Agroecology Can Fix Our Broken Food System
Integrating ecological concepts into agriculture can increase yields and profits for small farmers while also increasing environmental health.
It’s no secret that the global food system is broken; over a billion people worldwide are malnourished despite the fact that we produce an estimated 2800 Calories per person per day. At the same time, we are gravely damaging ecosystems and the global climate with carbon emissions, monoculture farming, and many other issues related to conventional agricultural practices. A rising concept in the food movement promises to help mitigate these issues by harnessing the benefits of biodiversity on farms and by empowering farmers to become self-sufficient. Agroecology promises to increase yields and reduce our dependence on harmful pesticides as it ties together cutting edge science, social welfare, and cultural practices from around the world.
Agroecology is taking a hold in many developing countries where subsistence farming is still widely practiced, and the world’s largest coalition of peasant farmers, La Via Campesina, recently adopted agroecology as its “preferred paradigm for rural development.” Recent studies from Iowa and UC Berkeley suggest that agroecology can not only increase environmental health, but also yields and profits for small farms. In Malawi, agroforestry, which ties trees in to agroecology for added benefits, has helped many small farmers increase their yields since its adoption in recent years.
Agroecology has been shown to have many benefits for small farms, the global food system, and the environment. Still, most agricultural research is focused on older, more harmful conventional methods, like monoculture farming and pesticide production. If we are to overcome the multitude of issues we face as a species innovative agricultural methods, such as agroecology, must become a priority going forward. While agroecology is not a means to an end, it is a giant step in the direction of fostering an agricultural practice that both sustains us and our planet. What can everyday people do to promote agroecology? Do you know of any farms that practice agroecology in your area?