Historical principles

Key characteristics of diversified agroecological farming

Principles and dimensions of agroecology

Dimensions of sustainable food system

Nicholls, Altieri et al. 2016


CIDSE 2018

Beacons of Hope


Minimize losses of energy, water, nutrients and genetic resources by enhancing conservation and regeneration of soil and water resources and agrobiodiversity

Low external inputs

Environmental dimension: AE eliminates the use of and dependency on external synthetic inputs by enabling farmers to control pests, weeds and improve fertility through ecological management.

Nature/ecological dimension: resource efficiency, reduce external inputs


Recycling of waste within full nutrient cycling

Enhance the recycling of biomass, with a view to optimizing organic matter decomposition and nutrient cycling over time

Environmental dimension: AE optimises and closes resource loops (nutrients, biomass) by recycling existing nutrients and biomass in farming and food systems

Nature/ecological dimension: sustainable water use, reduce waste


Diversify species and genetic resources in the agroecosystem over time and space at the field and landscape level

Temporal and spatial diversification at various scales, including plot, farm and landscape

Use of wide range of species and less uniform, locallyadapted varieties/breeds, based on multiple uses, cultural preferences, taste, productivity and other criteria.

Multiple sources of production, income and livelihood

Environmental dimension: AE builds and conserves life in the soil to provide favourable conditions for plant growth

Environmental dimension: AE optimises and maintains biodiversity above and below ground (a wide range of species and varieties, genetic resources, locally adapted varieties/breeds, etc.) over time and space

Economic dimension: AE promotes diversification of on-farm incomes giving farmers greater financial independence, increases resilience by multiplying sources of production and livelihood, promoting independence from external inputs and reducing crop failure through its diversified system

Nature/ecological dimension: agrobiodiversity, protect forest and trees, agroforestry


Provide the most favorable soil conditions for plant growth, particularly by managing organic matter and by enhancing soil biological activity

Enhance beneficial biological interactions and synergies among the components of agrobiodiversity, thereby promoting key ecological processes and services

Natural synergies emphasized and production types integrated (e.g. mixed croplivestocktree farming systems and landscapes)

Maximization of multiple outputs

Environmental dimension: AE enhances positive interaction, synergy, integration, and complementarities between the elements of agroecosystems (plants, animals, trees, soil, water, etc.) and food systems (water, renewable energy, and the connections of relocalised food chains)

Nature/ecological dimension: healthy fertile soils, delivery of ecosystem services, reduce GHG emissions

Production dimension: multiple forms of food production


Strengthen the “immune system” of agricultural systems through enhancement of functional biodiversity – natural enemies, antagonists, etc., by creating appropriate habitats

Environmental dimension: AE supports climate adaptation and resilience while contributing to greenhouse gas emission mitigation (reduction and sequestration) through lower use of fossil fuels and higher carbon sequestration in soils.

Adaptive/resilience capacity dimension: local adaptation, adaptive capacity, CC resilience, resilience to economic shocks, CO2 sequestration, resilience against pest and disease

CoCreation and Sharing of Knowledge

Socio-cultural dimension: AE is knowledge-intensive and promotes horizontal (farmer-to-farmer) contacts for sharing of knowledge, skills, and innovations, together with alliances giving equal weight to farmer and researcher

Human/creative dimension: education, innovation, creativity

Social/equity dimension: Access extension services

Culture and Food Traditions

Multiple uses (including traditional uses), cultural preferences, taste, productivity and other criteria

Socio-cultural dimension:AE is rooted in the culture, identity, tradition, innovation and knowledge of local communities

Socio-cultural dimension: AE contributes to healthy, diversified, seasonally and culturallyappropriate diets

Socio-cultural dimension: AE supports peoples and communities in maintaining their spiritual and material relationship with their land and environment

Cultural dimension: genetic resources, varieties, food specialities, traditions, customs, celebrate cultural aspects

Human/Creative dimension: sustainable consumption patterns

Production dimension: sensitizes for local and seasonal demand

Circular and Solidarity Economy

Circular economy approaches

Production of a wide range of less homogeneous products often destined for short value chain

Socio-cultural dimension: AE does not necessarily require expensive external certification as it often relies on producer-consumer relations and transactions based on trust, promoting alternatives to certification such as Participatory Guarantee System and Community Supported Agriculture

Economic dimension: AE promotes fair, short distribution networks rather than linear distribution chains and builds a transparent network of relationships between producers and consumers.

Economic dimension: AE primarily helps provide livelihoods for peasant families and contributes to making local markets, economies and employment more robust.

Economic dimension: AE harnesses the power of local markets by enabling food producers to sell their produce at fair prices and respond actively to local market demand.

Economic dimension: AE is built on a vision of a social and solidarity economy

Financial/production dimension: direct link between farmers and consumers, increase farm profitability and yield, regional value generation and access to financial resources

Human/Creative dimension: sustainable consumption patterns

Social/Equity dimension: group, associations, trade unions, marketing, commercialization organization

Human and Social Value

More labor intensive systems

Socio-cultural dimension: AE creates opportunities for and promotion of solidarity and discussion between and among culturally diverse peoples (e.g. different ethnic groups that share the same values yet have different practices) and between rural and urban populations.

Socio-cultural dimension: AE respects diversity between people in terms of gender, race, sexual orientation and religion, creates opportunities for young people and women and encourages women’s leadership and gender equality

Economic dimension: AE reduces dependence on aid and increases community autonomy by encouraging sustainable livelihoods and dignity

Human/creative dimension: food security, healthy and nutritious food, labour opportunities

Social/equity dimension: building of trust, collaborative, celebrational processes, life promoting

Responsible Governance

Political dimension: AE prioritises the needs and interests of smallscale food producers who supply the majority of the world’s food and it deemphasizes the interests of large industrial food and agricultural systems.

Political dimension: AE puts control of seed, biodiversity, land and territories, water, knowledge and the commons into the hands of the people who are part of the food system and so achieves betterintegrated resource management.

Political dimension: AE can change power relationships by encouraging greater participation of food producers and consumers in decisionmaking on food systems and offers new governance structures.

Political dimension: AE requires a set of supportive, complementary public policies, supportive policymakers and institutions, and public investment to achieve its full potential.

Political dimension: AE encourages forms of social organisation needed for decentralised governance and local adaptive management of food and agricultural systems. It also incentivizes the selforganisation and collective management of groups and networks at different levels, from local to global (farmers organisations, consumers, research organisations, academic institutions, etc).

Political dimension: sustainable policies, food democracy, multistakeholder dialogue, supports evidencebased policymaking, sensitize political food chain actors

Social/equity dimension: land tenure system

FAO 2018 “10 Elements of Agroecology guiding the transition to sustainable food and agricultural systems

Nicholls, C. I., Altieri, M. A., Vazquez, L. 2016 “Agroecology: principles for the conversion and redesign of farming systems”. Journal of Ecosystem and Ecography S, 5. 

IPES-Food 2016 “From uniformity to diversity: a paradigm shift from industrial agriculture to diversified agroecological systems”. 

CIDSE 2018 “The Principles of Agroecology Towards just, resilient and sustainable food systems” 

GAFF 2018 “Beacons of Hope A Sustainability Transitions Framework for Sustainable Food Systems”. In preparatio