Agroecology in practice

Agroecology in practice 1

Peasant to peasant: a model for the effective construction of counterhegemonic alternatives

The most significant examples available for scaling up Agroecology are tied to organizational processes – in particular those in which peasants play the role of the protagonist. For us, scaling up does not mean linearly reproducing preconceived models nor taking something small and making it big, but rather strengthening and multiplying many small processes. In order to integrate more people and territories into the agroecological movement it is essential to consolidate peasant organizations in the development of their own social, territorial, and political processes.

Peasant to peasant is a flexible dispositive or mechanism, a set of concepts/actions/possibilities united to assemble agroecologies, aid in the (re)construction and articulation of territories and facilitate the emergence of the peasant as a political subject. The three dimensions are interrelated and integrated permanently with each other, so much so that it is hard to determine where one ends and the other begins.

It is a process in which the subjects are co-producers of knowledge through the exchange of ideas, experiences and innovations in agroecological production and where successful innovations and experiments are collectively systematized and used as examples to motivate others and strengthen and expand agroecological production. These processes are typically linked to other areas of training or formation such as Peasant Schools, spaces of local, national and international political organization and articulation, “South-South cooperation”, and “peasant organization to peasant organization” processes.

The Campesino a Campesino movement for sustainable agriculture started in Central America in the early 1970s and is now widely recognized as one of the best ways to develop and promote Agroecology. Farmers not only share information and techniques, but they also share abstract agroecological concepts, knowledge and wisdom, using models, demonstrations, games, songs, poems, and stories.

One emblematic case is the Campesino a Campesino Agroecology movement (MACAC) adopted by the National Association of Small Farmers, ANAP, in Cuba, which played a key role in helping Cuba survive the crisis caused by the collapse of the socialist bloc in Europe and the tightening of the US trade embargo. Agroecology significantly contributed to boosting peasants’ food production without scarce and expensive imported agricultural chemicals by first substituting more ecological inputs for the no longer available imports, and then by making a transition to more agroecologically integrated and diverse farming systems. These practices resulted in additional benefits including resilience to climate change. The MACAC is based on the emulation of peasants by other peasants; it is a “pedagogy of experience” and a “pedagogy of the example”.

Read more in here.

Agroecology in practice 2

Women and Earth in Tajikistan

Zan va Zamin (Women and Earth) is a grassroots organization founded in 1999 by a small group of women activists in Tajikistan, whose goal is to secure tenure and access to land, the conservation of biodiversity and the preservation of traditional knowledge, and the creation of farmer associations and cooperatives.

To date, it has helped more than 1,200 women obtain title to their land. It has community nurseries and encourages women and the elderly in their role as custodians and transmitters of agricultural heritage. It has helped to create more than 30 seed banks to give access to seed varieties to farmers. Its twelve field schools produce at least 1,000 tons of vegetables a year, while their gardens and community nurseries provide trees and maintain more than 10,000 fruit trees.

It has also provided local communities with solar dryers, greenhouses that work with solar energy and low-energy kilns. Through the great work it does, it contributes to creating more resilient ecosystems, less food shortages, greater Food Sovereignty and better local incomes.

Read more here.

Agroecology in practice 3

Mobilization for institutional innovation

“This product of many years work for Agroecology and Food Sovereignty now has a legal framework in Uruguay that will allow us to continue advancing.”
Silvana Machado, National Network of Criollo Seeds

In December 2018, the Uruguayan parliament transformed the National Agroecology Plan – an initiative of agroecological family producers and producers and social organizations that promote Food Sovereignty in Uruguay – into an Act of law.

This triumph is the result of an extensive process of discussion, which began in the 5th National Festival of the Creole Seed in April 2014 and included the organisation of various seminars and workshops within the framework of successive national and regional festivals and meetings of the National Network of Native and Criollo Seeds and the Agroecology Network.

In the parliamentary debate it was stressed that the subjects to whom this new norm points are family farmers and producers of food and their role in the defense of biodiversity, territories and watersheds. Also, the historical accumulation of more than three decades of action bringing together collectives which promote Agroecology from the land was highlighted. Obtaining approval of this norm also grants formality to a critical view of the agri-food system in Uruguay and the region, starting with the defense of the Right to Food and Food Sovereignty.

Read more here, (only in Spanish).

Agroecology in practice 4

From Atelier Paysan to Farm Hack*

“At my place, it’s very hard to get something between a tractor and a trowel. There just isn’t much in between. It’s nice to come to places like this [Farm Hack event] and get energised and inspired. Cross-pollinate, swap-ideas, whinge about the weather. Lots of things. It’s very fruitful.”
Kate Collins. Market Gardner, UK

Atelier Paysan, in France, and Farm Hack, in the UK, are part of a community-led approach to the development, modification, and sharing of designs for farm tools, machinery, and other innovations. These initiatives emphasize a peasant to peasant / farmer-to-farmer approach to learning and create platforms for them to come together to ‘hack’ and apply their collective ingenuity in the development of technologies adapted to their agroecological practices.

These initiatives strive to develop technical and technological sovereignty for peasants thanks to open source resource platforms, promoting farmers’ autonomy and re-appropriation of knowledge and skills.

At Atelier Paysan, the peasant to peasant, farmer to farmer, and engineer-trainer to farmer is one horizontally but also through a referent person: an engineer from the cooperative. At the end of the training, each participant can go back to its farm with a tool he knows how to build, repair and potentially adapt to his own needs. More than 80 training dates are available each year. The auto building trainings last from 2 to 5 days. The participative processes for technology building can last for several months. Read more here.

Farm Hack typically involves two main complementary components: web platform and events. A web platform is used to where designs can be shared using an open source or creative commons approach. Farmer-derived innovations are made available and editable by other members of the community. Farm hack events bring together farmers, growers, fabricators, engineers and IT programmers to demonstrate and share tools, skills, and ideas through field demonstrations, practical workshops, seminars, entertainment, and cultural exchanges. These two components come together when tools that are demonstrated at events are posted on-line.
Read more here.

These initiatives while allowing peasants to acquire several skills (e.g. adequate technologies for peasant Agroecology, technological sovereignty, user innovation, socio-technical network animation, open source documents) play an important role in building networks between people and thus in strengthening social movements.

*From the European Agroecology Knowledge Exchange Network website.