In April 2018, the FAO hosted the Second International Symposium on Agroecology, following the first in 2014. With the main objective of moving from dialogue to action, the Symposium brought together different stakeholders and catalyzed inter-disciplinary dialogue and collaboration. The proceedings were released in March 2019. Among the Symposium’s outcomes were the launching of the Scaling up Agroecology Initiative, the validation of the 10 Elements of Agroecology, and the presentation of 45 successful case studies from different countries, regions and contexts.
The 10 Elements emanated from the FAO regional seminars on Agroecology, and aim to guide countries in transforming their food and agricultural systems to mainstream sustainable agriculture on a large scale to achieve Zero Hunger and multiple other SDGs. The elements are: (i) Diversity; (ii) Co-creation and sharing of knowledge; (iii) Synergies; (iv) Efficiency; (v) Recycling; (vi) Resilience; (vii) Human and social values; (viii) Culture and food traditions; (ix) Responsible governance; and (x) Circular and solidarity economy.
The Scaling up Agroecology Initiative was launched during the Symposium as a way forward and as a strategic approach to promote and achieve the 2030 Agenda through Agroecology, in particular, SDG 2. A ten-year action plan will focus on target countries through three areas of work: (i) knowledge and innovation for sustainable agriculture and food systems; (ii) policy processes for transformation of agriculture and food systems, and; (iii) building connections for transformative change.
In the framework of the Initiative’s three areas of work, the FAO is carrying out various activities such as: developing a global knowledge product, which includes a global database on Agroecology; partnering with farmers, scientists and researchers to promote participatory inter-disciplinary research and innovation processes; and building indicators to collect evidence on the linkages between agroecological approaches and resilience building in response to climate change challenges.
The outcomes of the Symposium were submitted to the Twenty-sixth Session of the Committee on Agriculture (COAG), which welcomed them. COAG requested the FAO to continue applying agroecology as one of the approaches to implement the five principles of sustainable food and agriculture in support of the SDGs and to assist countries and regions to engage more effectively in the transition processes towards sustainable agriculture and food systems.
In 2014, the First FAO International Symposium on Agroecology for Food Security and Nutrition provided an opportunity to share experiences and build the evidence base on Agroecology as a key approach in favouring transitions to sustainable agriculture and food systems. The need to understand the specific local needs and realities of Agroecology led to a series of regional multi-stakeholder seminars co-organized by FAO and partners in Latin America and the Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Pacific, China, Europe and Central Asia, and the Near East and North Africa from 2015 to 2017.
The First International Symposium and seven subsequent regional seminars brought together more than 1 400 participants from 170 countries, who provided evidence on the important contribution of Agroecology in terms of (i) enhancing smallholder and family farmers’ adaptation and resilience to the impacts of climate change; (ii) improving food security and nutrition through healthy food and diversified diets; (iii) protecting and enhancing agro-biodiversity in support of ecosystem services such as pollination, soil health and recovery of degraded lands and forests; (iv) improving livelihoods in rural areas, and; (v) achieving a transformative change in agricultural practices towards sustainable development.
With the objective of moving from dialogue to action, in April 2018, FAO organized the Second International Symposium on Agroecology: “Scaling up Agroecology to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals” (hereafter the “Symposium”). The Symposium brought together more than 760 participants and catalysed inter-disciplinary dialogue and collaboration from a wide variety of actors. The Symposium enabled and consolidated fundamental agreements and commitments needed to scale up and scale out Agroecology at all levels in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Representatives from 72 governments discussed how public policies for Agroecology can enable progressive transitions to sustainable agriculture and food systems in the framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda).
Representatives from 350 non-state actors (including civil society organizations, academia and research organizations, cooperatives, producers’ organizations and the private sector) discussed the main benefits that Agroecology provides on the ground, in terms of local innovations, practices, techniques and integrated approaches that respond to different challenges, built through dynamic interactions among farmers, scientists, researchers, consumers and practitioners. Representatives from six United Nations (UN) organizations identified opportunities to promote Agroecology at the global level as well as concrete pathways to bring Agroecology into their global programmes of work as a way to support countries in the transition towards sustainable food and agriculture.
The Symposium produced the following outcomes:
» The launch of the Scaling up Agroecology Initiative, in collaboration with UN partners.
» The agreement to include the key outcomes of the Symposium into a discussion paper to be submitted to FAO governing bodies, in particular to the Twenty-sixth Session of the Committee on Agriculture (COAG) held in October 2018, and to the Forty-first Session of the FAO Conference, to be held on July 2019.
» The validation of a set of 10 Elements of Agroecology, circumscribing the salient features of Agroecology.
» A Chair’s Summary which outlines the main conclusions and agreements reached during the Symposium discussions, and addresses current challenges and opportunities to make agriculture more sustainable through Agroecology.
