The use of the word AGROECOLOGY: the ability to assume different meanings in many contexts.

“Agroecology is a transdisciplinary field of knowledge that contains the basic theoretical and methodological principles to enable the design and management of sustainable agroecosystems and, in addition, to contribute to the conservation of agro-biodiversity and biodiversity in general, as well as others natural resources and means of subsistence (EMBRAPA, 2006: 26).”

This concept brought by EMBRAPA represents part of the different meanings that Agroecology can have. Currently, the term “agroecology” involves science, agricultural practice, the social movement and, more recently, government policy. For some, a way of life, ideology, for others, a utopia.

These approaches to the term “Agroecology” vary historically and according to the different countries in which it is applied. The term, considered polysemic, can induce a person to do more than one interpretation. In order to make the correct interpretation it is very important to know the context in which it is given.

The use of the term started around the 1930s. Until the 1960s, agroecology referred only to a purely scientific discipline. As an agricultural practice, it emerged in the 1980s, and was often intertwined with movements of the 1990s, against industrial agriculture. 

In Germany, agroecology has a long tradition as a scientific discipline. In France, agroecology was understood mainly as an agricultural practice. In the USA, there is a predominance of agroecology as a science, and in Brazil, there is a stronger emphasis on the agricultural movement and practice.

Therefore, the term Agroecology can be defined in several ways, by ethnological, eclectic and universalist tendencies. This highlights the importance of recognizing the specificities, prerogatives and autonomy (subject to regulations and ethical and political issues) of each field, actor or institution that builds its own concept of Agroecology, for both analytical and political / programmatic purposes.

IBA was born with the objective of using the term Agroecology in its practical and scientific aspects. Agronomic professionals who work through this Institute seek to contribute to the development of cleaner and truly sustainable production systems, which are more responsible for the environment, profitable to the producer, and which contribute to increasing the quality of consumers’ lives.

It should be noted that, as an agricultural practice, Agroecology is not exclusive to family farming, and if we seek change in the current scenario of agriculture in relation to preserving the environment, we need to focus our efforts also on large-scale agriculture.

The term Agroecology, for our Institute, portrays purely the essence of the meanings of the words:

Ecology is the study of the relationship between living beings between themselves and the environment. It is a broad and complex science that seeks to understand the workings of all nature;
Agroecosystem is the modification of a natural ecosystem by man, for the production of goods necessary for its survival.

So, we understand AGROECOLOGY as the application of the principles and concepts of ecology to the design and management of sustainable agroecosystems. In other words, a science that studies agro-ecosystems, aiming at their regeneration, optimization and sustainability.

Rafaela Guio Ferreira
Project Manager – IBA


EMBRAPA, Marco Referencial em Agroecologia. Brasília: Embrapa (Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária), 2006, 70 p.

NORDER, Luiz Antônio et al. 2016.

WEZEL, Alexander et al. 2009.

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