Image: USDA CC BY 2.0
There are lots of small actions we can all take to eat more sustainably. But to make the big changes we need to feed everyone whilst also maintaining our environment, our food systems need to change. A sustainable approach to this called ‘Agroecology’.
But what on Earth is agroecology? And why is it a good thing?
Agroecology is a sustainable approach to food production looks at farming as part of the wider ecosystem and wider society. Small-scale sustainable farms mean farmers know the land and their animals, and take good care of them. These farmers don’t need to rely on pre-emptive antibiotics, artificial fertilisers, pesticides or mass-produced grain feed: if they can avoid these things altogether they can be certified ‘organic’.
Instead of these harmful approaches, farmers can feed animals on grass, use manure for fertiliser, and take action early against disease. Agroecologists take a scientific approach to studying the best methods that farmers can use to produce good food in harmony with the environment.
But won’t Agroecology push food prices up?
At the moment buying local, organic, free-range food is a ‘consumer choice’. If you’re able to make that choice, it can help support small-scale farmers produce sustainable food, but it isn’t affordable for everyone. Supporting agroecology means not just a shift to smaller farms, but also to shorter food chains and a more localised economy.
An Agroecology approach could mean changing financial incentives for farmers to encourage this smaller, more local approach, so that farmers (not middle men and big corporations) can make a fair profit, and sell good food at a reasonable price. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Agroecology is a voice for agroecology in government – but they need support from ordinary people to make a difference!
And you can find out more about agroecology from the Landworkers Alliance and the Campaign for Real Farming. This podcast from Mongabay also provides some helpful explanations about what agroecology means in theory and how people are putting it into practice: