In the spotlight

In the spotlight 1

Edited excerpts from the Declaration of the International Forum for Agroecology

Nyéléni, Mali, 27 February 2015

We are delegates representing diverse organizations and international movements of small-scale food producers and consumers, including peasants, indigenous peoples, communities, hunters and gatherers, family farmers, rural workers, herders and pastoralists, fisherfolk and urban people. Together, the diverse constituencies our organizations represent produce some 70% of the food consumed by humanity. They are the primary global investors in agriculture, as well as the primary providers of jobs and livelihoods in the world.

In 2007 many of us gathered here at Nyéléni, at the Forum for Food Sovereignty… Similarly, We gather here at the Agroecology Forum 2015 to enrich Agroecology through dialogue between diverse food producing peoples, as well as with consumers, urban communities, women, youth, and others. Today our movements, organized globally and regionally in the International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty (IPC), have taken a new and historic step.

Building on the past looking to the future
Our ancestral production systems have been developed over millennia, and during the past 30 to 40 years this has come to be called agroecology. Our agroecology includes successful practices and production…we have developed sophisticated theoretical, technical and political constructions.

Our diverse forms of smallholder food production based on agroecology generate local knowledge, promote social justice, nurture identity and culture, and strengthen the economic viability of rural areas.

Agroecology means that we stand together in the circle of life, and this implies that we must also stand together in the circle of struggle against land grabbing and the criminalization of our movements.

Overcoming multiple crises
The industrial food system is a key driver of the multiple crises of climate, food, the environment, public health and others. Free trade and corporate investment agreements, investorstate dispute settlement agreements, and false solutions such as carbon markets, and the growing financialization of land and food, etc., all further aggravate these crises.

We see agroecology as a key form of resistance to an economic system that puts profit before life.

Agroecology at a crossroads
Popular pressure has caused many multilateral institutions, governments, universities and research centers, some NGOs, corporations and others, to finally recognize “agroecology”. However, they have tried to redefine it as a narrow set of technologies, to offer some tools that appear to ease the sustainability crisis of industrial food production, while the existing structures of power remain unchallenged. This co-optation of agroecology to fine-tune the industrial food system, while paying lip service to the environmental discourse, has various names, including “climate smart agriculture”, “sustainable-” or “ecologicalintensification”, industrial monoculture production of “organic” food, etc. For us, these are not agroecology: we reject them, and we will fight to expose and block this insidious appropriation
of agroecology.

The real solutions… will not come from conforming to the industrial model. We must transform it and build our own local food systems that create new rural-urban links, based on truly agroecological food production by peasants, artisanal fishers, pastoralists, indigenous peoples, urban farmers, etc…we see [agroecology] as the essential alternative to the industrial model, and as the means of transforming how we produce and consume food into something better for humanity and our Mother Earth.

Our common pillars and principles of agroecology
The production practices of agroecology are based on ecological principles like building life in the soil, recycling nutrients, the dynamic management of biodiversity and energy conservation at all scales. Agroecology drastically reduces our use of externally-purchased inputs that must be bought from industry. In agroecology there is no use of agrotoxins, artificial hormones, GMOs or other dangerous new technologies.

Territories are a fundamental pillar of agroecology. Peoples and communities have the right to maintain their own spiritual and material relationships to their lands…this implies the full recognition of their laws, traditions, customs, tenure systems, and institutions, and constitutes the recognition of the selfdetermination and autonomy of peoples.

Collective rights and access to the commons are a fundamental pillar of agroecology.

The diverse knowledges and ways of knowing of our peoples are fundamental to agroecology. Agroecology is developed through our own innovation, research, and crop and livestock selection and breeding.

The core of our cosmovisions is the necessary equilibrium between nature, the cosmos and human beings. We reject the commodification of all forms of life.

Collective self-organization and action are what make it possible to scale-up agroecology, build local food systems, and challenge corporate control of our food system. Solidarity between peoples, between rural and urban populations, is a critical ingredient.

The autonomy of agroecology displaces the control of global markets and generates self-governance by communities. It requires the re-shaping of markets so that they are based on the principles of solidarity economy and the ethics of responsible production and consumption.

Agroecology is political; it requires us to challenge and transform structures of power in society. We need to put the control of seeds, biodiversity, land and territories, waters, knowledge, culture and the commons in the hands of the peoples who feed the world.

Women and their knowledge, values, vision and leadership are critical for moving forward. All too often, their work is neither recognized nor valued. For agroecology to achieve its full potential, there must be equal distribution of power, tasks, decision-making and remuneration.

Agroecology can provide a radical space for young people to contribute to the social and ecological transformation that is underway in many of our societies. Agroecology must create a territorial and social dynamic that creates opportunities for rural youth and values women’s leadership.

The full declaration here.

In the spotlight 2

Agroecology at a crossroads — between institutionalization and social movements

Agroecology is in fashion. From being ignored, underappreciated and excluded by the institutions that govern agriculture internationally, it has become recognised as one of the key alternatives to confront the serious crises caused by the green revolution. This is unprecedented, and leaves agroecology facing a serious dilemma: give in to cooptation and message capture, or take the political opportunity to advance agroecology as a tool for transforming the current hegemonic, agroextractivist model. While international institutions are not monolithic and internal debates exist, the situation can be seen as a struggle between two competing camps. The first is made up of official government institutions, international agencies and the private sector, and the other is composed of various social movements, who defend agroecology as the only viable option to radically transform the prevailing agriculture and food system.

In this scenario we can see how green capitalism has “discovered” agroecology as a way of incorporating peasant agriculture, its territories and agro-ecological practices into global circuits of accumulation. Its objective is to commodify seeds and agro-biodiversity; appropriate the agroecological knowledge of peasants and indigenous communities; find agricultural products for food, cosmetic, and pharmaceutical markets; increase the profits made from carbon credits and neoliberal conservation and arrangements like REDD+; and profit from the expansion of markets for industrial organic products, which might even be rebranded as “agroecological” in the largest supermarkets. On top of this it is also offers an excellent opportunity for agribusiness to fine tune its production practices and partially revert its tendency to degrade the conditions of production, increase production costs and reduce productivity over time.

Through the classic strategies of development the intention will be to appropriate the knowledge of rural peoples — creating and imposing dependency on a system that in the future will provide agroecological services through states, opportunistic NGOs, transnational companies, and the projects of foundations and international organizations. We should avoid the naivety of believing that at last the doors have been opened to transform world agrarian structures towards agroecology; on the contrary, social movements have to remain alert that institutionalization does not strengthen dependency on public programs and projects, which can generate more bureaucracy and useless demagoguery.

We are at a crossroads which social movements cannot afford to ignore. To refrain from taking part in these discussions is to leave the way clear for capital to find its way out of its chronic crisis of over-accumulation, while temporarily restructuring the conditions of production. Above all however, it is an excellent opportunity for regrouping our forces as we resist this new attempt at appropriation, for giving new meanings to struggle, updating our forms of resistance, and finally for redefining the meaning of al ternatives.

In the end, one of the major contradictions of capital is that in the attempt to gobble everything up – in the efforts to bring every space and human activity into the circuits of accumulation, they end up reinforcing peoples’struggles, having the antagonistic effect of strengthening mobilizations and inspiring people to reappropriate their own knowledge and heritage, revalue their cultures, and redouble their efforts to build effective social processes for scaling up agroecology in their territories.

The full article can be seen here (in Spanish only):