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Newsletter no 28 - In the spotlight 2

Tuesday 13 December 2016, by Manu

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):