» The presentation of 45 case studies, featuring successful agroecological experiences and innovations from different countries, regions
Participants of the Symposium acknowledged that innovation for Agroecology is more than just the invention of new technologies or products; it entails processes where socially and environmentally sustainable ideas, technologies, products and practices emerge through stakeholder interaction. Participants also emphasized that agroecological innovations should be people-centered, meet smallholder and family farmers’ and consumers’ needs, be co-created, combine research and traditional knowledge, be locally adaptable, be based on open source data and technology, and enhance capacity for collective action and responsible investments.
A. THE SCALING UP AGROECOLOGY INITIATIVE
The Scaling up Agroecology Initiative (hereafter the “Initiative”) was launched during the Symposium in cooperation with major UN partners and received wide support from 760 participants representing national and international institutions, and constituencies, who committed to engage in its adoption and implementation through increased partnerships and collaboration (Appendix A). The Initiative is proposed as a way forward and as a strategic approach to promote and achieve the 2030 Agenda through Agroecology, in particular, SDG 2.
The Initiative aims to accompany and support national agroecological transition processes through policies and technical capacities that build synergies among countries. The Initiative will provide a framework for concerted action with other UN agencies and partners and include a funding strategy for its implementation.
A ten-year action plan will be developed by FAO and UN partners to foster a successful implementation of the Initiative. The implementation will focus on target countries through three areas of work: (i) knowledge and innovation for sustainable agriculture and food systems; (ii) policy processes for transformation of agriculture and food systems, and; (iii) building connections for transformative change .
TABLE 1. Main areas of work and key actions of the Scaling up Agroecology Initiative
AREAS OF WORK KEY ACTIONS TO SCALE UP AGROECOLOGY
I. KNOWLEDGE AND INNOVATION
- Foster experience and knowledge sharing, collaborative research and innovations
II. POLICY PROCESSES
- Promote markets for agroecologically based products for health, nutrition and sustainability
- Review institutional policy, legal and financial frameworks to promote agroecology transitions for sustainable food systems
III. BUILDING CONNECTIONS 5. Take agroecology to scale through integrated and participatory territorial processes
Partnerships will be key in the implementation of the Initiative. UN partners and related bodies can join efforts in a coordinated way to scale up Agroecology through policies, science, investments, technical support and awareness, according to their mandates and expertise, in support of the SDGs.
Governments can share knowledge and expertise through South-South and Triangular Cooperation programmes to scale up and scale out successful agroecological approaches between countries and regions. UN agencies and bodies can jointly identify priorities and strategies for the Initiative and implement specific activities, building on synergies between normative work and operational functions.
Non-state actors play a vital role in developing, implementing and advocating for agroecology. Family farmers and their organizations have developed the knowledge, capacities and networks that must be at the core of creating sustainable food systems through Agroecology. National, regional and international research institutions are pioneering transdisciplinary participatory research to tackle complex problems facing food and agricultural systems. Consumers and the private sector create the demand and also opportunities for inclusive and equitable food systems.
B. AGROECOLOGY IN FAO GOVERNING BODIES
As agreed during the Symposium, the outcomes of the Symposium were included in the discussion paper “Agroecology: from advocacy to action” (COAG/2018/5), which was submitted to the Twenty-sixth Session of the Committee on Agriculture (COAG). COAG is one of FAO’s Governing Bodies providing overall policy and regulatory guidance on issues relating to agriculture, livestock, food safety, nutrition, rural development and natural resource management.
The discussion paper provided an overview of FAO’s work on Agroecology to strengthen sustainable food and agricultural systems and achieve Zero Hunger, particularly in response to challenges related to climate change, protection and preservation of biodiversity and ecosystems, conservation and recovery of degraded natural resources (forests, soils and water), and reduction of rural poverty among smallholders and family farmers. The paper also summarized the outcomes of the Symposium, including the launch of the Scaling up Agroecology Initiative and the 10 Elements of Agroecology.
The Twenty-sixth Session of the COAG discussed and welcomed the outcomes of the Symposium. In particular, the Committee:
a. welcomed the Scaling up Agroecology Initiative and requested FAO to develop an action plan with partners, taking into account country needs and capacities;
b. supported the 10 Elements of Agroecology, as presented by FAO, as a guide to one of the ways to promote sustainable agriculture and food systems, as benefits each country’s national context, and requested FAO to further revise them to reflect the discussions of this session (to be presented to the FAO Council together with the COAG report);
c. requested FAO to continue applying agroecology as one of the approaches to implement the five principles of sustainable food and agriculture in support of the SDGs and to assist countries and regions to engage more effectively in the transition processes towards sustainable agriculture and food systems by:
i. strengthening normative, science and evidence-based work on agroecology, developing metrics, tools and protocols to evaluate the contribution of Agroecology and other approaches to the transformation of sustainable agriculture and food systems;
ii. catalysing scientific evidence and co-creation of knowledge and innovation to facilitate its dissemination; and
iii. providing policy and technical support to countries, upon their request, including capacity development of smallholders and family farmers.
d. requested the COAG Secretariat to prepare, in collaboration with the COAG Bureau, a draft resolution on the further integration of sustainable agricultural approaches, including agroecology, in the future planning activities of the Organization to be discussed in the next Council (Para 13-17, C 2019/21 Rev.1).
