More than ever, covid 19 has created or deepened awareness of the importance and safety of producing and consuming locally. This awareness has increased a growing global consensus on the need to reform food systems to achieve sustainable development goals. From this perspective, agro-ecology is central to the fact that it contributes to the achievement of many sustainable development goals. It enables agricultural production to be increased where necessary and contributes to the fight against hunger, malnutrition and poverty in rural areas. It also helps to combat environmental degradation, reduce greenhouse gases and adapt agriculture to climate change.
There are many major social and environmental challenges related to the way we produce, process and consume food. Despite abundant food production, hunger and malnutrition in the world are increasing. Agroecological approaches can play an important role in ensuring food and nutrition security for all. In the dimensions of availability, accessibility (poverty alleviation), stability (increasing resilience) and utilization (diversified diets), agro-ecology has significant potential to improve food security. Many studies have found strong relationships between diverse farming systems (one of the key principles of agroecology), diversity of household diets and nutrition.
The covid-19 pandemic has reinforced this transformation imperative. First of all; scientists have in the past linked the emergence of epidemics such as the Covid-19 pandemic, to the loss of habitat and biodiversity worldwide. But more importantly, this particular pandemic reveals the importance of strengthening the resilience of food systems and the autonomy of agricultural producers. There is ample evidence that agro-ecological systems, which are less dependent on inputs and major globalized value chains, are more resilient to the shocks of the pandemic on food systems. Here is one farmer’s testimony:
« At a time like this when there is no more movement, I continue to thrive because most of the inputs I need are on my farm; otherwise it would be difficult, if not impossible, to get them. We produce a variety of crops and animals on the farm, so that has helped to spread the risk. With COVID-19, I can get income from different businesses: banana prices are currently very low, but in the near future, I will get income from cowpeas, onions and garlic. Also, as a family, we have enough food.»
We urgently need to reform our food systems so that they become socially equitable and no longer harm the planet. According to many international institutions, scientists, farmers’ movements and NGOs, this can be done by supporting an agro-ecological transition of food systems. In contrast to the proliferation of large-scale investments in agriculture, developed countries must strongly support the necessary agro-ecological transformation of food systems in developing countries. Recently (March 2020), a study on ” The share of agroecology in Belgian official development assistance: an opportunity missed” by UCLouvain (M. Vermeylen & O. De Schutter) showed that agroecology is not a priority for Belgian development cooperation. Indeed, it devotes only 16% of its budget dedicated to agriculture to support agro-ecology. This is an interpolation for other countries that intervene in one way or another in the development of the countries of the South.