Asia-Pacific consultation: "Agroecology is the future"
The event was the last one in a series of three regional agroecology seminars, the first two taking place in Latin America and in Africa. They were organised following a 2014 international agroecology symposium.
Around 150 representatives from CSOs, Government, Scientific community, academia, and farmer organisations participated in the Bangkok consultation, which was preceded by two preparatory meetings. At the opening, Vili Fuavao, the FAO Deputy Regional Representative said: “Agroecology is a powerful approach that helps food producers to adapt to climate change by enhancing soil fertility as well as biodiversity, including local seeds, and thus increase resilience.” Ubon Yoowah of La Via Campesina in Thailand stressed the need for research by farmers with the support of the scientific community to find solutions to their problems.
Several Asian experiences with agroecology were shared which included initiatives from different agroecosystems – irrigated, dryland agriculture, fisheries, pastoralism etc. Read more cases. This was followed by sessions where participants discussed the need to conserve natural resources in the context of climate change; agroecology learning processes; knowledge sharing and building agroecological movements; investments for agroecology promotion; transition towards agroecology and the policies needed to support it.
Some statements made in the discussion:
- Agroecology has a long history in Asia and is not a new concept. It is rooted in food sovereignty and farmers’ rights. Agroecology is not the same as organic agriculture. The role of women and youth is importance in agroecology.
- There is a need to create or identify agroecological zones.
- There is a need to build on farmers’ knowledge and for participatory documentation. Farmers are capable of monitoring their crops, collecting data, addressing problems through local solutions and adaptation to any situation. All they need is networking and collaboration with other partners.
- Knowledge related to agroecology, across different sectors, is limited. There is a need to build capacities. Higher education institutes, especially Agricultural Universities should modify their curriculum to include agroecology.
- Research should be community oriented. FAO and other international organisations should help in supporting such research. Agroecology is a holistic concept beyond the specialisations that are presently seen in the University. Hence research should be conducted in the field and not on university campuses alone.
- Policy support at global, regional, national and local levels to promote agroecology is necessary and the policies that hinder the promotion of agroecology need to be reconsidered.
- Social movements are important to inform and push for the right policies. Any public policy should be supportive of social movements.
- There is a need to increase investments in agroecological programmes and policies.
- Agroecology needs to be seen as the future, even in high potential areas, rather than limiting it to marginal areas and small scale farmers.
Based on the three days of discussions, a set of recommendations was prepared, which will be made available shortly. A promising proposal was made to establish a new regional initiative on agroecology, that includes a monitoring system of all agroecology-related activities of FAO and governments in Asia and the Pacific. It is my hope that these recommendations and proposals will be taken forward in the Regional Meeting of FAO member states in Asia and the Pacific in April/May 2016, and beyond.
TM Radha is the editor of LEISA India