C. THE 10 ELEMENTS OF AGROECOLOGY
The 10 Elements emanated from the FAO regional seminars on Agroecology, and aim to guide countries in transforming their food and agricultural systems to mainstream sustainable agriculture on a large scale to achieve Zero Hunger and multiple other SDGs. The elements are: 1. Diversity; 2. Co-creation and sharing of knowledge; 3. Synergies; 4. Efficiency; 5. Recycling; 6. Resilience; 7. Human and social values; 8. Culture and food traditions; 9. Responsible governance; 10. Circular and solidarity economy. (Please refer to Appendix B for the publication The 10 Elements of Agroecology: guiding the transition to sustainable food and agricultural systems). The 10 Elements of Agroecology are interlinked and interdependent.
The 10 Elements of Agroecology are based on seminal scientific literature on Agroecology – in particular, Altieri’s five principles of agroecology and Gliessman’s five levels of agroecological transitions. This scientific foundation was complemented by discussions held in workshop settings during FAO’s multi-actor regional meetings on Agroecology from 2015 to 2017, which incorporated civil society values on Agroecology, and subsequently, several rounds of revisions by international and FAO experts.
D. THE CHAIR’S SUMMARY
The Summary outlines the main conclusions and agreements reached during the Symposium discussions, and refers to the current challenges and opportunities to make agriculture more sustainable through Agroecology: reducing the impact on the environment, soil and water; increasing biodiversity; reducing natural resources depletion; and building resilience to climate change.
It also identifies possible ways forward, including opportunities and needs to be addressed with partners to better coordinate actions and support further progress in the Scaling up Agroecology Initiative. The way forward also refers to the opportunities for synergies provided by the UN Decade on Family Farming 2019–2028 and the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition 2016–2025.
The important role of non-state actors in promoting Agroecology is also highlighted in the document, including civil society organizations (CSOs), academia and research organizations, foundations and funding agencies.
E. WAY FORWARD
Following guidance received from Governing Bodies, FAO is engaged in the implementation of the Initiative, in close collaboration with UN agencies (including International Fund for Agricultural Development, World Food Programme, United Nations Environmental Programme, United Nations Development Programme, World Health Organization and Convention of Biological Diversity) partner governments and non-state actors. In the framework of the Initiative’s three areas of work, FAO is carrying out the following activities:
a. Development of a ten-year action plan to implement the Initiative based on agreements with partners and taking into account country needs and capacities;
b. Development of a global knowledge product, which includes a global database on Agroecology, an analytical framework and matrix of indicators for policymaking to assess the economic, social and environmental performance of Agroecology and move beyond the paradigm of simply increasing yields;
c. Partnering with farmers, scientists and researchers to promote participatory inter-disciplinary research and innovation processes which are people centered, locally adapted, low cost and enhances livelihoods’ autonomy;
d. Building indicators to collect evidence on the linkages between agroecological approaches and resilience building in response to climate change challenges;
e. Implementation at national levels. Project proposals for implementation at country levels are being formulated with partners and local national actors in focus countries;
f. Strengthening synergies with the UN Decade of Family Farming 2019–2028. The Initiative will join efforts with the work plan of the Decade to raise awareness of, and support for, the inter-linkages between Agroecology and family farming. In particular, there are opportunities for collaboration in the areas of awareness and knowledge creation, promotion of best agroecological practices for smallholder and family farmers, increased pro-poor investments for Agroecology, contributing to selected SDG indicators, and implementation of national policies and programmes;
g. Strengthening synergies with the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition 2016–2025. Collaboration will highlight the contribution of Agroecology to sustainable food systems that deliver healthy diets and improved nutrition. Agroecology contributes to the Nutrition Decade’s vision of addressing malnutrition in all its forms by applying sustainable food production and effective natural resource management for healthy diets.
Agroecological approaches offer an opportunity to implement institutional innovations that prioritize working across different agriculture and food sectors, favouring transitions and synergies across all stages of the food system. Agroecology enables the design of inter-ministerial legal frameworks, creating synergies and engaging a variety of sectors and partners to simultaneously achieve inter-linked sustainability objectives.
Through the Initiative, FAO stands ready to assist countries in the implementation of agroecological transitions towards sustainable agriculture and food systems in support of the SDGs. However, this can only be achieved by working in partnership and fostering participatory inter-disciplinary collaboration among different actors at all levels.
The full report is available at http://www.fao.org/3/ca3666en/ca3666en.pdf
- Third World Network