Miguel Altieri: On agroecology, and why it is the solution to hunger and food security

Today, a billion people live in hunger. Can we feed the world and achieve economic development while conserving ecosystems and improving the livelihoods of peasants and the rural poor?

 

 

 

We talked to Miguel Altieri, Professor at the University of California Berkeley, about hunger, food and agroecological alternatives, during a day-long colloquium at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) in The Hague, The Netherlands, on Monday 12 December 2011. The event brought together some of the world's leading radical thinkers and activists working on the issues of food and the future of farming. Speakers included Olivier de Schutter, Frances Moore Lappé, Miguel Altieri, Jan Douwe van der Ploeg, Eric Holt-Giménez, Robin Broad and Tony Weis.

Presentations addressed the following questions: How do we understand and tackle the interlinked agrarian and environmental crises? What types of policies create sustainable development that guarantees justice, equality and autonomy for poor and marginalized communities? What types of food movements have emerged and why, and with what challenges?

Video 1. Why is agroecology the solution to hunger and food security?

Miguel talks about the problems of the dominant, industrial-chemical agricultural system and the importance of small scale, agroecological farming as an alternative to meet the needs of food security and protect the environment. It is a holistic method of farming that is sustainable (i.e. does not rely on chemicals and fossil fuels, cycles waste and promotes diversity), as well as affordable, enabling farmers to become more independent, improving their livelihoods while also building resilience to climate change.

Video 2. How will agroecological farming achieve the necessary scale to feed the world?

Miguel talks about the importance of agroecology as a method of farming that is sustainable (i.e. does not rely on chemicals and fossil fuels, cycles waste and promotes diversity), as well as affordable, enabling farmers to become more independent, improving their livelihoods while also building resilience to climate change. The most famous example of this is in Cuba where they were faced with a "post peak oil scenario" after the fall of the Soviet Union and due to the Western embargo. A transition to sustainable agriculture, including more urban and peri-urban agriculture (UPA) was made and has enabled Cuba to become largely food secure and independent. The Cuban model of transition (which included government supported land reform, enabling more young farmers access to land, as well as support for research into agroecological techniques and horizontal (farmer to farmer) knowledge exchange) is important for farmers all over the world striving to become sustainable and food secure.

 

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