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Agroecology, a Tool for the Realization of the Right to Food

Part of the Sustainable Agriculture Reviews book series (SARV,volume 8)

Abstract

The reinvestment in agriculture, triggered by the 2008 food price crisis, is essential to the concrete realization of the right to food. However, in a context of ecological, food and energy crises, the most pressing issue regarding ­reinvestment is not how much, but how. This manuscript explores how agroecology, understood as the application of the science of ecology to agricultural systems, can result in modes of production that are highly productive, highly sustainable and that contribute to the alleviation of rural poverty and, thus, to the realization of the right to food.

Drawing on an extensive review of the scientific literature published in the last 5 years, the study shows how agroecology can benefit in particular the most vulnerable groups in various countries and environments. Moreover, agroecology delivers advantages that are complementary to better known conventional approaches such as breeding high-yielding varieties. And it strongly contributes to the broader economic development. Appropriate public policies can create an enabling environment for sustainable modes of agricultural production. These policies should prioritize the procurement of public goods in public spending rather than solely providing input subsidies. They should invest in knowledge and in forms of social organization that encourage partnerships, including farmer field schools and farmers’ movements innovation networks.

Keywords

  • Agroecology
  • Climate change
  • Farmers’ movements
  • Fertiliser price
  • Food security
  • Foodstuff price
  • Nutrition

This chapter is a short and revised version of the report I presented, in my official capacity as United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, at the 16th session of the Human Rights Council (UN doc. A/HRC/16/49).

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    In developing countries, the consumption of meat is much lower, and meat can be an important source of proteins important for child development (Neumann et al. 2007).

  2. 2.

    Such as glucose from the degradation of cellulose, a technology that is currently being developed.

  3. 3.

    CH4 and N2O represent respectively 14.3% and 7.2% of total GHG emissions, and they are particularly potent in trapping heat: CH4 traps 21 times more heat than CO2, and N2O traps 260 times more heat (Kasterine and Vanzetti 2010: 87–111).

  4. 4.

    Modern science combines with local knowledge in agroecological research. In Central America for instance, 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 (see Staver et al. 2001).

  5. 5.

    The 79% figure is for the 360 reliable yield comparisons from 198 projects. There was a wide spread in results, with 25% of projects reporting a 100% increase or more.

  6. 6.

    Not all these projects, it should be added, comply fully with the principles of agroecology.

  7. 7.

    Such as improvements on cassava, for which NaCRRI developed locally-developed resistant varieties in Uganda, or improvements on Tef in Ethiopia, where the Debre Zeit Agricultural Research Centre developed a new variety, the Quncho.

  8. 8.

    See Ajayi et al. 2009: 279 (research on agroforestry in Zambia does not support ‘the popular notion that agroforestry practices are more labour intensive’).

  9. 9.

    In East Africa, this development was facilitated by the exchange of technology from Brazilian manufacturers to their counterparts in Eastern Africa (Sims et al. 2009).

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De Schutter, O. (2012). Agroecology, a Tool for the Realization of the Right to Food. In: Lichtfouse, E. (eds) Agroecology and Strategies for Climate Change. Sustainable Agriculture Reviews, vol 8. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-1905-7_1

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