A radical transition to agroecology
Immediate translation enabled this workshop to include both Brazilian and international speakers and audiences, contributing to a special dynamic in the conference and a unique learning experience. The deep involvement of AS-PTA and others in the Brazilian agroecological movement ensured references to concrete experiences, challenges and policies. On the other hand, as some Brazilians in the audience commented, the international presence showed commonalities around the world.
The first day of this event demonstrated why agroecological approaches are the only viable option for a productive, healthy, sustainable and fair form of agriculture, while the second day focused on national and international policies that can encourage or discourage this change.
As became abundantly clear from a number of different perspectives, agroecology is the key to food security and environmental preservation. Preserving and increasing biodiversity, it is less vulnerable to climate change than industrial agriculture, produces better livelihoods, and it preserves agricultural heritage and traditional knowledge, while working with nature – not against it. It is not a type of farming that keeps people poor, but it is an approach to farming that allows people to survive even in poor conditions.
There was strong criticism on the current system (linked to capitalism and biopiracy), which is oriented on industrial agriculture, monocropping, high-input and destructive farming. Policies support mainly this type of agriculture, which is a challenge now at Rio+20. The last draft of the outcome document had no mention of food sovereignty, for example.
Speakers complained about policy documents, which often use empty or vague concepts (“green economy”, “sustainable intensification”, etc.). AS-PTA has been intensely involved in creating a Brazilian national agroecology policy with the government, which is now suffering from these symptoms. The government wants to support agroecology, but continues to see it as a niche. It should not be. It should be the goal of a fundamental transition in agriculture.
Generally, there was a lack of faith in government and intergovernmental organisations to bring about this change. Several people commented that at Rio Centro (where the UN conference takes place) they were confronted with speeches advocating for the sustainability of Monsanto or bioplastics. What the people at this event did believe in, was the potential of a strong and continuous push from civil society.
Several people highlighted the need to build (stronger) alliances among civil society organisations and between civil society and research institutions – for which the People’s Summit and events like these offer an excellent opportunity. The results of these days will serve as input in plenary sessions in the People’s Summit, taken further as recommendations at the end of the summit.
Text: Laura Eggens