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Agroecological economics : sustainability and biodiversity, Paul A. Wojtkowski

Moreover, the targeted weed communities could increase economic sustainability through external eco-services pollinators support, nitrogen fixation , and eventually new produces. Figure 2. The goal is to increase targeted biological diversity so that agro-ecological services could compensate, at least in part, the needs for growing intensification. So, not to replace intensive with extensive systems, because in several conditions they are not sustainable from an economic point of view. The challenge thus evolves towards the identification of combinations of species able to offer services to the system and, at the same time, characterized by precise traits that limit their competitiveness with respect to the main crop.

Bibliography Includes bibliographical references and index. Contents Principles, Concepts, and Challenges. Ecological Foundations for Agroecosystem Management. Integrated Approaches for Agroecosystem Research and Management. Providing historical background of attempts to bridge the ecological and agricultural sciences, this book highlights recent efforts to integrate natural and social science perspectives. Through various case studies with global applications, the text explores practical innovative strategies, policies, and research needs for emphasizing whole system productivity, diversification of agricultural operations, and management of agricultural systems that sustain multiple functions including ecological integrity.

Subject Agricultural ecology. Sustainable agriculture. Sustainable development.

Bibliographic information. Browse related items Start at call number: S S87 Librarian view Catkey: Agroecology has the explicit goal of strengthening the sustainability of all parts of the food system, from the seed and the soil, to the table, including ecological knowledge, economic viability, and social justice. To reach this goal, agroecological methods strive to minimise or exclude the use of fossil fuels, chemical inputs such as fertilisers and pesticides, and large-scale monocropping — cultivation of a single crop on vast tracts of land.

An agroecological approach includes a number of agricultural methods , such as diversification of crops, conservation tillage, green manures, natural fertilisers and nitrogen fixation, biological pest control, rainwater harvesting, and production of crops and livestock in ways that store carbon and protect forests. It also emphasises the importance of local knowledge, farmer empowerment, and socio-economic regulations, such as environmental subsidies and public procurement schemes.


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Agroecology has become something of a buzzword in recent years, and the big question is: can agroecological farming feed a global population estimated to reach almost 10 billion people in the coming decades? De Schutter and many others have also concluded that agroecology is a good way to increase the resilience of farming systems.

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But few have really investigated in depth how agroecology and resilience are linked in practice among smallholder farmers around the world. He became increasingly fascinated with the concept of resilience and wanted to incorporate it into his work on agroecological farming methods. The field trips took place over several years and took him to Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, the Philippines, Sweden, and various places in his home country Brazil.

His travels resulted in new insights into how innovative farmers and organisations have been using agroecological approaches to cope with the challenges of climate change and other disturbances, such as degradation of soils, pest outbreaks, chemical pollution, and escalating prices of chemical inputs such as pesticides and fertilisers. Rainwater harvesting is one important strategy in Ethiopian agroecological farming that builds resilience to drought.

Photo: A. To capture these aspects his analysis focused as much on social and economic measures as on ecological ones to strengthen agricultural resilience. In he organised a workshop at the Stockholm Resilience Centre SRC , gathering practitioners and scientists from around the world to take a closer look at how agroecology and resilience thinking relate to each other. In , Elin Enfors Kautsky , researcher and research coordinator at the SRC, co-authored a paper suggesting different ways to put resilience-based interventions into practice in agricultural landscapes.

Agroecology accounting: biodiversity and sustainable livelihoods from the margins

The comparison revealed that certified organic farming and other agroecological approaches often go hand in hand with resilience thinking, and tended to improve both farm revenues and household income. The Tumaini Women Group in the Gatuanyaga Village, Kikuyu community, one of the communities that Andre Goncalves visited during his field trip, is an example of broadened participation, cooperation and social-environmental responsibility to improve living conditions.

Gobezay and her husband in Ethiopia are by no means the only ones working for a diversity-based farming system. If the international market for organic pineapples collapses, they will still earn an income from selling bananas at the local market. Beans and groundnuts are important components of a balanced diet, increasing food security and nutrition. They also fixate nitrogen and improve soil fertility, without the need for chemical nitrogen fertilisers.

