By Miguel Altieri
As a science, agroecology integrates traditional knowledge and advances in ecology and agronomy and provides tools to design systems that, based on the interactions of biodiversity, function by themselves and support their own fertility, pest regulation, sanitation. and productivity, without requiring technological packages. The principles of agroecology can be applied to any activity, be it small or large.
This discipline works with some premises that take different technological forms according to the environmental and socio-cultural conditions of each place. But for these forms to be relevant, there has to be a participatory process in which farmers and researchers generate knowledge and design their own production systems. There is no expert who teaches the farmer what to do, he is equal.
The industrial model reached its limits, because it is supported by assumptions that are no longer valid. When the Green Revolution model was created - based on oil-dependent inputs, it was believed that fossil energy would be cheap and abundant forever, that the climate would remain stable, and that man would control nature with chemicals. This was not the case: oil increases in value, there is climate change and crops are resistant to glyphosate.
One would have to wonder what the budgets would be to achieve a new agriculture that faces the challenges of the future, because all the science that has governed until now no longer offers answers. Agroecology provides the basis for this new agriculture: biodiverse, divorced from oil, which uses solar energy and exhibits resilience to climate change.
In addition, we need agriculture that is friendly to the environment and that facilitates the development of local agri-food systems, to the detriment of global ones. Every day, Buenos Aires imports 6,000 tons of food that travels nearly a thousand kilometers, causing gas emissions and energy expenditure and turning cities into fragile systems, dependent on external food sources. This is not sustainable in the future.
Agroecology has the potential to create a system that goes to the root of hunger and ensures food sovereignty. Although it can be applied at scale, this discipline enhances the agriculture of the world's small producers who occupy 20% of the land, use 20% of the water and 20% of the fossil energy and generate between 50 and 70% of the food we eat.
In contrast, industrial agriculture covers 80% of the land, exploits 80% of the water and 80% of the fossil energy and only generates 30% of food, while the rest is used for biomass - biofuels, biopharmaceuticals, bioplastics , forages. It is a very inefficient agriculture that causes a huge ecological footprint and is dominated by a global capital system.
Along these lines, agroecology should be considered as a State policy, since it allows the establishment of another scheme that cuts the hegemonic circuits between producers and consumers and acts as a bypass towards a local and fair food system.
It is important that consumers understand that food is a political and ecological act. Today, 5% of humanity is asking this question and, to make the leap, a much greater critical mass is necessary; popular education and congruent agrarian policies contribute to the escalation of agroecology.