Celebrating Agroecology on the International Day of Biological Diversity!

“We’re part of the solution!”

By Andrew Kang Bartlett | Presbyterian Hunger Program

… is the slogan for this year’s UN International Day of Biological Diversity, which the world has been celebrated on May 22, since 1993.

The International Day for Biological Diversity bolsters the Sustainable Development Goals and highlights the United Nations’ Convention on Biological Diversity, a multilateral treaty signed by all the UN member countries except for the United States.

Given the prominent impact of agriculture on the environment, today we will compare conventional agriculture, which destroys biodiversity, with agroecology, an approach that actually enhances biological functions and diversity.

First, you may ask – what is agroecology?

Simply stated, agroecology seeks to transform food and agricultural systems in ways that work with nature and address the root causes of problems through holistic and long-term solutions. Agroecology includes an explicit focus on social and economic dimensions of food systems and places a strong focus on the rights of women, youth, and indigenous people.

Agroecology has so much going for it and today we will touch on the first seven of its advantages. Compared to the dominant model of industrial agriculture, agroecology:

  1. Is better for the God’s creation
  2. Uses fewer or no chemicals
  3. Maintains more biodiversity
  4. Increases soil fertility
  5. Reduces, rather than increases, global warming
  6. Is more resilient in the face of disasters and extreme weather
  7. Feeds more people and provides healthier food
  8. Is better for family farmers
  9. Provides better jobs
  10. Builds healthier communities and stronger local economies
  11. Fosters a more democratic society

Ian Pagán-Roig, farmer agroecology trainer at Finca Josco Bravo, is part of the revival of agroecology in Puerto Rico. Photo by Andrew Kang Bartlett.

#1 through 5:  Better for God’s Creation and Biodiversity

Agroecological farming is healthier for the environment, for the farmer, and for the eater. Food is produced from soil whose health has been nurtured through the application of organic material, cover cropping, and other ecological practices, not through chemical fertilizers that contaminate water supplies. Crop health is addressed through crop rotation, sophisticated forms of cultivation, organic pest management, and the use of naturally resistant crop and animal varieties, not through synthetic pesticides or genetically altered organisms designed to resist those pesticides. Agroecology also improves soil fertility partly by capturing carbon from the atmosphere to reduce climate change.

#6:  More resilient in the face of disasters and extreme weather

Agroecological farming is more resilient and stable in the face of disasters and extreme weather events. Numerous studies and experiences show that a healthy soil results in healthy crops that are able to withstand challenging growing conditions better than chemically treated soil and crops. Side by side trials at Rodale Institute showed that organic farming systems out-produced conventional ones by 31% during periods of drought. In a volatile economic climate, agroecological farming tends towards more diversity and therefore more stability in a farmer’s income. According to the United Nations IAASTD Study, agroecological farming has the best chance of feeding humanity with healthy food in a sustainable manner far into the future.

#7:  Feeds more people and provides healthier food

Diversified, agroecological farms produce more food per acre than conventional, single crop agriculture. Agroecological farming is also more productive in areas with marginal land and unpredictable weather, exactly where most impoverished people live. The United Nations’ IAASTD study and meta-studies over many years, show how small- and mid-sized diversified organic farming operations can produce more high quality food per acre than industrial methods. And they do so without destructive social and environmental effects.

Specifically, agroecological farming produces more nutritious food and reduces human contact with known toxins found in pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. The methods used build a healthy ecosystem in partnership with nature and with greater community benefits.

Photo courtesy of Soul Fire Farm; learn about their amazing work at www.soulfirefarm.org

Agroecology is better for farmers and the environment, enhances biological diversity, provides more and better food, and it is more likely to sustain our and other species into the future.

You can be part of the solution by buying food from local and regional farms that practice agroecology, opposing farm policies that bolster industrial agriculture, and advocating for biodiversity-friendly ranching and farming. You can do this by asking your congressional representatives to support the Agricultural Resilience Act. Email or call today!

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The Presbyterian Hunger Program supports the scaling out of agroecology through grants and campaign work, all of which is made possible through your donations to One Great Hour of Sharing


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