Towards an agroecological revolution in Latin America?
Agroecology is an interdisciplinary science with deep roots in ecology but also with influences from social sciences, but more importantly, from farmers’ traditional knowledge. Most research in agriculture favors a conventional top down approach bypassing peasants needs and therefore has generally not benefitted rural people. In Latin America, more than twenty one thousand million dollars are spent per year in agricultural science, and 99% of such funds are spent maintaining the worlds food production system compatible with green revolution conception. Therefore, the so-called green solutions to the serious sustainability problems that farmers face in the region constitute a series of “more of the same” band-aid solutions, without addressing the root causes of food insecurity and environmental devastation. The expansion of genetically modified crops such as soybean, canola, and agrofuels (oil palm and sugar cane), are examples of the type of agriculture being promoted, which is causing newer and more serious social and ecological problems. A profound change of the conventional agricultural “mentality” responsible for the actual agrarian crisis is not likely to occur in the near visible future. As the expansion of agroexports and biofuels continues unfolding in Latin America the concepts of food sovereignty and agroecology-based agricultural production gain increasing attention. Our method consisted of systematic literature search and discussion of our own experience.
This study focuses on new approaches involving the application of blended agroecological science and indigenous knowledge systems. These are being spearheaded by a significant number of peasants, NGOs, government and academic institutions, and are proving to enhance food security, while conserving natural resources, ecological processes, and empowering peasant organization and movements. An assessment of various grassroots initiatives in Latin America reveals that the application of the agroecological paradigm can bring significant environmental, economic and political benefits to small farmers and rural communities as well as urban populations in the region. The trajectory of the agroecological movements in Brazil, Andean region, Mexico, Central America and Cuba and their potential to promote broad-based and sustainable agrarian and social change is briefly presented and examined. We argue that an emerging three fold ‘agroecological revolution’, namely, epistemological, technical and social, is creating new and unexpected changes directed at restoring local self-reliance, conserving and regenerating natural diversity and agrobiodiversity, producing healthy foods with low inputs, and empowering peasant organizations. These changes directly challenge neoliberal modernization policies based on agribusiness and agroexports while opening new political roads for Latin American agrarian societies.