Recommendations to Take Agroecology Forward in Europe and Central Asia


Dear Friends and Colleagues

Recommendations to Take Agroecology Forward in Europe and Central Asia

Recognizing the role that agroecology can play in achieving food security and reducing malnutrition, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has organized several international and regional meetings on agroecology since 2014. The most recent, a regional symposium for Europe and Central Asia, was held from 24 to 25 November 2016 in Budapest. It was attended by over 180 participants, representing governments, civil society, research and the private sector, from 41 countries in the region. The participants came up with 37 recommendations under the following categories:

1. Public policies to develop agroecology and promote transition
Recommendations include allowing consumers and food producers to participate in decision-making processes around the food system, markets and trade; ensuring employment and other peasant rights; and promoting research to better identify policies that disincentive agroecology.

2. Agroecology and sustainable food systems
Among the recommendations are facilitating a shift from linear food systems to circular ones that mimic natural cycles and reduce carbon footprints as well as using agroecology principles to transform the current food system, putting food producers at the centre.

3. Agroecology and natural resources in a changing climate: water, land, biodiversity and territories
This category involves promoting policies, practices, research and awareness to achieve the transformative potential of agroecology to adapt to, mitigate and reverse climate change; and upholding the rights of family farmers, women, youth, and indigenous and nomadic peoples to land, water, seeds, inland and coastal waters, forests, commons, biodiversity and territory.

4. Research, innovation, knowledge sharing and agroecological movements
Suggestions include recognising ancestral knowledge, modern innovations, traditions, and pastoralists and peasants’ local wisdom that address the true needs of communities; supporting knowledge exchange between food producers; and strengthening public and self-managed research on agroecology.

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23-25 November 2016 – Budapest


I) Public policies to develop agroecology and promote transition
1. Develop scientific and citizen led data supporting the potential of agroecology to create jobs and the need to analyse and systematise the experiences so to measure (quantify and qualify) the social, ecologic and economic implications of agroecology both at the farm scale and for upstream and downstream jobs.

2. Improve and develop a policy and economic framework within agricultural policies that supports and allows farmers to implement agroecological practices and make the transition to agroecological farming systems in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and in other food and agricultural related policies and programs throughout the Region. Direct payments should be made depended upon protecting and enhancing biodiversity.

3. Promote the establishment of Food Policy Councils at local, regional and national level to foster and allow consumers and food producers participation in decision making processes around the food system, markets and trade.

4. Improve knowledge and evidence base for the needed policy, incentives, market regulatory mechanisms, tariffs to create the needed enabling environment to allow the transition to agroecology.

5. FAO should include agroecology in its work done in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to ensure decent rural employment opportunities that ensure a living wage, security in the workplace, access to social protection and respect for fundamental human rights.

6. Develop and collaborate with international mechanisms recognising collective peasant rights, such as the Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other People Working in Rural Areas, currently negotiated in the United Nations Human Rights Council.

7. Enhance the role of agroecology in sensitive regions, specifically in Central Asia, to sustainable management of natural resources in the context of climate change to create awareness among different stakeholders (policy makers, researchers, private sector, farmers, Civil Society Organizations, and individuals).

8. Promote research in order to better identify, quantify and qualify those policies that disincentives agroecology. Making sure that True Costing work informs all relevant decisions that impact directly or indirectly agriculture and food systems.

9. Encourage the region to identify flagship countries piloting agroecology and allowing for the multi stakeholder development of knowledge and the adoption of agroecology principles.

II) Agroecology and sustainable food systems
10. Extend the dialog between health, nutrition, ecology, trade and agriculture actors to support the development of agroecological sustainable and healthy food systems.

11. Facilitate a shift from linear food systems to circular ones that mimic natural cycles and reduce carbon and ecological footprints of food and agriculture, – ensuring that circular systems are designed to replace specialised and centralised supply chains with resilient and decentralised webs of food and energy systems that are integrated with sustainable water and waste management systems.

12. Agroecology principles should be formulated and used as the principle guideline to transform and improve the current food system, be based on participation, alliances and put food producers at the centre.

13. Develop specific policies and programs to enhance public procurement based on short and local supply chain principles that provide fresh, nutritious, affordable food, which is produced in a sustainable manner and builds local and regional economies.

14. Develop public and long term financial measures, training and knowledge exchange in improving short supply chains which favour small-scale producers, such as direct marketing and value adding, peasant markets, micro-dairy, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) initiatives and Participatory Guarantee System (PGS), give financial and infrastructure support for collective local food processing units and support sanitary rules for prox?m?ty markets which are adapted to the conditions of local markets.

15. Implement the policy recommendations on ‘Connecting smallholders to markets’ recently negotiated in the Committee on World Food Security at national level.

