Strength from diversity in agroecological transitions
The CGIAR Initiative on Agroecology diversified its approach to agroecological living landscape (ALL) establishment, thus widening the scope for sustainable action to create enabling policy environments, find appropriate institutional mechanisms, and develop targeted business models together with alternative financial mechanisms. Initial outcomes include the decision of commercial allies of organic cocoa farmers in Peru to explore carbon markets, an agreement with the government of Peru’s Ucayali region to include an agroecological lens in its biotrade strategy, the strong leadership of Kenyan partners in implementing ALLs, and Initiative support for Kenya’s Inter-Sectoral Forum on Agroecology and Agrobiodiversity in implementing national policy. In Tunisia, partner organizations are already refocusing their priorities on reducing inputs along the livestock value chain and on social and solidarity-based economy principles for honey production.
Threats to food security and environmental health make the transition to agroecology more urgent than ever. In a novel effort to accelerate this transformation, the Agroecology Initiative has laid the foundation for an international network of selected territories or ALLs.
The Initiative has engaged so far with 1,346 individual food system actors (42% female, 58% male) in seven countries, with the greatest number (532) in Tunisia. These individuals come mainly from farmers or other grassroots organizations, but also a wide range of other public and private organizations. The following comment from consultations in Zimbabwe reflects the outlook of many farmers:
“We do not mean to harm the environment, but we need to survive. If we can learn to live in harmony with nature, it will be better.” – Farmer from Mbire District in Zimbabwe participating in the ALL
In collaboration with international research teams, ALL members will design and test innovative practices, enhance the business appeal of preferred options, and bring about further changes needed for rural people to transition to agroecology, with support from other FSAs. At the same time, the ALLs provide diverse settings for the generation of science-based evidence on the effectiveness of agroecological innovations, which is vital for promoting widespread adoption.
The Initiative has deliberately selected ALLs that are highly diverse, involving different organizations as well as diverse agricultural systems and environmental conditions. In Burkina Faso, for example, the ALL centers on an area where a dairy production chain operates, and benefits from the activities of the previously established Milk Innovation Platform. The ALL created in the Lao PDR encompasses 10 villages in an ecological transect from highlands to floodplain areas, with livelihoods based mainly on rice farming and fishing. Two ALLs set up in India build on the efforts of a large government program to promote “natural farming,” with 630,000 farmers involved as of 2022. The diversity of the ALLs is a source of strength, making it possible to develop and research multiple options for putting agroecological principles into practice under widely differing circumstances.
To better understand this diversity, Initiative researchers have devised tools for stakeholder mapping, value chain assessment and assessing multi-stakeholder Initiatives already underway. In parallel, Initiative researchers are inventorying current policies and institutions relevant to agroecology, with the aim of tracking innovation in these areas. In several countries, researchers have analyzed key agricultural value chains and their potential to enhance business models aligned with agroecology principles. In addition, country teams have begun characterizing the ecological, economic, social, and political context of their work. Such analysis is critical for enabling the Initiative to generate science-based evidence on the performance of agroecology.
Each ALL will next complete the elaboration of a shared vision for its agroecological transition, drawing on the wealth of data and information assembled so far. Several outcomes have already begun to emerge, including the decision of commercial allies of organic cocoa farmers in Peru to explore carbon markets as an alternative financial mechanism that complements current assistance to cacao producer cooperatives. This mechanism should aid the incorporation of agroecological principles into the cooperatives’ business model, while strengthening support for Amazon forest conservation. The private sector partner has already reached out to other companies aiming to inset their carbon equivalent emissions. Meanwhile, the Ucayali regional government has agreed to include an agroecological lens in its biotrade strategy.
In Kenya, the Community Sustainable Agriculture Healthy Environmental Program and Drylands Natural Resources Centre are leading territorial food systems transformation. The country’s Inter-Sectoral Forum on Agroecology and Agrobiodiversity has asked the Initiative to support national policy implementation. In Tunisia, partner organizations are refocusing their priorities on input reduction along the livestock value chain and solidarity-based economy principles for honey production.
- CGIAR contributes to the National Agroecology Strategy in Kenya
- CIAT collaboration with the regional government of Ucayali in Peru led to implementing an agroecology corridor under a two-year memorandum of understanding
- Ucayali, Peru: Development of a Regional Strategic Plan for the Promotion of biotrade with a focus on agroecology and its action plan for 2028
- Preparation of a roadmap to consider the carbon market as an alternative financial mechanism for the Cooperativa Agraria de Cacao Aromatico “Colpa de Loros” in Peru
- Refinement and scaling of inclusive agroecological innovations for livestock management, crop rotations, and soil conservation in semi-arid South Mediterranean regions
Header image: Farmers in the ALL of Murehwa in Zimbabwe participate in a visioning exercise facilitated by partner Bio-Hub Trust. Photo by CIMMYT Zimbabwe
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