What is Agroecology

Agroecology is a science, a set of practices and a social movement.  

Agroecology is “an integrated approach that simultaneously applies ecological and social concepts and principles to the design and management of food and agricultural systems” that “aims to optimize the interactions between plants, animals, humans and the environment while taking into account the social aspects that must be addressed for a sustainable and equitable food system”. 

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

In a report published in 2019, the High- Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE-FSN) of the Committee on World Food Security and Nutrition (CFS) elaborated the 13 Principles of Agroecology (see below). 

Credits: Agroecology Europe 

These 13 principles are aligned with the 10 Elements of Agroecology approved by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organizations (FAO)’s Council in 2019, after a consultation process carried out between 2015 and 2017, and culminating with an International Symposium of Agroecology in 2018 (see below). 

Credits: FAO

The Agroecology Principles and Elements apply to all forms of sustainable agriculture and food production systems, including crops, livestock and pastoral systems, agroforestry, fisheries and aquaculture. They also apply to food processing, commercialization and consumption. Applying these principles also contributes to improving gender equality, making agriculture more attractive for youth, creating dignified income and living conditions, and contributing to healthy diets. 

These Principles and Elements promote resilience, economic viability, social acceptance, cultural diversity and efficiency while protecting the environment. Thus, they help to inform and guide decisions and ensure to avoid siloed interventions, unintended consequences, and short-term solutions.   

Backed by scientists in key reports (see below), social movements, farmers and governments, agroecology is already providing solutions across the world and is seen as a holistic approach capable of addressing these multiples challenges at the same time. 

What’s wrong with the current food system?  

While current food systems face major environmental, climate and health challenges, they are responsible for one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions and for nearly 80% of biodiversity loss. They are often chemical-dependent monocultures which makes them vulnerable to disease and unforeseen shocks.  

These practices also contribute to forest destruction, the displacement of communities, social inequalities, water pollution, soil degradation.  

The precarious livelihoods and social inequities, faced by many farmers and food system workers, in particular women, Indigenous Peoples and youth, exacerbate the difficulties in ensuring adequate nutrition for all.   

Today, industrial agriculture is no longer fit for purpose. 

The polycrises present both an urgency and an opportunity to bring together diverse forces and sectors to ensure transformational change. 

  • You can find more publications, videos, tools and courses on agroecology in our “agroecology resources section.  
  • If you want to read about the implementation of agroecology in projects, have a look at our repository of case studies.