For the last 30 years, agriculture has been dominated by an approach predominantly focused on competitiveness and international markets. This model of agriculture has however proven to be shortsighted: environmental destruction, depletion of the soil and water and the ruin of peasant communities are just a few of the dire consequences it has brought not only in Europe but across the globe – not to mention food of bad quality and increasing global hunger and malnutrition.
Fortunately, there is another approach in agriculture, a healthier one, of better quality food, that creates employment, and that is better for the environment and empowers communities. It’s called agroecology. With Food Sovereignty at its center, agroecology combines local ancestral agricultural knowledge and culture with modern scientific insight; in this paradigm food producers are active knowledgeable and social agents of agroecological innovation. As it is stated by La Via Campesina delegates in the Surin Declaration, there are countless practices to agroecological farming throughout the world (e.g. organic farming, low external input sustainable agriculture), however it is its key ecological, social and political principles that the movement defends.
The holistic view of society carried out by agroecology, which includes economy, trade and development policies, makes of it a powerful instrument of social transformation that goes beyond rural areas. It is also a space of resistance that escapes corporate control of the food system, thanks in part to its autonomy from of external inputs, such as fertilizers and pesticides. Agroecology is considered the solution to a series of challenges and problems affecting our societies: from the dairy sector crisis, to eliminating hunger and fighting climate change.
Dominant free-market ideology has, however, placed a series of obstacles to the support of agroecology in public policies, despite the fact that several studies in Europe have shown that the productivity per hectare of agroecology is in many cases higher than in industrial farming. For La Via Campesina, “truly sustainable peasants agriculture comes from agroecology, thus the recovery of traditional peasant farming methods, the innovation of new ecological practices, the control and defense of territories and seeds, and well as social and gender equity.”