Diversity is also used to tackle other challenges. Pepito Babasa, a Philippine rice farmer from the Southern Luzon region, often experiences typhoons and floods.

Integrating Biodiversity Services in Agriculture

He makes sure he plants a diversity of different rice varieties known to withstand floods and droughts to secure his harvest. The second principle of building resilience — managing connectivity — manifests in many ways in agroecology. Recycling nutrients and organic matter from one field to another is also an important way of managing connectivity in the agricultural landscape. An example of where this is put into practice can be seen in farmers making and using compost as a natural fertiliser on agroecological farms in Ethiopia.

Agroecological methods also support ecological connectivity between the agricultural landscape and the surrounding forests in the Brazilian and Ugandan agroforestry systems that integrate crops, trees, and animal husbandry. Vicent Ssonko grows organic pineapples together with bananas and a variety of other plants such as beans, maize, and groundnuts. The pinapples are sold on the international market, and bananas on the local market.

Beans and groundnuts contain important nutrients for a balanced diet, they also fixate nitrogen and improve soil fertility. Using compost for maintaining the fertility, organic content, and water-holding capacity of soils is also an example of the third resilience principle — managing slow variables and feedbacks.

A plant disease or pest outbreak in industrial agriculture, for example, might be seen as a direct consequence of a virus or insect, and would be controlled by using pesticides.

Defining our terms: Agroecology and sustainable agriculture in the context of Rio+20 | IATP

Smallholder agroecological farmers, however, perceive diseases and pests as consequences of management, with many possible causes such as soil fertility, water availability, plant variety, and seasonal shifts. The farmers organise peer-to-peer learning and encourage broad participation that includes poor landless smallholders, larger farmers, and food-processing facilities.

The network is divided into several self-governing organisations that interact, manage, and enforce rules within certification and sustainable agriculture. All individual members have a vote and all decisions in their respective organisations are taken collectively. Agroecological approaches often go hand in hand with resilience thinking. He believes that agroecological and resilience-building approaches to agriculture are feasible alternatives to chemical-intensive monocultures, and that these methods will be crucial for reaching sustainable development goals.

Several other researchers have reached similar conclusions. Their suggestions include many agroecological aspects and call for better recognition and understanding of the many ecosystem services and social benefits that food-producing systems deliver beyond food itself, such as pollination, water filtration, and recreation. We need to put forward sustainable food systems that offer healthy and nutritious food, and also preserve the environment. Agroecology can offer several contributions to this process. The group of researchers, led by Elena Bennett from McGill University in Canada, concluded that agriculture needs to be both resilient and sustainable, and this requires radically new approaches to agricultural development.

A narrow focus on increasing production efficiency may reduce resilience, for example by degrading soils and making crops more vulnerable to pest and disease outbreaks and climate shocks. The food production system instead needs approaches and methods that produce sufficient quality and quantities of food while supporting healthy ecosystems.

Agroforestry systems mix crops, trees and animals, and provide resilience by e. Photo: K. Thinking less about bigger crop yields and more about resilience and sustainability also requires new metrics for evaluating the food system. This measure of the yield or value of a particular crop relative to the area of the land on which it was grown is too narrow. We need alternatives that account for the interacting complex of agricultural lands, pastures, inland fisheries, natural ecosystems, labour, infrastructure, technology, policies, markets and traditions that are involved in growing, processing, distributing and consuming food.

Defining our terms: Agroecology and sustainable agriculture in the context of Rio+20

So, even though an agroecological transformation towards more resilient agriculture might come at an initial cost, it will make it possible to maintain human well-being for the long-term. A growing number of resilience researchers and practitioners argue that it is the only way to provide a diet that is healthy for both people and the planet. To be effective, it is also important that such approaches that challenge our current farming system are included in the training of next generations of farmers around the world.