Frequently asked questions

What definition of agroecology does GIRAF use?

GIRAF has a very broad definition of agroecology, as follows:  Agroecology is not defined exclusively by scientific disciplines, social movements, or practices.  It is called upon to become a concept that federates these three dimensions.

This definition, which is open to transdiscipinarity and political and social issues, has a history.  In the 1970s and 1980s agroecology was defined as the application of ecology to the study, design, and management of sustainable agroecosystems.  It remained confined to these agroecosystems.  The field of study of agroecology was subsequently broadened to become the application of ecology to the study, design, and management of food systems.  It then became an interdisciplinary practice that involved redefining boundaries between scientific and social fields.

As an interdisciplinary scientific approach, agroecology has a critical role:  It challenges the industrial food system as well as the dominant agricultural model based on the intensive use of inputs that are external to the agroecosystem.  As a social movement, agroecology belongs to the vein of social criticism of the effects of the modernization of the world’s farming system and the exploration of another pathway based above all on the search for independent decision-making and the sparing use of resources.  For more on this, read the article stating GIRAF’s position by clicking on the following link:  GIRAF position paper.


Can agroecology feed the planet?

Feeding the planet is not just a matter of agricultural production techniques.  It is also a political issue that concerns all food systems.  Agroecology has shown itself capable of producing good yields while regenerating soils and ecosystems, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and allowing for farmers’ lifestyles (for more details on this, see here).  But most important, the industrial food system has revealed the limits of its ability to feed the planet sustainably (dependence on fossil fuels, pollution, degradation of habitats, suicide and disease among farmers, food wastage, consumer health issues, and so on).  We believe that in future it will be less and less able to feed the world, given the sociotechnical and political choices that have been made.
We thus urge everyone to be wary of the question of “feeding the planet,” especially when it comes to a discussion of yields (per acre).  Comparing agroecological systems with the industrial food system based solely on yields per acre is the same as asking which is faster, a car or a bicycle!  At first sight, the car is faster.  However, in town or when there’s no gasoline, the bicycle is faster.  So, the two are not really comparable.  Speed is not the only criterion of comparison.  You have to add environmental and social impacts, for example.
To make a long story short, food does not boil down to a simple question of yield per unit area.  It is a matter of technical, economic, financial, political, ecological, psychological, social, cultural, and other issues.  So, the calling of agroecology is to cover all these dimensions systemically and by means of a transdisciplinary approach.


Is there an agroecological production label in Europe?


Where does the agroecological movement come from?

The movement was born in the Americas (both North and South).  It was created by researchers keen to recreate sustainable agroecosystems and social movements of small farmers and associations that turned to the cropping practices of old to combat the industrial food system.  Agroecology is the alternative advocated today by the global union of peasants and small farmers, Via Campesina.

Where can one get training in agroecology?

In Belgium a Certificate in Agroecology is given from September to January (about 25 days of class).  It is also possible to enroll in the week-long agroecology summer school that is held in Europe (link).  Finally, Norway, the Netherlands, and France have organized a two-year Master’s in agroecology (link) in which Belgian students take part regularly.