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The Benefits of Agroecology on Food Production, Poverty Alleviation and Climate Change Mitigation

Over the last few years, the Sahel and Eastern Mali has suffered rainfall shortages and extreme drought. As the economy and livelihood of their citizens highly depend on agriculture, it has challenged their way of living. Agriculture highly relies on rainfall, rainy seasons refill lakes and rivers used to irrigate crops. Due to the change of climate over the past century, land degradation, population growth and misplaced environmental and development policies have contributed to vulnerability. Poor living conditions, food crisis, and loss of income has fuelled conflict and gender based violence. Migration and displacement have become an inevitable adaptation measures meanwhile other agricultural methods such as agroecology are accommodated.

You can think of agroecology as agriculture except it works with nature and is more sustainable. To break it down, according to Cambridge Dictionary, ecology is the relationship between the air, land, water, animals, plants, etc., and the study of the balance between them. Agroecology is the application of the principles and study of ecology. Agriculture + Ecology = Agroecology. While the term Agroecology might be unfamiliar, you may have heard of Agroforestry or Organic Farming. These are also forms of Agroecology. Agroforestry is a collective term for the combination of trees and farms on the same land. Animals benefit from agroforestry as the trees shelter them and the trees gain nutrients from the animal's manure. Organic Farming is another example of agroecology as it requires minimal to no use of pesticides, antibiotics or GMOs and guarantees better animal welfare.

Agroecology is not only beneficial for food production, food security and nutrition but also restores ecosystem services, biodiversity, and natural resource conservation which is vital for sustainable agriculture and an economically stable environment.

After the severe Sahelian drought, women farmers in Senegal were challenged with limitations including land mines that haven’t been cleared from rice fields, increased soil salinisation due to rising sea-water levels, lack of inclusion in national formulation of agricultural policies and priorities and increasing pressure from the government. The women implemented agroecological practices and resulted in a 78% improvement in family nutrition, 55% improved food quality and 36% increase in food quantity.

In a place with rainfall shortage such as Eastern Mali with an annual average rainfall of approximately 400mm,, Eastern Mali experienced chronic food shortages which lead to nutritional deficits and approximately 40% lack of income opportunities for the region's male workforce. The introduction of agroecology reported an improved soil quality, increased farmer monthly income, increased fruit production and increased livestock productivity.

Benefits of agroecology such as diversification, use of locally adapted seeds or breeds, practices that increase soil organic matter or total biomass, reintegration of animals, renewable energy powered equipment, agroforestry and the promoted growth of more direct and local markets can contribute to climate change mitigation hence enabling the earth to keep its global warming below 2°C. According to a study by global agriculture, a transition to agroecological farming could lower greenhouse gas emissions by 47%. Unsustainable agriculture on the other hand intensifies the high usage of pesticides and synthetic fertilisers which damage the soil, endanger biodiversity, and increase greenhouse gases.


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