Scientists’ Support Letter for the International Symposium on Agroecology, 18–19 September, 2014

This letter, led by Jahi Chappell, was originally published on the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy website. It has been reproduced here with permission by the lead author. The full text is available here.

As scientists and scholars working in sustainable agriculture and food systems, the undersigned praise the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) for organizing and convening the International Symposium on Agroecology for Food and Nutrition Security.

This symposium comes at an opportune time as climate change, continued food insecurity and rural poverty present myriad challenges to sustainability. Agroecology, especially when paired with the developing principles of food sovereignty and food justice, offers opportunities to address all of these problems to an extent not matched by other approaches or proposals. This is why agroecology has been endorsed by the former U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier De Schutter;[i] the 10,000-member Ecological Society of America;[ii] through the formation and statements of the Latin American Society for Agroecology;[iii] in the scientific report of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD); by La Vía Campesina, the world’s largest organization of peasant farmers; by a growing number of research institutions around the worldand most recently, further endorsed by over 250 scientists and experts.[iv]

As the organizers and attendees of the symposium likely already know, these groups—and the undersigned—view agroecology as a well-grounded science, a set of time-tested agronomic practices and, when embedded in sound sociopolitical institutions, the most promising pathway for achieving sustainable food production. Agroecology integrates multiple fields into a unique “trans-discipline,” drawing on ecology, agronomy, political economy and sociology, among other fields. It can be considered a science, a set of practices, and a social movement for distributive and procedural justice. In fact, without these elements of justice—which are often lacking in other approaches (for example, “climate-smart agriculture” or “sustainable intensification”)—no approach can be scientifically assessed as “sustainable” according to most established definitions of sustainability.[v] The procedural justice element has been associated with the growing conceptualization of and movement for “food sovereignty” —the right for people to design and decide on the shape of their own food system within their own localities, to the maximum extent practicable, with the maximum possible participation.

To continue reading and to access endnotes, download the full letter.

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4 thoughts on “Scientists’ Support Letter for the International Symposium on Agroecology, 18–19 September, 2014

  1. Hello there,
    thank you very much for sharing this. I think it is very important to explicitly raise in circles such as the FAO the issues of food sovereignty, human right to food, land use rights, distributive justice…, and to make more visible the role, contribution and demands of social movements such as la vía campesina.
    I wonder if there is a possibility to add one’s name to the support letter. I sure would like to participate in this effort.
    best regards,
    Cristina de la Vega-Leinert
    (Geography Department, University of Greifswald, Germany)

    • Dear Cristina, thank you for this comment. Jahi Chappell is coordinating the signatures for this — it’s possible this one is already “too late” — it happened in a bit of a rush. But I would suggest you write directly to Jahi, and I’m sure he will get back to you. Cheers, J.

  2. Thanks again for bringing such pointed and eloquent writing to our attention Joern! The clarity of distinction between an agroecological approach that incorporates (for instance) social justice into its agronomic and ecological framework, and the increasingly championed sustainable intensification, is terrific.
    Cheers, Simon

  3. Thank you, all signees, for your initiative and publication of this Agroecology address to FAO. It is a prior topic in civil society and NPOs as well, of course.
    As a former urban person without any understanding of rural issues I came to know the topic of sustainability efforts in agriculture one year ago. I heard Prof. Miguel Altieri ask for the change from input based to process based agriculture. Thinking it over, I was impressed to detect that such a procedural change would bring the farmers’ independence back. It is a question of processes – and not excessively buying and using products from industry plants any longer. It would lead to really sustainable localized solutions in the hands of peasant farmers. Such work processes could not be captured by global capital market players and transferred from one place to the other just as they like.
    Since living with horses for myself, I detected their enormous potential to contribute to such a system change while fulfilling all today’s environmental requirements. They have a centuries’ proven track record of energy efficiency and soil fertility preservation as well as climate protection.
    They support the Family Farming model – on which we focus this year especially – just wonderfully. They live and reproduce their working energy on the farm land. Closed natural cycles.
    We only have to get rid of blinders to see the great potential. This is what I am working for – as voluntary member in various respective European NPOs: getting rid of blinders and opening minds for draught horse agriculture.
    I have published data and stories about horse aided agricultural system in a little documentary book “Langsamer. Kleiner. Gut. Mit natürlicher Pferdekraft aus der Fortschrittsfalle in der Landwirtschaft” – from a central European perspective with practical examples. If it works here, it works everywhere.
    I’ll send a copy of the book to Lüneburg. It would be great to raise your interest in involving draught horse work into your studies.
    Good luck and success to all your further work.
    Therese Grosswiele

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