A. Historical principles of agroecology

Reijntjes, Haverkot et Water-Bayer (1992) in Altieri (1995)

  1. Recycle biomass as much as possible, so as to optimise both energy flows and nutrient cycling and availability.
  2. Nurture soil conditions for optimal plant growth, with a keen eye on organic matter and soil life management. Because of the antagonisms with oil-based external inputs and because fossil fuel is going to be outphased anytime soon, this nurturing should be conceived minimising the use of petrochemicals (fertiliser, pesticides, fossil fuels).
  3. Minimise resource losses (e.g. energy, nutrients, water and soil) through microclimate management, water harvesting techniques in drylands, increasing soil cover in space and time and the interplay of territorial specifities, especially through mixed farming systems.
  4. Favour genetic diversification of agroecosystems, both within and between species, in space and in time.
  5. Allow for beneficial interactions and biological synergies between components of agrobiodiversity so as to strenghen the above-mentioned key processes and services.
  6. Value agrobiodiversity as an entry point for the redesign of food systems that ensure peasant autonomy and food souvereignty (Machado, Santili et al. 2008; Jackson, Rosenstock et al. 2009).

B. Methodological principles

Science in Action Department (SAD), INRA (Tichit, Bellon et al. 2010)

  1. Develop multi-criteria guidance of agroecosystems within a long-term transition perspective, taking into account trade-offs between long term and short term benefits, and giving due importance to properties that increase resilience and adaptability.
  2. Value spatio-temporal resource variation : exploit local resources when and where they are available rather than trying to get rid of intrinsic variation.
  3. Stimulate the exploration of agroecosystems far removed from the already known local optima of today (Weiner, Andersen et al. 2010), e.g. « extreme » systems with very low levels of external inputs both in animal and plant production (Jackson 2002).

B. Methodological principles (GIRAF)


  1. Favour the construction of participatory research frameworks, which allow for action-oriented research while guaranteeing its scientific validity (Hatchuel 2000; Hubert 2002). Designing sustainable food systems is indeed complex because it requires researchers to take into account stakeholder interdependencies and ambiguities as well as the socio-economic uncertainties of technical innovations (Bell and Stassart 2011).


C. Socio-economic principles (GIRAF)


  1. Create knowledge and a collective capacity to adapt, through networks comprising producers, citizen-consumers, researchers and state-funded technical advisers. These networks promote decision-making fora, public debate and the diffusion of knowledge (Thompson 1997; Pimbert, Boukary et al. 2011).
  1. Foster opportunities for peasants to evolve towards greater autonomy with regard to dominant (world) market forces. This fostering happens through the creation of enabling environments for public goods and the development of practices and socio-economic models that strengthen the democratic gouvernance of food issues. Systems would then be (re)localised and co-managed by both producers and citizen-consumers (Ploeg 2008; Wittman, Desmarais et al. 2010).
  1. Value the diversity of forms of knowledge: local know-how (Hassanein and Kloppenburg 1995) or Indigenous Technology and Knowledge (ITK, Richards 1993) or empirical knowledge (Wynne 1996), both while constructing problems and the audiences these problems address as during problem solving research.