News / Sustainable farming policy

Recent studies show that agroecology can deliver for food security, nutrition and biodiversity

Agroecology encompasses the environmental, economic and social aspect of farming, bringing them together to show that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Two recent studies highlight how agroecology can deliver on multiple fronts.

View over Soul Farm CSA based in Cornwall. Credit: Laurence and Adele Jarrett-Ker, Soul Farm

View over Soul Farm CSA based in Cornwall. Credit: Laurence and Adele Jarrett-Ker, Soul Farm

It is often believed that intensive large-scale agriculture is necessary to feed the world, yet millions of people face starvation and food insecurity on a daily basis. Many of its proponents suggest that small-scale agroecological farming is unproductive and wouldn’t be able to fulfil that need, however research suggests the opposite might be true.

New research by Rachel Bezner Kerr et al. (2021), shows that agroecology can actually have more positive benefits for food security and nutrition (FSN). In a review of evidence, they found that 78% of the 56 different studies looked at found that agroecological farming systems incorporating crop diversity, organic soil amendments and agroforestry, benefitted FSN.

They found that the complexity of agroecology was a pro, and not a con, for providing nutritious food to people, and that farmer networks and attention to social equity were important dimensions.

Through another evidence review, Vincent Ricciardi et al. (2021) show that smaller farms can out compete larger ones when it comes to food productivity and biodiversity. Their research shows that these farms tend to have higher yields and greater crop and non-crop biodiversity at both the farm and landscape scales.

The majority of farms worldwide are small-scale, using agroecological principles to grow food, and are arguably the cornerstone of sustainable farming.

Vicki Hird, Head of Sustainable Farming at Sustain said:

“These studies highlight the benefits that agroecological farmers around the world have been showing for many years. We need governments, local authorities, the farming sector and citizens to recognise the role agroecology can have in tackling climate change, biodiversity loss, food insecurity, hunger and poverty.”

At Sustain, we believe that the UK food system – farmers, supply chains, food services and other – as a whole can transition to agroecology over this decade. If we were to achieve this, it could reap all sorts of benefits for people and the planet.

Published 17 May 2021

Sustainable farming policy: Sustain encourages integration of sustainable food and farming into local, regional and national government policies.

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