03.02.2021 |

Embed agroecology in EU food and farming policies, paper

The FAO 10 Elements of Agroecology

The European Union must recognise agroecology as the key pathway to transform EU food and farming systems, according to a new policy paper published on January 28th. The paper, led by the EU Food Policy Coalition, builds on the consensual vision of a coalition of EU civil society, farmers and scientific organisations, among them ARC 2020, IFOAM Organics Europe, IPES Food or Friends of the Earth Europe. They argue that agroecology can shape and transform EU food systems and needs to be integrated into EU policies. Their four-page document suggests how this can be achieved by using the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s ‘10 Elements of Agroecology’ and ‘13 Agroecological Principles’ as a framework.

The authors highlight that food systems in the EU and around the world a currently facing a lot of “severe environmental and social challenges, and are falling short on sustainably providing healthy, safe, adequate and culturally appropriate food and nutrition for all”. They warn that these systems are causing environmental degradation and loss of vital ecosystem services, economic hardship for farmers and socio-economic inequities, and thus urgently need to be redesigned. The agroecology approach could be the solution to those problems. The paper points out that “agroecology, ‘the science of applying ecological concepts and principles to the design and management of sustainable agriculture and food systems’, has been identified by a series of landmark international reports as a key enabler for this urgently needed food systems transformation. The paper explains that “agroecology encompasses various approaches, including organic and regenerative farming, and includes amongst its goals the need to maximize biodiversity and stimulate interactions between different plant and animal species as part of holistic strategies to build long-term fertility, reduce pest and disease risk, protect freshwater systems, secure pollination services, safeguard healthy agroecosystems and secure livelihoods”.

According to the authors, agroecology has the potential to succeed where current systems are failing, and can thus can “serve as a pivotal strategy to achieve a number of crucial EU policy objectives”. On 20 May 2020, the European Commission published the “EU Biodiversity Strategy” and the “Farm to Fork Strategy” as key components of the European Green Deal. Both strategies acknowledge the significant role that agroecology can play in underpinning a food systems transformation. In order to embed agroecology into these strategies and future EU policies, FAO’s 10 elements and the 13 principles of agroecology should be used because they can “support the planning, management, and evaluation of an agroecological transition”. The 10 elements of agroecology are diversity; synergies; efficiency; resilience; recycling; co-creation and sharing of knowledge; human and social values; culture and food traditions, responsible governance and circular and solidarity economy. According to the authors, the 10 Elements and the 13 Principles are complementary. The elements define agroecology in a global and inclusive way, while the principles list the practices and the concepts that must be applied for agroecological transition to take place. The 26 signatory organisations support the view that those elements and principles “should be taken into account in all relevant policies to support agroecology, whether at international, European, national, regional or local levels.” One example mentioned in the paper is the FAO Tool for Agroecological Performance Evaluation (TAPE), which is based on the 10 elements and uses the 13 principles to monitor and evaluate the impacts of projects and policies, as well as to identify strengths and weaknesses in sustainable production.

The organisations behind the paper demand that tools such as TAPE should be used to guide the design of policy interventions across Europe, and enable national authorities to address the EU targets stemming from the EU Green Deal framework. In addition, funds – especially from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) – should be made available in member states to design new schemes for agroecological transition. In this context, the 10 Elements and the 13 Principles should be used by Member States as a guide to define their strategies and interventions, the organisations recommend. In addition, under the guidance of the EU Commission, Member States should be actively encouraged to set up programmes where a combination of rules and financial supports fit within the logic of agroecology. “Agroecology is not one of the tools in a toolbox, it is a different toolbox altogether. The EU must recognise agroecology as the key pathway to transform EU food and farming systems, embracing the whole potential of agroecology through the framework proposed above, and translate this commitment into all its future policies relating to food systems,” the paper concludes. (ab)

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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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