Mainstreaming Agroecology in Southeast Asian Higher Education

TWN Info Service on Sustainable Agriculture
16 July 2022
Third World Network

Dear Friends and Colleagues

Mainstreaming Agroecology in Southeast Asian Higher Education

In Southeast Asia, regional food insecurity has increased from 96.8 million people (15.3%) in 2015 to 18.8% of the population (around 125.5 million people) in 2020. The region is off track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for zero hunger by 2030. However, agroecology can be an important method to help meet the SDGs while particularly protecting or enhancing agrobiodiversity as part of a sustainable food system.

This policy brief advocates that with greater support for institutional reforms based on five pillars, more higher education institutions could collaborate with the FAO and other agencies, regional organizations, governments and donors to scale-up agroecological innovations and alternatives and achieve the SDGs:

1.  Agroecology curriculum, learning resources and teaching. What is needed is better integration of agroecology or agrifood sustainability issues into university curricula, learning and teaching. Agroecological curricula should favour multi-disciplinary approaches and build agroecology competencies and skills to help students find or create decent green agriculture or food system jobs to genuinely serve rural and indigenous communities while protecting ecosystems.

2.  Scientific research on agroecology evidence, partnerships and learning. Multidisciplinary research needs to better address agreocology critics with new studies providing reliable evidence on how agreocology can facilitate sustainable food systems. More studies must improve organic agriculture assessments and methods for agro-ecological scaling up. Scientific methodologies should especially include participatory agreocology research with rural communities and others.

3.  National and campus policies for agreocology mainstreaming. Many issues need policy support to incentivize study and innovation to better design, promote and strengthen agreocology alternatives (particularly in the field and at rural community levels) while scaling-up best practices in new curricula, faculty teaching, research, campus sustainability in food services or procurement, extension services and more.

4.  University-based rural extension, farmer services and agreocology evidence. Rural advisory or extension services could be improved with higher educaction insitutional partnerships to better study impacts while assessing agreocology’s multiple values. There is a timely opportunity for academics to collaborate with farming communities, indigenous peoples and national agriculture extension services to test and implement a new tool by the FAO for agro-ecology performance evaluation (TAPE).

5.  Institutional sustainability assessments/reporting, evidence-based policy dialogue and reforms for agreocology. Specific data on agreocology curriculum, learning resources, policies, enrollments and extension services as well as their impacts on student career choice, communities, labour markets and society need to be systematically collected, compared and then used as evidence to inform academic administrators, policy-makers and curriculum developers.

The policy brief is one in a series led by Chulalongkorn University with support from the Office of the Higher Education Commission, Ministry of Education, Thailand, in partnership with FAO. It is available here:

With best wishes,
Third World Network

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