Agroecology for food and nutritional security: bringing social and environmental protection together

Food and nutritional security is notably a complex field for social protection, which demands an integrated approach to deal with vulnerabilities related to heath, income and natural resources access. Most recently, with all the debates about climate change and sustainability, agroecology arises as a relevant approach to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Agroecology is based on the application of ecological concepts and principles with the aim of optimizing the interactions between humans and the environment taking into account the social aspects that must be addressed in order to achieve a fair and sustainable food system. It can be considered a scientific discipline, a set of practices and a social process. Agroecology can support food production and food and nutritional security while preserving the ecosystem and biodiversity, and can also play an important role in developing resilience and adaptation to climate change[1].

Within an integrative perspective, agro-ecological production systems can make a positive contribution to the eradication of hunger and extreme poverty by focusing on local modes of production, recognition and social inclusion of traditional communities. In the current global context, agro-ecological experiments can be found all around the world and some countries have been developing specific policies in this field.

In Latin America, Brazil is an example of how to integrate agroecology and social policies. The National Policy of Agroecology and Organic Production has been implemented since 2012 with the participation of producers, government and civil society organizations. These policies address food and nutritional security, food sovereignty, use of natural resources, sustainable use of biodiversity, organic production, gender and youth issues, equitable consumption, and food distribution systems. France approved, in 2014, a bill for the future of agriculture, food and forest in which agroecology is considered a way to implement agricultural practices for a transition towards a better environmental and economic performance. In China, food security issues led to the uprising of Community Support Agriculture experiences. In these systems organic farming and healthy living are promoted by connecting consumers in the urban areas with local organic farms or small scale producers[2]. In 2015, The State Council of China released the “National Strategic Plan for Sustainable Agriculture Development (2015-2030)” and the State Council’s “Guidelines for Accelerating Transformation of China’s Agriculture Development Mechanisms”.

In confluence with this global movement, the World Committee on Food Security (CFS) - the global governance platform linked to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) - has had plenty of discussions regarding agroecology. These discussions are commonly related to family farming production and protection, public purchasing from family farming, resilience and climate change[3]. Therefore, this topic has been a significant reference for the CFS’s High Level Panel of Experts’ Reports[4].

With the aim of preserving agricultural systems marked by the harmonious interaction between traditional communities and the environment, in 2002, FAO launched the Global Partnership Initiative for the Conservation and Management of Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS). The Partnership has evolved into a Programme that aims to promote national and international awareness and recognition of agricultural heritage systems, highlighting the importance of protecting social, cultural, economic and environmental goods and services that these systems provide to traditional and vulnerable comminutes[5]

The candidatures to the GIAHS Programme are elaborated in a partnership between governmental agencies and civil society organizations. Social Cartography is a useful instrument to help stakeholders in building GIAHS candidatures. This instrument aims to help local communities to design maps of their territories in a participatory process, in which the community daily life, collective structures, rivers, houses and social facilities are represented.

Social cartography usually involves traditional extractive populations, family farmers and indigenous people and is an instrument used to assert the rights of these groups against large economic enterprises, helping them to deal with problems related to land grabbing, non-compliance with regulations regarding the delimitation of indigenous lands, and environmental preservation. A remarkable experience related to Social Cartography in Brazil, for example, was the New Social Cartography of the Amazon project, as it resulted in the creation of social and environmental policies to protect traditional communities, specifically the creation of extractive reserves[6].

Other recent FAO initiatives regarding agroecology for food and nutritional security can be mentioned. In 2014, the International Symposium on Agroecology for Food Security and Nutrition was held in Rome. This Symposium was followed by regional meetings in Brazil, Senegal and Thailand in 2015 and by the International Symposium on Agroecology for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems in China, in 2016, which took place in the Chinese city of Kunming. In 2017, FAO launched an Agroecology Knowledge Hub, which aims to promote the benefits of agroecology through strengthening the empirical database on the topic by sharing examples of successful policies, strategies and experiences.

All the local, national and global initiatives presented above show the awareness that the recent discussions on sustainability have raised. The launching of the Sustainable Development Goals created a favorable scenario to bring agroecology to the center of international debates and with that the opportunity to explore how alternative practices can be implemented in order to achieve social and environment protection in an integrated perspective.

This blog post is published as part of the Ambassador Series, which presents insights into social protection around the world from the viewpoint of our Ambassadors, a group of international online United Nations Volunteers who support the online knowledge exchange activities, networking and promotion of socialprotection.org.

References

Banner image Grassroots International - mozambique201112-20.JPG . Farmers in Mozambique provide a viable alternative to the Green Revolution. https://www.flickr.com/photos/grassrootsinternational/6596488389/in/phot...

[1] Agroecology Knowledge Hub. http://www.fao.org/agroecology/overview/en/

[2] Institute of Rural Reconstruction of China. 52 Profiles on Agroecology:

Revitalizing Agroecology in China. http://www.fao.org/3/a-be865e.pdf.

[3] FAO’s 43rd Session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS): “making a difference in food security and nutrition” (Part 1 of 2). Ambassadors Series. Felipe Albuquerque. http://socialprotection.org/learn/blog/fao%E2%80%99s-43rd-session-commit...

[4] High Level Panel of Experts. 2016. Sustainable Agricultural Development for Food Security and Nutrition: what roles for livestock? Rome: High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition of the Committee on World Food Security.

[5] Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS). http://www.fao.org/giahs/en/

[6] Rede Mobilizadores. A cartografia social vem se consolidando com instrumento de defesa de direitos. http://www.mobilizadores.org.br/entrevistas/cartografia-social-vem-se-co...

Social Protection Programmes: 
  • Social assistance
Social Protection Topics: 
  • Benefits level
  • Governance
  • Legislation
  • Targeting
  • Universal Social Protection
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Agriculture and rural development
  • Consumption and expenditure
  • Environment and climate change
  • Food and nutritional security
  • Human rights
  • Inequality
  • Poverty
  • Resilience
  • Social inclusion
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