dependence, Lock-in and Pest Control Strategies.” The Economic Journal, 521–42.

De Schutter, O. 2008. “Address by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.” In High-Level Conference on World Food Security: The Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy, Rome, 3–5. http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/food/docs/UNSR_RtF_statement_5june.pdf.

De Schutter, O., and G. Vanloqueren. 2011. “The New Green Revolution: How Twenty-First-Century Science Can Feed the World.” Solutions 2 (4): 33–34.

Dedeurwaerdere, Tom. 2013. “Les Sciences Du Développement Durable Pour Régir La Transition Vers La Durabilité Forte.” http://chapynaast.be/e_files/4764-toomdrapport.pdf.

Dorin, B., S. Treyer, and S. Paillard. 2011. Agrimonde: Scenarios and Challenges for Feeding the World in 2050. Editions Quae. http://books.google.be/books?hl=fr&lr=&id=pETJzLiAmNYC&oi=fnd&pg=PA5&dq=agrimonde&ots=DPF10aNPjF&sig=tvrYGKhbmZJXiqhHAljC19YFpt4.

Dumont, B., L. Fortun-Lamothe, M. Jouven, M. Thomas, and M. Tichit. 2013. “Prospects from Agroecology and Industrial Ecology for Animal Production in the 21st Century.” Animal 7 (06): 1028–43.

Ericksen, Polly J. 2008. “Conceptualizing Food Systems for Global Environmental Change Research.” Global Environmental Change 18 (1): 234–45.

Francis, C., G. Lieblein, S. Gliessman, T. A. Breland, N. Creamer, R. Harwood, L. Salomonsson, et al. 2003. “Agroecology: The Ecology of Food Systems.” Journal of Sustainable Agriculture 22 (3): 99–118. doi:10.1300/J064v22n03_10.

Lamine, C., and S. Bellon. 2009. “Conversion to Organic Farming: A Multidimensional Research Object at the Crossroads of Agricultural and Social Sciences. A Review.” Agronomy for Sustainable Development 29 (1): 97–112. doi:10.1051/agro:2008007.

Lang, Tim, and David Barling. 2012. “Food Security and Food Sustainability: Reformulating the Debate.” The Geographical Journal, n/a–n/a. doi:10.1111/j.1475-4959.2012.00480.x.

Lebacq, Thérésa. n.d. La Durabilité Des Exploitations Laitières En Wallonie – Analyse de La Diversité et Voies de Transition. Thèse de doctorat. Louvain-la-Neuve.

Robin, Marie-Monique. 2012. Les Moissons Du Futur : Comment L’agroécologie Peut Nourrir Le Monde. Editions La Découverte.

Ruiz-Rosado, O. 2006. “Agroecology: A Discipline Leading towards Transdiscipline.” Interciencia 31 (2): 140–45.

Stassart, P. M., P. Baret, J. C. Grégoire, T. Hance, M. Mormont, D. Reheul, G. Vanloqueren, and M. Visser. 2012. “L’agroécologie: Trajectoire et Potentiel Pour Une Transition Vers Des Systèmes Alimentaires Durables.” Agroéocologie, Entre Pratiques et Sciences Sociales.

Van Dam, Denise, Michel Streith, Jean Nizet, and Pierre Stassart. 2012. Agroécologie : Entre Pratiques et Sciences Sociales. Educagri.

Van Damme, Julie, An Ansoms, and Philippe V. Baret. 2014. “Agricultural Innovation from above and from below: Confrontation and Integration on Rwanda’s Hills.” African Affairs 113 (450): 108–27.

Vanloqueren, Gaëtan, and P. V. Baret. 2008. “Why Are Ecological, Low-Input, Multi-Resistant Wheat Cultivars Slow to Develop Commercially? A Belgian Agricultural ‘Lock-in’ Case Study.” Ecological Economics 66 (2-3): 436–46. doi:Doi 10.1016/J.Ecolecon.2007.10.007.

Vanloqueren, Gaëtan, and Philippe V. Baret. 2009. “How Agricultural Research Systems Shape a Technological Regime That Develops Genetic Engineering but Locks out Agroecological Innovations.” Research Policy 38 (6): 971–83. doi:10.1016/j.respol.2009.02.008.

Warner, K. D. 2006. “Extending Agroecology: Grower Participation in Partnerships Is Key to Social Learning.” Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 21 (2): 84–94. doi:10.1097/raf2005131.

———. 2008. “Agroecology as Participatory Science Emerging Alternatives to Technology Transfer Extension Practice.” Science Technology & Human Values 33 (6): 754–77. doi:10.1177/0162243907309851.

Wezel, A., S. Bellon, T. Doré, C. Francis, D. Vallod, and C. David. 2009. “Agroecology as a Science, a Movement and a Practice. A Review.” Agronomy for Sustainable Development 29 (4): 503–15. doi:10.1051/agro/2009004.

 

 

Une pensée sur “Is agroecology a relevant and achievable pathway for sustainable food systems ?”

Laisser un commentaire

Votre adresse de messagerie ne sera pas publiée. Les champs obligatoires sont indiqués avec *