The expansion and intensification of agricultural land is recognized as a major driver of contemporary global environmental change (Meyer & Turner 1992; Matson et al. 1997; Stoate et al. 2001; Benton et al. 2003; Baillie et al. 2004). Conventional agricultural practices have also resulted in severely depleted ecosystem services upon which we depend. Especially those that support agricultural production, such as biodiversity, the provision of water and soil fertility. Consequently, conventional agricultural techniques require the addition of expensive outside inputs to maintain yields. Furthermore, climate change continues to challenge these vulnerable conventional systems, disrupting production and undermining food security of small farmers.
Sustainable agricultural practices in conjunction with ecological restoration methods can reduce the detrimental effects of conventional practices, developing more resilient agricultural landscapes. These
systems are characterized by their high plant and animal diversity and interrelationships, which have shown an extraordinary ability to adapt to a changing climate. Agroecology and ecological
restoration practices have demonstrated to be successful alternatives to conventional practices by providing vigorous production, high profitability and many environmental and social benefits. (‘Sustainable Agricultural Landscapes with Resilience’ Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies).
“Agroecology is an integrated approach that simultaneously applies ecological and social concepts and principles to the design and management of food and agricultural systems. It seeks to optimize the interactions between plants, animals, humans and the environment while taking into consideration the social aspects that need to be addressed for a sustainable and fair food system” (Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations).
To put it simply Agroecology is sustainable farming that works with nature. Agroecological systems have the following characteristics, foundational practices & innovative approaches in common.
- Diversity; Increasing biodiversity contributes to a range of production, socio-economic, nutrition and environmental benefits.
- Synergies; Optimizing biological synergies enhances ecological functions, leading to greater resource-use efficiency and resilience.
- Efficiency; Agroecological systems improve the use of natural resources, especially those that are abundant and free, such as solar radiation, atmospheric carbon and nitrogen.
- Resilience; Diversified agroecological systems are more resilient – they have a greater capacity to recover from disturbances including extreme weather events such as drought, floods or hurricanes, and to resist pest and disease attack.
- Recycling; By imitating natural ecosystems, agroecological practices support biological processes that drive the recycling of nutrients, biomass and water within production systems, thereby increasing resource use efficiency and minimizing waste and pollution.
- Co-creation and sharing of knowledge; Through the co-creation process, agroecology blends traditional and indigenous knowledge, producers’ and traders’ practical knowledge, and global scientific
“Ecologically redesigned/designed systems aim to minimise problems and dependence on purchased inputs, increase resilience, and enable self-maintenance, self-regulation, sustainability, and ability to provide the needed ecosystem services and support for achieving the well-being of all” – (Transitions to Agroecological Systems LUPG)
The diversity of the landscape, has been shown to be associated with species diversity. Reintroducing areas that are not cropped, such as fallow land, grass margins in the spaces between different fields, and strips of scrub along field boundaries increases the biodiversity of a farm for example. The plants attract beneficial insects, which will attract certain species of birds, and those birds will attract their natural predators. The cover provided by the uncropped land allows the species to move across the landscape.
The restoration of ecological systems brings back the natural pest predators, drastically reducing (or eliminating) the need for chemical pest control whilst raising yield. Together resulting in an economic advantage (Gurr et al., 2016) .
Ecological restoration is the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed. This is done by creating the conditions needed for recovery so the plants, animals, and microorganisms can carry out the work of recovery themselves. This can be as simple as removing an invasive species, reintroducing a lost species or function; or as complex as altering landforms, planting vegetation, changing the hydrology, and reintroducing wildlife.
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