Agroecology is a scientific discipline that uses ecological theory to evaluate and manage agricultural systems so they are productive, sustaining yields and optimizing the use of local resources, while minimizing the negative environmental and socio-economic impacts of modern technologies.
Agroecology regards the biophysical, technical and socio-economic interactions in a system as working together to determine the success of the system itself, as mineral cycles, energy transformations, biological processes and socioeconomic relationships have mutual impacts on each other. (adapted from Altieri)
- Agroecology in action, Miguel Altieri, 2000
- International assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, UNEP, 2009
- Report to the UN Human Rights Council on agroecology and the right to food, Oliver de Schutter, 2011
- Wake up before it’s too late!, UNCTAD Trade and Environment Report, 2013
- Mainstreaming agroecology, CAFS at Coventry University, 2013
Organic farming systems and techniques, agro-forestry and permaculture all form part of the agroecological approach.
Organic Agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic Agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved. (IFOAM)
- Principles of organic agriculture, IFOAM
- What is organic?, Soil Association
- Organic farming, the Organic Research Centre
Agroforestry is the intentional integration of trees and shrubs into crop and animal farming systems to create environmental, economic, and social benefits. (USDA)
- Agroforestry, USDA
- UK eco-agroforestry network
- Agroforestry: a new approach to increasing farm production, S. Briggs, 2012
- Agroforestry is water wise farming, World Agroforestry Centre, 2013
Permaculture is a design system for sustainable living. It’s about creating homes and communities that are productive and self- reliant and have minimal impact on the environment. (International Permaculture Day)
- How to feed the world, M. Bittman, 2013
- How Sustainable Agriculture Can Address the Environmental and Human Health Harms of Industrial Agriculture, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 2002
Note: there are many definitions for all of the terms above, some more technical and precise than others; we are not attempting here to define comprehensively any of them. Similarly, any readings referenced in this page only have the purpose of providing a useful overview of the subject. For any technical information, check the Briefings.