Press Release, 16 March 2011

Ecological agriculture could double food production in entire regions within 10 years while mitigating climate change, according to a new UN report released just recently.

Drawing on an extensive review of the scientific literature published in the last five years, the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Oliver De Schutter identifies agro-ecology as a mode of agricultural development which not only shows strong conceptual connections with the right to food, but has proven results for fast progress in the concretisation of this human right for many vulnerable groups in various countries and environments. Moreover, agro-ecology delivers advantages that are complementary to better known conventional approaches such as breeding high-yielding varieties. And it strongly contributes to the broader economic development.

The report argues that the scaling up of these experiences is the main challenge today. Appropriate public policies can create an enabling environment for such sustainable modes of production. These policies include prioritizing the procurement of public goods in public spending rather than solely providing input subsidies; investing in knowledge by reinvesting in agricultural research and extension services; investing in forms of social organization that encourage partnerships, including farmer field schools and farmers’ movements innovation networks; investing in agricultural research and extension systems; empowering women; and creating a macro-economic enabling environment, including connecting sustainable farms to fair markets.

"Agro-ecology mimics nature, not industrial processes. It replaces the external inputs like fertiliser with knowledge of how a combination of plants, trees and animals can enhance productivity of the land," De Schutter reported, stressing that, "Yields went up 214 per cent in 44 projects in 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa using agro-ecological farming techniques over a period of 3 to 10 years... far more than any GM [genetically modified] crop has ever done." Other recent scientific assessments have shown that small farmers in 57 countries using agro-ecological techniques obtained average yield increases of 80 per cent. Africans' average increases were 116 per cent.

PAN AP believes that ecological agriculture also enhances soil productivity and protects crops against pests by relying on the natural elements. The system of farming does not require expensive inputs of hazardous pesticides, fertilizers and hybrid seeds. Conventional farming being propagated by agro-chemical corporations not only relies on expensive and hazardous inputs, it also degrades the environment and fuels global warming. Large-scale industrial food production contribute up to 40 per cent of the greenhouse gases today.

Ecological agriculture is based on the local and indigenous knowledge and practices of the small food producers. It only requires a political will for the governments to support this sustainable system of farming to solve world hunger, poverty and climate change.

The UN Report can be downloaded at: