Agro-ecological farming systems are not good customers for agrochemicals, industrial seeds or heavy agricultural machinery. Moreover, the non-standardised products of agro-ecological farming are not suited to global commodity markets. As a result, agribusiness shows no interest in the expansion of agroecology. However on both the local and international level, a promising market is now developing for goods that are sustainably and fairly produced. These so-called “ethical” and “ethnic” products are high in quality, from a certain region, can be traced back to their origin and have their own story.

Organic farming as a model

Standardised and certified methods, in particular organic farming, are a small but important part of agro-ecological farming. Organic farming allows for the verification of important criteria such as the non-use of synthetic pesticides and fertilisers. This makes it possible to market products internationally, and develop a worldwide network of producers and consumers for the exchange of information, education and scientific development. However, such attempts to standardise do not capture the diversity of agroecology. Agroecology is not a perfect system, nor is it a universal ideology. It is a continuous, never-ending approximation to the best possible solutions or compromises in the respective local, ecological, cultural and social context.

Agroecology: lots of praise, little support

Agro-ecological agricultural practices are knowledge-intensive, focus on details and follow a small-scale and long-term approach. This makes them unappealing for public or international large-scale development assistance projects intended to quickly achieve the “best” possible and easily measurable results with as little effort as possible. Shortly after the publication of the IAASTD, when the World Bank received additional billions of funding to be invested in the long-term fight against hunger, the lion’s share of these funds went into large-scale projects, even including subsidies for agrochemicals. Many scientists consider agroecology an unrewarding object of research: It implies too many parameters and levels of consideration, making agro-ecological systems difficult to dismantle and measure. This renders agro-ecological research unsuitable for prompt publications in the journals that are important for fundraising and careers in academia."The weight of the evidence points towards the need for:
• “more determined institutional and policy support for participatory ecologically-based decision making by farmers,
• agro-environmental partnerships to foster social and environmental collaborative learning,
• stronger and more enforceable policy and regulatory frameworks,
• and investments by the public sector, donor and commercial agencies in sustainable and agro-ecological research, as well as in extension, education, product innovation and marketing.” (Global, p. 107)

For this reason, agroecology has only been systematically promoted in a few countries, such as Brazil or Thailand, and is often neglected by public funding, despite assertions to the contrary. Non-governmental organisations, communities, local initiatives and farmer organisations, as well as an increasing number of committed consumers, on the other hand, are playing a crucial role in the expansion of agroecology."An increase and strengthening of AKST towards agroecological sciences will contribute to addressing environmental issues while maintaining and increasing productivity.” (Global Summary for Decision Makers, paragraph 7, p. 6)
The IAASTD contributed substantially to making agroecology a globally recognised concept of ecological, climate-adapted and socially sustainable development. The fact that some try to usurp the concept – albeit with quite different intentions - using terms such as “conservation agriculture” or “sustainable intensification”, is an unmistakable sign of the success of agroecology.


Civil Society


Videos: Agroecology

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Interview about agroecology with Peter Rosset (Via Campesina)

M. Altieri: Why is agroecology the solution to hunger & food security?

Can organic feed the world?


  • UNEP Peat distributionUNEP Peat distribution
  • UNEP CO2 emissions from land use changeUNEP CO2 emissions from land use change
  • UNEP Natural resource treeUNEP Natural resource tree
  • UNEP Energy cost of out-of-season vegetablesUNEP Energy cost of out-of-season vegetables
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Donors of globalagriculture Bread for all biovision Bread for the World Misereor Heidehof Stiftung Hilfswerk der Evangelischen Kirchen Schweiz Rapunzel
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