Agroecology to Reconstruct a Post-Covid-19 Agriculture



Dear Friends and Colleagues

Agroecology to Reconstruct a Post-Covid-19 Agriculture 

COVID-19 has revealed the socio-ecological fragility of the current industrial food system. The effects of the pandemic on farming and food supply chains raise concerns about widespread food shortages and price spikes. A transition to more socially just, ecologically resilient, localized food systems is therefore urgently needed.

One of the lessons from the pandemic is the urgent need for food production to be in the hands of small producers, peasants and urban farmers. It is the only way to ensure the supply of fresh food, at affordable prices and in local markets. Agroecology provides a path to reconstruct a post-COVID-19 agriculture, able to avoid widespread disruptions of food supplies by territorializing food production and consumption.

A recent paper identifies five main areas in which agroecology can point the way to a new post-COVID-19 agriculture:

  1. Overcoming the pesticide treadmill: This requires replacing monocultures with complex agricultural systems in which ecological interactions between biological components replace inputs to provide mechanisms to sponsor soil fertility, productivity and crop protection.
  2. Enriching nature’s matrix: Agroecosystems which mimic the biodiversity levels and functioning of local ecosystems can be productive, pest resistant and nutrient-rich.
  3. Revitalizing small farms: Agroecology restores the production capacities of small-scale farmers. By producing stable crop yields with low external inputs, biodiverse farms can generate income and dietary diversity, thus improving smallholders’ nutritional status and livelihoods.
  4. Creating alternative animal production systems: Agroecology promotes alternative livestock production systems, e.g. silvopastoral systems, which combine fodder plants, such as grasses and leguminous herbs, with shrubs and trees for animal nutrition and complementary uses.
  5. Enhancing urban agriculture: By using agroecological principles, urban production of fresh fruits, vegetables, and some animal products near consumers can improve local food security and nutrition.

The authors argue that agroecology offers the best agricultural system able to cope with future challenges posed by ecological ruptures like COVID-19, by exhibiting high levels of diversity and resilience while delivering yields and providing key ecosystem functions to society.

We reproduce below the Abstract and Conclusions of the paper.

With best wishes,

Third World Network
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Miguel A. Altieri and Clara I. Nicholls
Journal of Peasant Studies. Vol 47, Issue 5
July 2020


The COVID-19 crisis has created a moment where existing calls for agroecology acquire new relevance. Agroecology provides a path to reconstruct a post-COVID-19 agriculture, one that is able to avoid widespread disruptions of food supplies in the future by territorializing food production and consumption. There are five main areas in which agroecology can point the way to a new post-COVID-19 agriculture: overcoming the pesticide treadmill, enriching nature’s matrix, revitalizing small farms, creating alternative animal production systems and enhancing urban agriculture.


COVID-19 has exposed the tragedy of animal factory farming and endless monocultures which lead to dramatic losses of biodiversity, obesity, malnutrition, food waste, and appalling working conditions for migrant laborers, and have undermined livelihoods of small farmers. Given this grim reality, agroecology is positioning itself as a key agricultural path that can provide rural families with significant socioeconomic and environmental benefits, while feeding the urban masses, equitably and sustainably. Agroecology has grown into a global movement backed by peasants, farmers, and activists seeking to insure food sovereignty, agrarian reform, the establishment of cooperative models, and the protection of biodiversity. Agroecology entails a fundamentally different vision of the way we produce and consume food, while contributing to the creation of equitable food systems.

One of the lessons from the current pandemic so far is the urgent need that food production be in the hands of small producers, peasants and urban farmers. It is the only way to ensure the supply of fresh food, at affordable prices and in local markets, away from the chains of the capitalist market (Holden 2020). This implies promoting redistributive land reform, which should become one of the main areas for changing public policy post-COVID-19, to directly impact on the underlying inequalities of the dominant global agrifood system.

Now that the global supply chains are in disarray, it is the opportunity for regional food systems to emerge to handle disruptions, including those projected to increase with climate change (Gustine 2020). It is important however to realize and stay vigilant as agribusiness already has its post-COVID plan, which entails more concentration, megafarms, drones, and precision farming. As Holt-Gimenez and Altieri (2013) warned earlier, the dominant players in the industrial food system are keen on converting smallholders and agroecology into means for, rather than barriers to, the expansion of industrial agriculture.

This retooling of the food system based on short supply chains will require providing smallholder farmers and herders with land, seeds, tools, food storage systems, poultry and other small stock, animal feed and other organic inputs, so that they can improve household nutrition and generate income while continuing to produce food for their and nearby communities. It will also require the understanding from urban dwellers that eating is both an ecological and political act. When consumers support local farmers instead of the corporate food chain, which is more vulnerable than small farmer food webs, they create socio-ecological sustainability and resilience.

The key point here is whether the crisis unfolded by COVID-19 will provide the impetus to change industrial agriculture for a transition towards agroecologically-based food systems. Transformational change in agriculture must be accompanied by a shift from a market economy to a solidarity economy, from fossil fuel to renewable energy, from big corporations to cooperatives. Such a new world should be led by allied social, urban, and rural movements aware that a return to the way agriculture was before the pandemics is not an option; instead they will be actively involved in turning local farms into a vital asset for providing food and promoting autonomy, while consolidating sustainable and healthy agroecological territories.

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