Agroecology for the great producers

Agroecology represents a breakdown of paradigms, an alternative path to that which has been followed by conventional agribusiness.

When exposing ideas or concepts using words, we run the risk that they will be completely or partially distorted, in the mind of those who hear or read them. That is, you are saying one thing, the other is understanding another. 

This fact is particularly important in the field of abstract nouns, such as Agroecology, for example. According to the experiences of each one, the concept of Agroecology can recall the study of alternative techniques of agricultural production. For others, a political-social approach to food production. There are still those who confuse it with organic agriculture.

In the literature, there are different definitions for Agroecology, according to different authors. Most of them consider it to be an integrating science, therefore complex, that unites several areas of knowledge, which presupposes a holistic and transdisciplinary approach. 

Within the gate, this science deals with studying and developing sustainable techniques and modes for agricultural production, through the ecological understanding of the natural laws involved in agroecosystems.

Unlike other sciences, Agroecology considers not only the results of research, but also the local popular wisdom, of the people who deal with the land, for food production. This makes it a modern science, which also operates from the perspective of human values ​​and needs. In a way, it contrasts with the classic, Cartesian view, which seeks “absolute” and “exempt” truths.

Outside the gate, Agroecology studies various issues, ranging from logistics, trade, people’s health and even the living conditions of rural communities and public policies for food production. This set of concerns outside the gate, makes Agroecology a science that is also political and social, in addition to ecological and agronomic. It also makes the old and moldy divide between natural sciences and social sciences, in a way, lose their meaning.

Because of this, Agroecology undoubtedly represents a renewal of concepts, a breakdown of paradigms, an alternative path to that which has been followed by conventional agribusiness. 

And, precisely because it questions the prevailing model, this new science obviously threatens already established interests and beliefs. It therefore continues, little by little, breaking resistance and skepticism, in the normal trajectory of all human novelties and discoveries.

Well, in the case of Brazil, agroecological discourses and practices have, almost always, been linked to small agricultural properties and, as a consequence, to family farming, including the social movements that defend agrarian reform. In fact, the current production model of large agricultural properties, makes it very difficult to fully apply Agroecological concepts. The most difficult points are the issue of monocultures and the extent of crops.

However, the insistence on hitting the old land reform key will not move us forward. Instead, the biggest properties can and should be benefited right now, by choosing to adopt at least the first steps of the agroecological transition in-house. And that is what many are already doing. Are they:

1. Reduction of inputs and aggressive management of soil life;
2. Substitution of aggressive inputs and handling by others that favor life;
3. Increase plant biodiversity in the area.

In parallel, the large property must, if it wants to adapt to the new times, adopt other techniques and managements that did not necessarily come from Agroecology, but that are in line with it. Some examples are:

1. ILP – crop-livestock integration;
2. ILPF – crop-livestock-forest integration;
3. Cover plant cocktails, in succession to crops;
4. Use of rock powders (remineralizers).

Meanwhile, in the medium or small size properties, we could go further with the other stages of the agroecological transition, redesigning its entire productive, commercial and social system. The migration of these properties to the agroecological model, will have a positive impact on the income of these producers, and mainly, it will have a huge positive impact on the health of our society. 

This is due to the fact that agroecological production generates more nutritious and, almost always, cleaner foods, without residues of pesticides, or pesticides, as they wish.

In the case of large properties, adopting the first steps of the agroecological transition, together with other measures in the same direction, will improve their results. In addition, it will have a highly positive impact on the most important issue for humanity today: the environmental issue, including global warming, by the consequent sequestration of carbon.

The change in current models of agricultural production, both for commodity producers and for food producers, is an urgent need. The best way to do this is to prepare our technicians to use the appropriate strategy, according to the size of the property and the purpose of production. 

Agronomy universities need to renew themselves, teach less about products and more about systems. Who knows, we may even need two different agronomies: agroecological food production and sustainable commodity production.

Agriculture can indeed promote a quantum leap, both in terms of health and in the solution of environmental problems. But we need to get out of the smallness and ignorance of the irresponsible immediate thoughts, which have dominated the actions of most companies and politicians. 

Perhaps they need to know the indescribable pleasure of doing the right thing. Our children and grandchildren await our next steps, anxious to know what kind of world they will inherit. Let’s wake up?

Antonio N. S. Teixeira
Executive Director – IBA

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