Agroecology is by definition an innovative, creative process of interactions among small-scale producers and their natural environments. Indigenous knowledge systems are invaluable resources for agroecological farming systems that emulate and coexist with natural ecosystem processes. At the same time, advocates of agroecology recognize that in many parts of the world, farmlands have become degraded and it would require additional investments as well as policy support to help small-scale producers improve soil and water conditions to increase farm outputs, achieve local food security and long-term ecosystem sustainability.

One size most definitely does not fit all. However, our initial consultations with allies have identified certain sets of policy support that are conducive to creating an enabling environment for those innovations to occur and prosper.

At the national level, they include:

■Agricultural policies that incentivize recycling of biomass within the agroecosystem

■Agricultural investments and extension targeted specifically to help small-scale producers improve soil and water conditions through agroecological practices

■Agricultural policies that incentivise in-situ water conservation, soil (biota, organic matter and nutrient) enhancement, organic tillage regimes and microclimate management

■Water policies that incentivize reduction of grey/blue water footprint of agricultural and food systems, not only in crop selection and farming methods but also in food processing and packaging, etc.

■Trade, investment and intellectual property rights policies that protect indigenous and peasants’ rights to select, domesticate, breed, exchange and use native species of crops and livestock varieties

■Environmental and food safety policies based on the precautionary principle that avoid reckless introduction of GMOs or other emerging technologies

■Coordinated environmental and agricultural policies on biodiversity that ensure heterogeneity and diversity at the landscape and farm level.

■Agricultural, water and energy policies that prioritize the use of natural resources such as land and water for food production, local energy security and local water security

■Agricultural research policies and extension programs that prioritize:

o Research and development of new varieties that are based on participatory plant breeding techniques

o Farmer- to- farmer knowledge exchanges based on locally determined priorities

■Pro-democratization policies that recognize women’s central roles in agricultural and food systems, revitalize rural economies, minority cultures as well as marginalized livelihood practices.

These policies and programs, in turn, require an enabling environment at the international level, including:

■International trade policies that allow national governments to exempt agricultural goods that are central to rural livelihoods, food sovereignty and rural development from tariff liberalization as needed.

■International investment policies (including those in trade agreements or in bilateral investment treaties) that reject investor-state dispute resolution provisions that give foreign investors the right to sue national governments over policies (such as restrictions on GMOs or changes in research and extension programs that restrict the use of imported inputs)

■International guidelines on land tenure that take as their starting point the rights of small-scale producers to stay on their land

■Foreign assistance programs that:

o respond to locally determined priorities for knowledge generation and dissemination (including recovery of traditional knowledge and scientific innovations)

o support efforts to organize cooperatives and institu- tions controlled by local small-scale producers and their communities

o assist developing countries to develop national action plans to review and adjust laws that will allow farmers to save, use, exchange and sell their seeds; and allow improved access to genetic resources that go beyond the limits of agreements such as UPOV 1991 to enhance community rights over innovations in seeds, plants and biodiversity

Date : 15 January 2014

Third World Network

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10400 Penang