Gearing up for agroecology

At the Oxford Real Farming Conference (‘ORFC’) 2020, we organised an interactive session entitled ‘Gearing Up for Agroecology; Transforming Publicly Funded Research and Innovation for the Public Good?’  It was chaired by member of the Food Ethics Council, Patrick Mulvany. Speakers included Helena Paul, EcoNexus; Nina Moeller, Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR), Coventry University ; and Adam Payne, Landworkers’ Alliance (LWA). See presentations below.

We explored how to transform publicly-funded research for agroecology and help broaden the coalition – initiated at ORFC 2019 – pressing for scientific, technical and socio-economic research and innovation to prioritise the transformation towards a biodiverse, food sovereignty-based, agroecological food system. Now, with many recent reports and heightened awareness about the climate/ ecosystem/ nutrition/ health crises, agroecology (as defined at the International Forum for Agroecology in 2015) should be claimed as the basis for a research agenda fit for real food and farming, through a collective citizen/farmer-led approach. We discussed possible ways forward with participants stimulated by an overarching question: how could publicly-funded research best support agroecological transformation?

“Agroecology connects soil health to gut health to community health to planetary health”

Nina Moeller, Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, Coventry University

The speakers presented what we’re up against – the challenges to this transformation posed by the 4th industrial revolution and its focus on resource-intensive, high-tech (including GM-based) technologies that support industrial agriculture, livestock and fisheries, an approach which is backed by industry and the science establishment. The minimal flows of money currently directed to agroecology, including in the international development budget, were highlighted. They also described the connections agroecology has to the health of people and the ecosystems that keep us healthy and the imperative of including representatives of innovative, biodiversity-conserving food producers in setting research agendas was emphasised.

In summarising, the Chair highlighted that although decision makers have been assailed over recent years with so much information about what’s going wrong and how this could be mitigated, public research funders won’t accept that if we had more a biodiverse, heterogeneous and agroecological food system, we would be able to deal with the biodiversity crisis; we’d deal with climate change; we’d deal with the nutrition crisis; we’d deal with the health crises.

The issues we therefore need to consider, when thinking about how publicly-funded research could best support an agroecological transformation of the food system, include not only actions that will increase research and practice directly in support of an agroecological food system but also the actions that are required to redirect funds away from the current research paradigm, that supports the industrial food system.

In the first instance, an ‘Agroecology’ listserve has been set up on the JISC site to take the discussion forward. This list will cover the research, practice and actions, described above, that are needed to support an agroecological transformation of the food system.

To subscribe to the listserv, please click here. In order to keep the list focused and relevant, the moderators of the list will then ask you to describe briefly your interests in the subject.

To access an audio recording of the speakers from our ‘Gearing up for agroecology’ session, please click here.

The text of the presentations made by the speakers at the ORFC 2020 session on ‘Gearing up for agroecology’ are available for download below:

Helena Paul, Econexus
Nina Moeller, CAWR
Adam Payne, LWA