Agroecology in action

Agroecology in action 1

Reproducing and exchanging seeds

The historical practices of reproducing and exchanging seeds with neighbours and between farms constitute a key strategy for good sovereignty and agroecology, which makes possible the construction, development and maintenance of diverse, complex, autonomous and resilient food systems.

The reproduction of seeds permits each family or farm to have the quantity of seeds at their disposal that they need – in order to plant or sow at the moment they consider most appropriate – which allows the productive system to be integrated into the family’s dynamic as well as the weather conditions. In addition, as Blanca from the Uruguayan Native and Indigenous Seed Network says; “When you produce your own seed, the seed is automatically «guaranteed», because you know what you are planting and what its behaviour will be.” As farm-saved seeds have developed a constant dialogue between farmers and their environment, their management is simpler and better adapted to local conditions – rendering it more resistant and less dependent on inputs. Seeds produced in this way can be planted with diverse ends: they can be used to produce food for the family and community, for animals and as a green manure.

As Pablo, also a member of the Network in the department of Tacuarembó in Uruguay says: “The exchange is so important because if one year you lose a variety you know that your neighbour will have it. In this way the community will never lose everything. For this reason working in groups and in networks is fundamental.” In the case of the Native and Indigenous Seed Network, the existence of 24 local groups has made it possible to recuperate, reproduce and exchange seeds in diverse conditions, enriching these productive agroecological systems.

Autonomy is not constructed from the level of the individual, but from a group-community level and through the process of exchange with other groups and communities. The practice of exchange feeds relationships between neighbours and builds the social fabric at a local, regional and national level. For this reason the organisation of different types of meetings throughout the year by the network is so important: Meetings of local groups, groups representatives at national level, regional meetings, and every two years a national level meeting of all members. These meetings are always accompanied by a party and celebration where seeds and knowledge are exchanged.

The most important issue – which gives continuity to this process of co-evolution of seeds and knowledge, is the permanence of people in the fields. For this it is vital to continue the struggle to ensure that people can live and produce from the land, in their territories.

Agroecology in action 2

Agroecology as a model of production

Ramrati Devi is a small scale farmer from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh. Her husband was a farmer but like many others in India, he abandoned it due to poor yield that led to losses with each harvest. That was when Ramrati decided to take the reins in her hands. She became a member of Laghu Seemant Krishak Morcha or Small and Marginal Farmers Front, Uttar Pradesh. There, she learnt about agroecological practices. With organic farming techniques she changed things around for her family today. Simple practices – such as multiple cropping on her one-acre farm- have produced high yields and a variety of food. She grows as many as thirty-two different varieties of crops that include wheat, mustard, sugarcane, garlic, coriander, spinach and potatoes for her family’s daily consumption.  Her family of twelve members depends on the farm’s food.  Ramrati is a role model and preacher of agroecological practices now.

Besides its emphasis on sustaining the environment and social inclusion through participatory frameworks, agroecological models have produced impressive economic results in terms of yields, productivity, nutrition and efficiency. It also contributes significantly towards food security and sovereignty. Agroecology models are redefining the relationship between farmers, agriculture and nature where instead of machines, farmers’ families are toiling happily; instead of costly external inputs, only farm based inputs are the used in the form of biopesticdies and biofertilizers; where monoculture is replaced by biodiversity; and where women farmers have an equal status with their men folks as seeding, weeding, thrashing, harvesting are their forte.

Agro-Ecology is fast becoming a dominant agricultural paradigm for small-scale resource poor farmers around the world. Farmers are adopting this farming technique not only for their sustenance but also to resist the corporate agricultural model pushed through green revolution and then, the gene revolution. In this age of ever increasing cost of production, indebtedness and large-scale suicides, farmers have to make their choice for changing their agricultural practices towards holistic and ecological model.  The diversity of agro-ecological models being practiced in India offer them this option in the form of Natural Farming, Zero Budget Natural Farming, Permaculture, Organic Farming, Rishi Kheti. However Agroecology based organic farming is different from the neoliberal organic farming model being promoted by the same corporations who have thrived on green revolution technologies, making farmers dependent on non-sustainable and costly external inputs.

Many more farmers like Ramrati Devi are required to spread the agroecological paradigm to defeat the capitalist and export oriented neoliberal agriculture who has threatened the survival of millions of small and marginal farmers in India and around the world.

International Forum on Peasant Agroecology Mali 24th-27th of February