Ecological Farming Can Boost Food Production

New U.N. study calls for shift toward agro-ecology to alleviate poverty

Credit: Martin LaBar

Credit: Martin LaBar

Agroecology is the utilization of ecological techniques in food production, and is what the United Nations is calling for in an attempt to eliminate poverty in developing nations. According to a study released by the U.N. on March 8 titled Agro-ecology and the Right to Food, “small-scale farmers can double food production in a decade by using simple ecological methods.”

Among some interesting examples of steps taken to increase food are insect-trapping plants in Kenya and the use of ducks to eat weeds in rice paddies in Bangladesh. The U.N. predicts the world population to be seven billion this year, and nine billion by 2050, assembling a need to find sustainable methods that garner more food.

“We won’t solve hunger and stop climate change with industrial farming on large plantations,” Olivier de Schutter, U.N. special rapporteur and author of the study, said in a press release. “The solution lies in supporting small-scale famers’ knowledge and experimentation, and in raising incomes of smallholders so as to contribute to rural development.”

According to Civil Eats, “The report suggests moving away from the overuse of oil in farming, a problem that is magnified in the face of rising prices due to unrest in the Middle East.”

Basically, “agroecology seeks to improve the sustainability of agroecosystems by mimicking nature instead of industry,” the U.N report reads in one section.

A shift toward simple ecological methods could even reduce rural poverty, according to the study. By reducing on-farm fertility production, agroecology would reduce small-scale farmers’ reliance on external and state inputs and subsidies, the study shows, alleviating farmers’ vulnerability to depend on moneylenders and local retailers.

“To date, agroecological projects have shown an average crop yield increase of 80 percent in 57 developing countries, with an average increase of 116 percent for all African projects,” De Schutter says. “Recent projects conducted in 20 African countries demonstrated a doubling of crop yields over a period of three to 10 years.”

Kane Carpenter