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Pathways to advance agroecology - Overcoming challenges and contributing to sustainable food systems transformation

  • Published on April 14, 2023

This working paper by the Swiss National FAO Committee (CNS-FAO) serves to orient the Swiss Government and interested stakeholders on pathways to advance agroecology to overcome and contribute to sustainable food systems transformation.

Transforming agriculture and food systems in line with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) should not be treated as a policy option; it is an imperative that can no longer be ignored or deferred (CNS-FAO, 2019). In facing up to this challenge, agroecological approaches stand to play an indispensable role: connecting environmental sustainability and social justice, production and consumption, global concerns and local dynamics through the support of locally adapted solutions, participation and the mobilization of local knowledge (HLPE, 2019).

This paper sets out from a definition of agroecology, highlighting its promise for a sustainable transformation of food systems. Since there is no consensus in defining and implementing agroecology, neither in public discourse nor among the authors of this paper, our intention here is to make transparent current areas of consensus and difference.

In a second step, we address the main challenges for agroecology identified in our former paper (CNS-FAO, 2019) and systematically outline solution pathways. These centre on the transformation of agricultural knowledge networks (farmers and other food producers, farm advisors and scientists), the role of markets (food producers, handlers and traders), encouraging cooperation and policy consistency, and changes in consumer behaviour and nutrition. As a third step, we address the five Action Tracks of the UN Food Systems Summit 20211 (UNFSS). In doing so, we strongly emphasise cross-cutting issues and views between action tracks, as the agroecological approach is classically holistic and system-oriented and tries always to break out of disciplinary “silos”.

Finally, we present promising examples of agroecological transformations in relation to each of the above-mentioned challenges. The projects and initiatives presented as promising examples in this paper show what is already being done at different levels, in different areas and by different actors engaged to advance agroecology. We have selected them according to the definition of agroecology in chapter 3. While all of them deliver important contributions, the examples listed in this paper are at different stages of progress in achieving agroecology. The list gives just a glimpse of the multitude of ongoing initiatives at local, regional and international level.

The overarching aim of this paper is to demonstrate viable solution pathways with reference to explicit practical examples, supporting and strengthening the concept of agroecological systems for the UN Food Systems Summit 2021.

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