6 myths about Agroecology that you have heard in your life

We selected 6 myths commonly heard when talking about Agroecology. Shall we demystify them together?

“Agroecology is just an ideology”.

In fact, like any entity in the world, agroecology has an ideology. But we cannot allow the commercial interests of the input industry to override the interests of producers and society in general, as well as future generations. 

Agroecology seeks a new political ethic, the resumption of an economy compatible with the best human and environmental values, the harmonious coexistence between man and nature.

“Agroecology is from the time of the caves”.

Contrary to what many people think, agroecology does not deny science, but because it is based on techniques used by our grandparents, peasants and indigenous people, in view of current technological advances, it seems dispensable.

Currently, it is possible to reconcile ancestral knowledge and observation with new technologies, concepts and systems. For this, agroecology relies on modern science, while being transdisciplinary, with theoretical and methodological principles of social, agrarian and natural sciences, aiming at the design, management and conservation of sustainable agroecosystems.

“Agroecology demands a lot of labor”.

The need for work is undoubtedly greater than in conventional agriculture, when we speak of the initial stages of the agroecological transition, due to conditions that generally present a high level of degradation.

However, agroecological processes cannot be evaluated in an annual cycle of cultivation, but in a longer time, as they involve a movement of recombination of factors, of ecological regeneration, of expansion of biodiversity.

In the medium and long term, the tendency is that the use of labor is not a critical factor, and that part of the resources, which were previously destined for the acquisition of inputs external to the property, migrate to the payment of services.

“Agroecology has no productivity”.

Non-productive agriculture has no place in the current scenario, but until when will we measure “productivity” as the quantity of bags per hectare of a given crop? At what immediate cost? And at what cost in the long run? With what level of wear? With what nutritional quality? Shouldn’t we measure the total productivity of an area (or farm) over the years?

Agroecology proposes a change in the economic, social and environmental paradigm: we left the “extract to produce” model and moved on to “preserve to produce”. The consumer market today demands traceability, quality of food, environmental preservation … Agroecology enables producers to participate in this market that will bring them greater profitability.

“Agroecology is not viable”.

The argument used here is that agroecology does not allow for “economies of scale”. However, there are countless studies and agroecological properties that present equal and superior yields to conventional crops.

Agribusiness is based on large estates, allowing very small monetary yields, when multiplied by very large areas, to result in “sustainable” aggregate economic returns. Probably the environmental (and social) cost is not being considered in this account.

And why not talk about agro-ecological food production and sustainable commodity production? In the first, we can move forward quickly in the application of agroecological concepts and practices. 

In the second, we can take the first steps so that, at least, we do not destroy the soil and water courses. In any case, large properties will also have to take their first steps, as the market is demanding.

“Food produced agroecologically is expensive”.

In a survey carried out in 2015, a basket created with 20 items, when sold and compared between agroecological fairs, large supermarket chains and free markets in the popular market, brought a very surprising result and showed that the total value of the basket was on average 56% more expensive in supermarkets than at the agroecological fair. And in free markets in popular markets, they were 19% more expensive than in agroecological fairs.

If you want to find agroecological products at more affordable prices, the places today are fairs and other initiatives such as consumer groups, stores and warehouses in the countryside. But be careful! Anyone who claims that agroecology is more expensive, may be referring to the certified organic product.

The product may have the organic seal (which actually costs more) but be produced with degradation of natural resources (erosion, compaction, mineral deficiencies, soil intoxication with excesses in raw organic fertilization, etc.).

On the other hand, in agroecological production this destruction would not occur, but there may be a need for sporadic use of some chemical or pesticide fertilizer. 

At that time, the agroecologist must intervene, in the safest way possible, in order not to lose his harvest, but without offering risks to the environment, obeying the legislation, but mainly, without offering risks to the people who are going to eat that food. Above all, the causes of the problem will be studied, in order to avoid the need for new interventions of this type. So, have you heard any of these myths?

Antonio N. S. Teixeira
Executive Director – IBA

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