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Newsletter no 20 - In the Spotlight 1

Wednesday 3 December 2014, by Manu

Agroecology – from historical identity to illegal appropriation

In a world which aims to privatise and patent everything, agroecology has been placed on the agenda of international agriculture and food governance where science, multilateral agencies and even the private sector compete for space on the playing field to have their role in the design of sustainable agricultural systems recognised. In a world which assumes to recognise the importance of small-scale food producers, agroecology seems to be becoming appropriated by others and alienated from its historical protagonists.

Eduardo Sevilla Guzman [1] says “One of the characteristics of industrialised capitalist societies is constituted by the role played by science, the institutions through which social control of change is exerted, anticipating the future with the aim of planning it. Processes of privatization, commoditisation and “scientification” of communal ecological goods (air, land, water and biodiversity) developed through the dynamic of modernization have assumed an intensification through the application of artificial physical, chemical and biological processes to cycles of nature in order to obtain foodstuffs”.

For this, it is more urgent than ever to know how agroecology was born in order to conceive public policies through the right lens. Since the origins of humanity, knowledge has been essential to life, and for this agroecology has been developed from traditional knowledge accumulated historically by peasant farmers, to which has been added the scientific knowledge of the last few centuries.

It has been peasant farmers and indigenous peoples who have identified, adapted and incorporated new elements to improve production of food, maintaining their cultural identities without damaging nature. This is the only form we should use when developing creative designs for the production and circulation of foodstuffs.

Peasant knowledge and experience, surrounded by capitalism in its distinct forms, becomes reborn from its origins and is refreshed, demonstrating real results with creativity and legitimacy and showing definitively that it is possible to have a dignified life in the countryside, maintaining a peasant and indigenous identity.

Agroecology is the social, economic, organisational, productive and political model for living in the countryside of small-scale food producers which returns the social role of food – in contrast to the capitalist system which reduces food to a commodity. It has the unique particularity of not being a homogenous model, but one which accommodates all the local agri and hydro-cultures represented by men and women farmers and peasants, pastoralists, indigenous peoples, small-scale fisheries and woodland and forest dwellers who defend their territories and the land, seeds and all natural resources, food sovereignty and buen vivir.

However, agroecology also implies a change in the paradigm of social, political and economic relations, as well as the relations between nature and society – transforming the patterns of production and consumption to build food sovereignty from the peoples of the country and the city. We know that agroecology is the only model capable of feeding the peoples of the world, but only through its protagonists – peasant farmers and indigenous peoples.

Agroecology is on the agenda and is quickly becoming the key issue in many spaces which have forgotten the real protagonists of this agricultural revolution. For this reason, government recommendations should ensure it is small-scale food producers who implement political, economic and agri-food changes of and from their territories.

[1Eduardo Sevilla Guzmán, Agroecología y agricultura ecológica: hacia una “re” construcción de la soberanía alimentaria, Revista Agroecológica, University of Murcia, Volume 1, 2006.