New report: investment in agroecology necessary for healthy global food system
A recent study by Profundo for Both ENDS and Oxfam Novib shows that investment in agroecology is necessary for a sustainable and inclusive global food system. Today, some 768 million – one in ten – people suffer from hunger or a severe shortage of food on a daily basis. Conflict, economic stagnation caused by the Corona epidemic, and the climate crisis present an immediate threat to the production of and access to sufficient nutritious food. Agroecology, a form of agriculture that places small-scale farmers, the natural environment and short supply chains at the centre of food production, makes communities in developing countries more resilient and helps them combat hunger. The study concludes however that major donors, including the Netherlands, are so far providing insufficient support for agroecology.
In 2018, the Netherlands had the ambition to become the 'world leader in circular agriculture', but the Oxfam Novib/Both ENDS study shows that most of the agriculture and food projects funded by Dutch development cooperation devote little or no attention to agroecology. In the past decade, only 9% of these projects have applied a more integrated approach to agricultural change. Specific study of agricultural projects in four African countries shows that a fifth focus mainly on increasing efficiency, with less than 10% giving priority to issues like the circular economy, resilience and recycling. Other agroecological elements, such as diversity and human and social values, are only considered in 6 to 7 % of the projects, while concepts like good governance and cultural and food-related traditions receive the least attention.
"It is high time that we made use of the opportunities that agroecology offers to reduce hunger and strengthen biodiversity," says Nout van der Vaart, agricultural expert at Oxfam Novib. "With their knowledge of local ecosystems, small-scale farmers, who produce the lion's share of food in developing countries, have a crucial role to play in achieving this goal. We should give them the resources to produce local, varied and sustainable food, and put a stop to destructive and exploitative aspects of industrial agriculture, such as the excessive use of agricultural toxins and violation of land rights. By investing in agroecological food production methods, we not only strengthen the position of small-scale farmers but we can also put a stop to the biodiversity and climate crises."
Agriculture accounts for a quarter of the world's emissions of greenhouse gases and 80% of deforestation and loss of diversity. Despite the abundance of food produced, hunger and malnutrition are increasing worldwide. Agroecology is a systematic approach to agriculture and food production focused primarily on the ecologically sustainable, socially inclusive and economically profitable production of food. This approach is supported by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and a growing number of donor countries, including Switzerland, Germany and France.
Oxfam Novib and Both ENDS are therefore calling on the government to place the thorough restructuring of the food system high on the agenda of its development cooperation policy. And to actively advocate its ambitions for circular agriculture not only at home but also internationally. It can achieve this by doubling its support and the budget for agroecological projects in developing countries and taking the lead in promoting agroecology within the UN and other international policy fora.
"Our food system is reaching its limits," says Stefan Schüller, policy officer for sustainable food at Both ENDS. "Agroecology is aimed at the economically responsible cultivation of crops, a fair price for farmers worldwide, and a stronger link between consumer and producer. In other words, it connects agriculture, the natural environment, fair trade relations and respect for the farmer."
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Agroecology is a diverse set of agricultural practices, a field of science and a social movement. It aims to transform food systems towards greater ecological sustainability, social justice, and resilience. Both ENDS and CSO-partners around the world support farmers and pastoralists practising agroecology, both on the ground and in gathering political and financial support.
The lion's share of public budgets for climate, agriculture and development still goes to conventional agroindustrial projects that contribute to the current climate, food and biodiversity crises. Both ENDS and our partners are calling for a transition to agroecological practices that are people- and environment-friendly.
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