Agroecology on the front lines of shifting agriculture

September 29, 2019

Here’s how agroecology has been part of the shift to diversified food systems in countries where SeedChange works with local partners.

Agriculture is one of the biggest threats to its own existence. Conventional agriculture – the industrialized battle against nature to produce single crop over a vast area of land – has succeeded in delivering a lot of food. But it has also created a host of problems, like soil degradation, pollution and climate changing greenhouse gases (GHG), that make growing food even harder. Still, we continue to pour more investment into this kind of farming.

What could happen if we put even a fraction of this support into different ways of farming? Agroecology, the science and know-how behind sustainable agriculture, is worth that support. Investing in agriculture that is sustainable, builds soil health, helps remove harmful gases from the air could… well see for yourself!


Members of a group of farmer-researchers in San Isidoro. (Photo: Beatriz Oliver/SeedChange)

Using agroecological principles, farmer research groups have released seven new locally adapted and resilient bean varieties since 2004. They’ve also bred four new drought tolerant maize varieties.


Farmers dig into their sloping fields to create stair-like terraces to better grow food. In ten years, the same slope is completely green – and unrecognizable. (Photos: RAEBIA/SeedChange)

After more than a decade of terracing and planting trees – agroecological practices that replenish damaged soils – food production has drastically reduced hunger weeks among the families we work with. Now a farming family will experience on average one week of hunger in a year – down from six not too long ago.

Burkina Faso

Year one vs. year four in the process of rebuilding soil health.

Drought, sporadic rainfall and unpredictable weather patterns have ravaged farmers fields. Climate change further exacerbates these issues.

But by sowing native grasses to rebuild soils and maintain moisture these once dry fields can now grow food.


Farmers had been encouraged to abandon their native seeds and traditional farming practices in favour of “improved” commercial potato seeds. Then a late frost hit these fields in the mountainous region of northern Potosí. Guess which potato plants were grown from farmers’ locally adapted seeds?

(Hint: They’re the ones that are still alive.)


Ian Grossart in his field in Manitoba. (Photo: David Hobson/SeedChange)

Ian Grossart is a farmer in Manitoba. With a network of other farmers, he’s helping breed new, resilient varieties of wheat that are specially adapted for his environment.

“What’s neat is that we are developing varieties for each micro-climate – varieties that are developed in a particular region and work here. Farmers don’t have the same soils,” he says. “This variety may not work in Regina region, but it works well here. And these organic varieties are adapted to organic soil fertility conditions.”