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Report on Agroecology Highlights Climate Change Adaptation Benefits

8 March 2011: The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, presented a report titled "Agroecology and the right to food" (A/HRC/16/49) to the 16th Session of the UN Human Rights Council on 8 March 2011, in Geneva, Switzerland.

The report, based on a review of scientific literature, highlights that if agroecology is sufficiently supported, it can double food production within ten years while responding to climate change and reducing rural poverty. The report stresses the need to focus the reinvestment in agriculture on systems that are highly productive, sustainable, and contribute to the realization of the right to adequate food. It identifies agroecology as an approach that can provide results for many vulnerable groups in various countries and environments. However the report underscores the challenge of scaling up experiences in agroecology. To help achieve this goal, it argues for various policies, including: investing in knowledge through agricultural research and extension services; and investing in organizations that encourage partnerships, the empowerment of women, and the connection of sustainable farms to fair markets.

The report further describes how agroecology contributes to the right to food through increased availability, accessibility, nutritional adequacy, sustainability and farmer participation. In the section on sustainability, the report argues that agroecology contributes to resilience to climate change by cushioning the impacts of extreme weather events. It notes experiences following a hurricane in Nicaragua, where farms that followed agroecological approaches retained increased topsoil. In cases of drought, it outlines experiences where farmers were protected from crop failure through improved soil filtration. It also describes the benefits of mixed cropping for adapting to extreme events. The report argues that agroecology delinks food production from fossil energy and thus contributes to climate change mitigation.

In the section on accessibility, the report argues that agroecological approaches reduce rural poverty. It notes that the approaches reduce farmers' reliance on external inputs and State subsidies while promoting on-farm fertility generation. The report highlights the potential for agroforestry or leguminous cover crops. Though agroecological approaches can be labor-intensive in the short term, it describes opportunities for job creation, particularly by making previously marginal lands attractive for farmers. It also notes that these approaches are compatible with mechanization of farming. [Publication: Report submitted by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food to the UN Human Rights Council] [UN Press Release]