What is agroecology?
Agroecology is a scientific
discipline that uses ecological theory to study, design, manage and
evaluate agricultural systems that are productive but also resource
conserving. Agroecological research considers interactions of all
important biophysical, technical and socioeconomic components of farming
systems and regards these systems as the fundamental units of study,
where mineral cycles, energy transformations, biological processes
and socioeconomic relationships are analyzed as a whole in an interdisciplinary
Agroecology is concerned
with the maintenance of a productive agriculture that sustains yields
and optimizes the use of local resources while minimizing the negative
environmental and socio-economic impacts of modern technologies. In
industrial countries, modern agriculture with its yield maximizing
high-input technologies generates environmental and health problems
that often do not serve the needs of producers and consumers. In developing
countries, in addition to promoting environmental degradation, modern
agricultural technologies have bypassed the circumstances and socio-economic
needs of large numbers of resource-poor farmers.
The contemporary challenges
of agriculture have evolved from the merely technical to also include
social, cultural, economic and particularly environmental concerns.
Agricultural production issues cannot be considered separately from
environmental issues. In this light, a new technological and development
approach is needed to provide for the agricultural needs of present
and future generations without depleting our natural resource base.
The agroecological approach does just this because it is more sensitive
to the complexities of local agriculture, and has a broad performance
criteria which includes properties of ecological sustainability, food
security, economic viability, resource conservation and social equity,
as well as increased production.
To put agroecological technologies
into practice requires technological innovations, agriculture policy
changes, socio-economic changes, but mostly a deeper understanding
of the complex long-term interactions among resources, people and
their environment. To attain this understanding agriculture must be
conceived of as an ecological system as well as a human dominated
socio-economic system. A new interdisciplinary framework to integrate
the biophysical sciences, ecology and other social sciences is indispensable.
Agroecology provides a framework by applying ecological theory to
the management of agroecosystems according to specific resource and
socio-economic realities, and by providing a methodology to make the
required interdisciplinary connections.