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Scaling up agroecology for food security, empowerment and resilience

This policy brief discusses ways to scale up agroecological approaches and suggests actionable advice tailored for various stakeholders, including policy-makers, private sector, financial partners, research and development community and civil society. The brief focuses on how to design scaling up initiatives and provides success as well as failure stories.

Feeding the world requires re-evaluation of business as usual approach to food security. We need to fundamentally change the way we produce and distribute our food. Agroecology, a scientific approach to sustainable agriculture, holds much promise against this backdrop. It considers the study of ecological processes in farming systems as well as the practice of applying ecological concepts and principles to the design and management of sustainable agro-ecosystems. As a systemic approach, agroecology also deals with the multifunctional dimensions of agriculture: food and fibre production, food security, health benefits, job security, social and economic justice, culture, and community resilience.

Agroecological farming practices have already proven to work in differernt locations around the world. However, the issue of how to scale up successful cases remains largerly unsolved. It is worth pointing out that scaling up efforts can be very diverse and aim at different outputs, e.g. yield, farmer’s income or multifunctionality. Project design can vary depending on a context, but the general feature of agroecological approach is to put farmers’ experience and capabilities at the heart of the scaling up efforts. At the same time, agroecologists acknowledge that scaling up cannot be viewed as a silver bullet to all the problems of agricultural development. Hence the focus on farmers is the first minimal requirement to establish the grounds for transformation or to stay at this level, depending on what works in a particular context.

Looking at the evidence from the five case studies about different scaling up projects in Ethiopia, Tanzania, India, South Africa and a project implemented in several African countries, the brief highlights successful and less successful attempts. It gives recommendations of how to design a good scaling up initiative by focusing on farmers, working with a systems perspective, while addressing issues of access, inclusion and power. The authors encourage the future initiatives to invest in rural women, engage youth, and enable farmers to adapt to climate change. The brief concludes that scaling up efforts have to be locally adapted and focus on partnerships.