ECHOcommunity Conversations

Agroecology and Covid

Dear All,
I am puzzled!
Last year the FAO issued an appeal as follows;

The current COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the political, economic, social, environmental and food sectors.
18/05/2020 -
The current COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the political, economic, social, environmental and food sectors. This multidimensional threat requires an adequate response to protect the most vulnerable and marginalized groups not only in cities but also in rural areas. In line with the 2030 Agenda, this situation pushes for urgent transition towards sustainable food systems. With profound concerns for a possible food crisis on top of the health and climate crisis, a structural reaction is needed to respond to a humanitarian catastrophe. Agroecological approaches provide an immediate solution to the current challenges both by protecting the environment and producers and by enabling the local production of healthy and sustainable food for all.
Agroecology offers local solutions and empowers local economies and markets by keeping farmers in the field with improved livelihoods and a better quality of life.

Agroecology-sensitive policies and measures need to be adopted urgently to achieve emergency food relief through local and diversified food systems, which are environmentally friendly, protecting biodiversity, territorial and community food self-sufficiency and promoting seasonal products and local varieties. To address the food, health, social and economic crisis, an inclusive and responsible governance must be applied.

As the world faces an unprecedented global crisis, experts are linking the emergency of COVID-19 to global habitat and biodiversity loss. Researchers at University College London have found that species in degraded habitats are likely to carry more viruses which can infect humans. An essentially different paradigm for how we think about farming is urgently needed. And agroecological approaches are an important part of this response.

Click here to find relevant articles addressing the relationship between the COVID-19 crisis and the need to transition towards sustainable food systems.

We invite you to share with us ( any articles, publications and reports that showcase ways to overcome the current crisis through local agroecological experiences.

Is no-one here concerned?

Graham Knight

I think Many here are concerned. Using biodiversity, food forests and silvopasture, as well as soil regeneration are practices being tested at ECHO. The United Nations is planning a Food Summit for this year addressing these issues and food availability for All. More info:

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All of us within the Echo network are concerned. That is why we are actively engaged in our programs and projects. Networking and collaborating with other organizations is an excellent way to learn and together engage in addressing the world’s problems. However, most of us don’t have the resources to engage every organization out there. All of us choose our networking partners based on diverse criteria. Together, with our unique interests and passions, we make a difference one soul at a time.


I can find no real enquiry/conversation ever here about Agroecology.
Is it because;

“…despite the role that Agroecology can play in sustaining diverse ecosystems, their contribution is mostly ignored, neglected or actively undermined by government, businesses and corporations.”

Graham I don’t fully understand your post and inquiry. I think we need to focus on best management practices and income per hour (any subsistence farming production can figure in a per hour basis as well) unless there is no access to the market which is possible in very rural areas with no road system. Maximizing income will pull people out of poverty if they also place emphasis on a truthful worldview that helps them build trusting relationships with others. I like your emphasis on Jack Beans as an intercrop (or other perennial legumes for improving the soil) and following Roland Bunch’s directives in his book Restoring the Soil. Those practices are more effective than composting as a per-hour investment of time and even provide many of the benefits of mulching. Using RoundUp or gylyphosate also works wonders for allowing no-till opportunities when bringing more land into production, killing perennial grasses, creating a weed mulch, drastically reducing the germination of new weeds, etc and also when you are scaling up perennial legume intercropping. Scaling up often takes a few years since we often have to multiply the seed if we can not afford to plant the intercropped legume on the whole farm at once. Also by scaling up with Roland’s methods we can avoid potential slight yield losses on the whole farm (only part of the farm is affected) if the beans are competitive the first year before the “fertilizing effect” overcomes the competitive effect in subsequent years. I encourage the use of human urine applied in rain events (best) for non-mechanized or smaller-scale farmers and in many communities, charcoal fines are readily available, and if not small quantities of wood ash (depending on the pH) can be added to planting holes or trenches or planting rows. We also need to emphasize record-keeping and market research and on-farm research that compares income from what our advisors and agricultural researchers tell us are our highest income-producing crops and highest income-producing best management practices. You can improve people’s practices and advise them on how to increase income by choosing the most lucrative opportunities and then reinvesting savings into even more lucrative opportunities. And then from the higher income find a means to increase volunteerism to solve the important problems around that are not yet solved through businesses offering goods and services such as orphan, infirmed, physically or mentally challenged & widow ministry and also advocacy to hold policymakers and public servants accountable to best practices in ensuring equal opportunity for all. And allocating time to spiritual ministry, particularly youth ministry and youth vocational training. My concern in a situation where there are many modern biases in farming is that we not allow ourselves to get sidetracked into placing a higher priority on issues that do not impact or minimally impact human flourishing. Agroecologists and environmentalists must be very careful to not get sidetracked and go down rabbit trails where efforts and money are spent inefficiently. The level of inefficiency in agriculture can easily increase if we are sidetracked and I am very concerned about the effect on the poorest farmers. I can see a time coming in the future when we encounter diminishing returns in agriculture due to incorrect ideologies and we can even push ourselves to the point of reducing production unnecessarily.

