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FAO Launches Initiative to Scale Up Agroecology in Support of the SDGs

Agroecology contributes directly to multiple SDGs through integrated practices that cut across many areas. Along with the SDGs, agroecology can also contribute to realising the aims of the Paris Climate Agreement, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.

The Second International Symposium on Agroecology was held 3-5 April 2018 in Rome, Italy. Participants discussed how Agroecology can be scaled up so that it delivers benefits for multiple SDGs. They launched the 'Scaling up Agroecology Initiative' as a framework for concerted action and partnerships for Agroecology. They also kicked off the Future Policies Award 2018 competition, which will recognize the best enabling policies for Agroecology.

The Second International Symposium on Agroecology, organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), ended with the launch of a global initiative aiming to scale up agroecological production systems in support of the SDGs.

Agroecology integrates ecological and social concepts in the design and management of agricultural production and food systems, while optimizing interactions between plants, animals, humans and the environment. The approach also aims to address the social aspects of a sustainable and fair food system. To promote the wider use of this approach, FAO convened the first International Symposium on Agroecology in 2014, followed by international and regional dialogues. The process culminated in the second International Symposium on Agroecology, held from 3-5 April, in Rome, Italy. The event aimed to synthesize the outcomes of the dialogues, launch the Scaling up Agroecology Initiative, and discuss key steps in implementing the initiative.

Participants supported the launch of the Scaling up Agroecology Initiative and asked FAO to develop a ten-year plan for implementation. The Initiative’s mission is to strengthen agroecology to “achieve equitable and sustainable food systems in support of the SDGs.” The first section provides background information on agroecology and the SDGs, followed by a section on challenges and opportunities in scaling up agroecology.

The third section provides a framework for concerted action. It contains concrete targets in three areas of work, including: knowledge and innovation for sustainable food and agriculture systems; policy processes for the transformation of food and agriculture systems; and building connections for transformative change. Section four discusses the way forward in implementing the Initiative, including through various types of partnerships, such as with UN agencies and bodies, governments and non-state actors. Two annexes describe the relevance of agroecology to different SDGs and their targets and the core principles of agroecology. Read further from IISD source.

Healthy soils are fundamental to sustainable agriculture. However, 33 percent of the world’s land is degraded due to erosion, compaction, salinization or chemical pollution and about 12 million hectares are lost each year due to drought and desertification. Agroecological techniques coupled with locally sourced practices can restore and improve soil fertility and health. The combination of crop rotation, mixed cropping and ‘zaï’, a local water collection technique, resulted in an up to 130 percent yield increase compared  with conventional practices in three provinces of Burkina Faso.

Today’s food and agricultural systems have succeeded in supplying large volumes of food to global markets, but there is categorical evidence that they cannot deliver sustainable development for all. Almost three-quarters of the estimated 815 million hungry people in the world are food producers who make their living from agriculture, fisheries and forestry. Deforestation, water scarcity, biodiversity loss, soil depletion and high levels of greenhouse gas emissions are among the major challenges faced by the planet, as identified in the targets and goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Malnutrition affects a third of the world, constituting a massive cost to health budgets in countries across the globe. Agroecology offers a unique approach to meeting the needs of future generations while ensuring no one is left behind. With food producers at its heart, agroecology seeks to transform food and agriculture systems, addressing the root causes of problems and providing holistic and long-term solutions based on knowledge-sharing and innovation.

Featuring cases in different sectors and countries around the world, this publication introduces the agroecology approach to linking food, livelihoods and natural resources, presents the 10 Elements of Agroecology, and looks at ways of scaling up the people-centred approach to ensure its potential impact is fully realized, promising a brighter future for all. 

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