Blogs, Systems Thinking

This World Food Day, let's look to how agroecology can help us leave no one behind

At the Global Alliance for the Future of Food, we think about food systems transformation 365 days of the year. Every October 16, World Food Day offers the opportunity to frame our reflections a little differently by looking at the year’s theme and thinking about how our efforts, network, and resources can contribute to collective change. 

The theme of World Food Day 2022 is “leave no one behind.” This is an all-too-relevant concern today as we see inequalities widen and hear of more people unable to afford a healthy diet for themselves and their families. After years of progress, the world is trending in the wrong direction. 

According to The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report 2022, global hunger and undernourishment are increasing worldwide, though certain countries are more vulnerable due to unequal patterns of economic recovery, the effects of climate change, and conflict-related food systems disruptions. 

Among other challenges, the report notes that governments around the world face fiscal constraints to transform their agrifood systems and that much of the financial support targeted to individual farmers never reaches them. A new paradigm is necessary.

The Global Alliance – and a growing body of research – believes that agroecology should be part of the solution. Agroecology is a holistic approach to food production that integrates environmental, social, economic, political, and cultural elements to build a food system that works for everyone. Based on a set of principles and elements, agroecology is thus key in ensuring sustainable food systems. It is all at once a  science, a farming technique, and a movement. 

In practice, agroecology combines contemporary science with Indigenous and local wisdom as well as farmer experience, drawing from the strengths of each to build resilient, context-specific local food systems. In elevating evidence that is often overlooked in global conversations around food security, agroecology leaves no one’s knowledge or lived experiences behind.

Thousands of academic reviews and case studies point to the effectiveness of agroecology in achieving multiple benefits for people and the planet. According to research, agroecological practices can enhance crop yields, increase financial capital for communities, improve food security and nutrition, conserve biodiversity, build farm resilience to climate change, and more. 

This evidence – and the reasons why it is often contested by policymakers, funders, and other stakeholders – is explored in a 2021 Global Alliance report examining the transformative potential of agroecology, as well as regenerative approaches and Indigenous foodways. 

Finally, in the weeks leading up to COP27 in Egypt, we’d be remiss to not make the link between agroecology and climate resilience. On the table for discussion will be the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) of each country — the roadmap governments lay out for how they plan to achieve their national climate goals. 

A Global Alliance assessment of food systems in 14 NDCs found that agroecology, regenerative approaches, and nature-positive solutions are promoted in the majority of the selected climate plans. Those that incorporate agroecology focus on its role in climate change resilience and mitigation.

However, food systems adaptation measures such as the sustainable management of land, soil, and water are not as commonly factored in. There is an opportunity going forward to view agroecological practices as effective, evidence-based adaptation approaches that create a strong role for local institutions, communities, smallholder farmers, Indigenous Peoples, and women.

As we reflect on World Food Day and upcoming climate discussions, let’s not forget how agroecology can deliver on both adaptation and mitigation goals while also ensuring everyone has a voice at the table and a nutritious meal to eat.

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Oliver Oliveros
Interim Executive Director, Global Alliance for the Future of Food