I thought of a couple more things to add to my comments. 1) I failed to mention Zai hole planting where organic matter is placed in the planting hole or planting trench for closer spaced plants. The human urine really helps contribute the extra nitrogen needed so that uncomposted organic matter can be used and the organic matter binds up the nutrients in the urine and the humus slow releases the nitrogen as it breaks down or exchanges with the plant and microbes. 2) I also wanted to clarify from my previous post that it is the environmental agenda that is hijacked by class struggle which is a potential rabbit trail and also another is the ideology that land must be returned to its pristine condition instead of managed to maximally promote human flourishing. The Cornwall Alliance does a great job of describing the distinctions between the rabbit trails of extreme environmentalism/deep ecology and maximizing how the potential of God’s creation when managed through planning and interventions to bring maximum productivity (“fruitfulness” as described in Gen. 1:28) can bless mankind and more than provide food and keep ahead of the increase in population through wise management and planning. Many places around the world that follow these principles more closely have abundant food and yet a much shorter growing season. Bringing the blessing of abundance of food and products from the earth is our responsibility and usually it is false ideologies and rabbit trails that distract us from that mandate in Gen. 1:28. The fatalism of many traditional animist or the fatalism of Islamic ideologies, the lack of foundation for moral ideals found in humanistic ideology, and the extreme environmental ideologies are all contributors to lack of human flourishing.

At long last my suspicions as to why no-one here wants to discuss Agroecology have been confirmed!
Here is what sane Africans see as their future;

African Civil Society Refuses To Engage With UNFSS Without Radical Change
Rapid and unplanned urbanisation, with the consequent shift in the labour force from largely food producing to non-food producing jobs, and a rising African middle class, is affecting rural land use and changing our food systems.
The rapid erosion of Africa’s culture coincides with the degradation of our soils , which is becoming a major issue affecting the livelihoods of many, while the growing retail/supermarket sector is also destroying and displacing local food systems and local markets.
Yet Africa remains essentially a continent of smallholder food producers.
Solutions will only work for Africa if they work for millions of farmers, pastoralists, fisherfolks, indigenous communities, custodians of nature, and women and youth in the food system.
Hence, how Africa will feed itself in a situation of rapidly changing, catastrophic and chaotic climate change, and in a manner that heals nature and cools the planet, is one of our most urgent and pressing survival questions.

About 20% of Africans – more than 250 million people – go to bed hungry every night.
At the same time, industrial ultra-processed foods and sweetened beverages have penetrated African markets – many of which are high in sugar, salt, saturated fats and preservatives, thus contributing to the spread of non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer.
This has also contributed to a major rise in excess weight and obesity, with the rate of overweight children under five having increased by nearly 24% since 2000.
And affected populations are more vulnerable to COVID-19.

ÂŁxtract from;

ECHO appreciates the contributions to this conversation.

The UN recognizes that small-scale food producers comprise 40% to 85% fo all food producers in developing regions.

It is encouraging that there are grassroots organizations such as Eastern and Southern Africa Small-scale Farmers’ Forum ( and Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa ( advocating policies that encourage agroecological practices for small-scale farms.

We at ECHO are also encouraged by the thousands of individuals, NGOs, CBOs and some govenment institutions that are promoting sustainable farming practices.

For more information see the ECHO collection of resources concerning agroecology.

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