III) Agroecology and natural resources in a changing climate: water, land, biodiversity and territories
16. Promote policies, practices, research and awareness creation material to achieve the transformative potential of agroecology to address the urgency of adapting, mitigating and reversing climate change.

17. Contribute to the agroecological transition through territorial approaches and organize pilot farm network acting according to the principles and methods of agroecology and sharing their practices and techniques.

18. Ensure, recognize, respect and uphold small-scale food producers, family farmers and communities’, in particular women’s, youths’ and indigenous and nomadic peoples’, rights to land, water, seeds, inland and coastal waters, forests, commons, biodiversity and territory, also promoting the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT) and the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-scale fisheries (VGSSF) and Farmers’ Rights as stated in the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). Close collaboration with the Commission on Genetic Resources and seek synergies with other relevant processes like Convention on Biodiversity

20. Develop national and regional plans for agroecological pathways to sustainable food systems and natural resource management that support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the UNFCCC Paris Agreement.

21. Support the participative development of adequate criteria for assessing and valuing agroecological systems and sustainable food systems, and promote their widespread sharing among all actors.

22. Facilitate the development and implementation of agroecological practices also for aquaculture and fish pond systems based on agroecological principles and study options for better integrating aquaculture, pastoralism, livestock and crop systems within territories in order to recycle resources.

23. FAO should reinforce its processes and strengthen its partnerships to prioritize agroecology in the framework of its Strategic Framework especially in the relevant delivery mechanisms (MWAs, CPFs and RIs), and implement the recommendations from the Committee of Agriculture (COAG) and regional conferences and enhances activities especially linked to Climate Change and Biodiversity.

IV) Research, innovation, knowledge sharing and agroecological movements
24. Knowledge transmission requires redesign educational programs to integrate agroecology in the curriculum of non-formal and formal education (in primary and higher education), following the principles of the Global Action Programme (GAP) on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD).

25. Support knowledge exchange in particular horizontal exchange between food producers (farmer to farmer and Farmer Field Schools (FFS) methods), adapting advisory services and extension services to agroecology with specific attention to climate change adaptation and mitigation.

26. Recognise, value, support and document ancestral knowledge and modern innovations, traditions, pastoralists and peasants’ local wisdom. Include participatory action research, the co-production of oral and written knowledge and cultural practices that addresses the true needs of communities, and particularly considers the needs of women, indigenous peoples, vulnerable groups, and youth. Ensure that innovations and the products of research remain in the public and collective domains according to Article 9 in the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA).

27. Develop mechanisms and bridges among different agroecology knowledge platforms and websites including the European Innovation Partnership Network and FAO.

28. Promote and support agroecological practices that reduce external inputs – specifically seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, animal feed and, fossil fuels enhancing the capacity of soil and agroecosystem health to close cycles and maintain productivity, stability and resilience.

29. Document impacts of agroecology on farm income, productivity and livelihoods of farmers and develop better data on the evidence base on externalities like social and environmental costs and benefits of agroecological systems, possibly including collaboration with the True Cost Accounting work.

30. Create awareness material on the concept of innovation to include conceptual, methodological, social and institutional in addition to technical innovations.

31. Strengthen public research: allocate more funds for public research in this field, favour interdisciplinary research better connecting agricultural, ecological and social sciences. Facilitate changes in research organisations (incentives and rewards, ways of working and the training of scientists and professionals) and enable farmers and citizens’ participation in research including in their community and in governance of research: setting upstream research priorities, the allocation of funds, and participation in production of knowledge and in risk assessments.

32. Strengthen self-managed research: strengthen farmers and extension services networks for research and horizontal spread of agricultural innovations, strengthen the capacity of farmers and citizens to facilitate transdisciplinary innovations that bridge different knowledge systems and give farmers and citizens enough material security and paid time to engage in and participate in the whole research cycle, including in the evaluation of research programs and institutes.

33. Organic agriculture is largely rooted in agroecological approaches, both in principles and actual practices, and most of the organic farmers respond to an ecological mission as part of their social undertaking. We recommend that agroecology and organic farming are considered in their synergies and co-evolution.

34. Participatory research and knowledge sharing require openness in the exchange of data. Preserving the public nature of knowledge and environmental data is required for the development of agroecology.

35. Develop nutrition sensitive interventions and for example design legume inclusive diversification of food and fodder cropping systems based on agroecological principles and practices to improve soil health as an agroecological contribution to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially to number 1, 2, 15 and 17.

36. Recognize and strengthen farmer seed and livestock systems and reinforce their contributions to agroecology.

37. Promote research on the institutional processes and governance of agroecology.

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