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More Productivity with Fewer External Inputs: Central American Case Studies of Agroecological Development and their Broader Implications


A study of the impact of two agroecological development programs in central America was conducted in 1994, five years and fifteen years after the programmes had ended. Yields of maize and beans being achieved by those farmers involved in each program were, on the average, more than seven times the yields being achieved at the time of program initiation. Increases in yields and incomes were achieved through the use of a large number of innovations, involving especially soil retention measures, purchased organic matter, intercropped green manure/cover crops, natural pest control, crop diversification and crop rotations. Use of chemical fertilizer was reduced, herbicides avoided almost entirely, and several substitutes for pesticides are now used. These technologies, plus more recent innovations such as microscale water harvesting and precision planting, should enable small farmers around the world to increase productivity enough that the world can avoid major hunger over the next 30 years, without increasing substantially, if at all, the world's use of chemical inputs.

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Bunch, R. More Productivity with Fewer External Inputs: Central American Case Studies of Agroecological Development and their Broader Implications. Environment, Development and Sustainability 1, 219–233 (1999).

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  • agroecology
  • central America
  • food security
  • organic matter
  • small farmers
  • sustainable