Climate-Resilient Livelihoods and Food Systems

Climate change has severe negative impacts on livelihoods and food systems worldwide. Our future climate according to latest scenarios seriously undermine current efforts to improve the state of food security and nutrition, especially in sub-Sahara Africa. To address this to its full extent, there is an urgent need for transformational change of our food systems towards more sustainability and resilience. Agroecology could play a vital role here.

Given the sound knowledge base, fostering agroecology to build resilience should be recognized as a viable climate change adaptation strategy.

Summary of main agroecological resilience strengthening pathways

About the study

The study highlights the links between agroecology and climate change, by providing evidence on the technical (i.e. ecological and socio-economic) and policy potential of agroecology to build resilient food systems. The report aims to answer the following question:

How can agroecology foster climate change adaptation, mitigation and resilience through practices and policies?

Inspired by the idea that transformation will only happen through a coordinated approach among all levels, this study aims to combine evidence from a broad range of backgrounds and perspectives.

Key insights to the study


Solid evidence demonstrates that agroecology increases resilience, especially by strengthening a) ecological principles, in particular biodiversity, overall diversity and healthy soils; and b) social aspects, in particular co-creation and sharing of knowledge and building on traditions.


The interdisciplinary and systemic nature of agroecology is key for its true transformational power but challenging, both for research and policy processes: the majority of existing scientific evidence and policy processes focus only on the productive dimension, mostly focusing on crop production.


More than ten percent of the NDCs by UNFCCC member states mention agroecology and consider it a valid approach to address climate change. The climate potential of agroecology is furthemore backed by the IPCC Special Report on Land and the 2019 CFS HLPE report.


  • Given the sound knowledge base, fostering agroecology to build resilience should be recognized as a viable climate change adaptation strategy.
  • Further comparative research on the multidimensional impacts of agroecology is needed.
  • Barriers to the scaling-up of agroecology need to be addressed: amongst others, improved access to knowledge and understanding of systemic approaches should be fostered across sectors, stakeholders and scales.
  • Agroecology’s transformative resilience building potential depends on its holistic and systemic nature, which goes beyond a set of practices and includes: a social movement, for producers’ empowerment and a multidisciplinary scientific paradigm.


Solid evidence demonstrates that agroecology increases climate resilience

The meta-analysis of peer reviewed studies on agroecology clearly shows that:

  • Agroecology builds on key characteristics which have a strong positive correlation with climate resilience.
  • Agroecology increases the adaptive capacity and reduces the vulnerability of agroecosystems, mainly through improved soil health, biodiversity and high diversification of species and genetic resources within agricultural production systems.
  • Mitigation co-benefits are also achieved, mainly related to increased soil organic matter (carbon sequestration) and the reduced use of synthetic fertilizers.
  • Institutional aspects, such as knowledge co-creation and dissemination via advisory services and farmer-to-farmer approaches have a key role to support the development, strengthening and uptake of agroecology.
  • When supporting agroecology and fostering climate resilience, it is key to establish and strengthen functional context specific knowledge and participatory innovation systems.

Agroecology is gaining momentum

A systemic assessment of the potential of agroecology (according to FAO’s 10 elements definition1) to be considered and recommended as a relevant approach in the international agriculture-climate discussions, in particular in the UNFCCC process and the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA) revealed that:

  • An increasing number of countries and stakeholders from different backgrounds see agroecology and related approaches as a promising mean for reaching adaptation and mitigation targets and to achieve an effective transformational change.
  • 12.5 percent of the NDCs (17 out of the 136 analyzed) explicitly mention “agroecology”, as either an adaptation strategy (11 percent) or as mitigation to climate change (4 percent) (13 are from sub-Saharan Africa, 2 from Latin America and Caribbean, 1 from Near East and North Africa and 1 from Asia Pacific).
  • Without addressing agroecology specifically, isolated agroecological approaches are mentioned in additional NDCs, in particular selected agroecological elements such as “efficiency”, “recycling”, “diversity” and “co-creating of knowledge”.
  • Agroecology has also seen considerable attention in 2019 at the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) and the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) discussions.

Policy Potential

The national case studies assessed each country’s institutional frameworks in terms of the potential to incorporate agroecology to hedge against climate change. This provides a deep understanding of the current national context, the enabling environment as well as the opportunities and challenges for scaling-up agroecology to be considered in the decision-making process and to scale it up. While Kenya and Senegal have different policy settings, in both countries there is considerable potential for agroecology to gain momentum. However, it is challenging to translate the interdisciplinary and systemic nature of agroecology into policies, laws, strategies. Both case studies highlight the importance of training and awareness raising activities to ensure common understanding of agroecology and to ensure its translation into appropriate institutional frameworks.

Kenya Policy Environment

  • Climate related policies do not emphasize systemic, ecologic farming approaches but selectively address agroecology elements such as soil and conservation practices.
  • Through increased understanding of agroecology, stakeholders see opportunities of integrating it into sub-national institutional processes.
  • Good opportunities to embed agroecological approaches into existing policies.
  • Further efforts to provide evidence, training and policy guidance for agroecology would need to be matched with increased levels of public and private investment and financial support.

Senegal Policy Environment

  • Agroecology emerged in the 1980s and many promising initiatives spread out since then that have influenced policies. However, policies and laws do not yet include agroecological approaches, as there is still a strong focus on high external input-dependent agricultural systems.
  • Favorable conditions for scaling-up agroecology exist today: 1) an increasing institutional commitment, since agroecology is one of the government’s priorities (among the five major initiatives of the Plan Senegal Emergent 2019-2024); 2) the national multi-stakeholder committee Dynamique sur la Transition Agroécologique au Sénégal (DyTAES) aspires to develop a harmonized framework on agroecology and related recommendations to transform national policies and work towards an agroecological transition.