Lessons on Agroecological Transitions

Ayesha Shahid



“I was motivated to understand what it would take to help us transition towards practices closer to agroecology”

“agroecology has come to be seen as solution to the global agrarian and food crisis where farmers are not compensated equitably and food insecurity prevails among the masses”

“To ensure “power is distributed equitably and intersectionally among the direct producers and eaters” (Akram-Lodhi 2021, 687), it is necessary to integrate small farmers and prioritize their food sovereignty in a locally embedded, democratized food system”

“agroecology emphasizes the “art of farming” that reinvigorates indigenous methods of farming to improve soil fertility, minimize requirement of external inputs, and foster local knowledge-based problem solving (Akram-Lodhi 2021, 709)”

“An agroecological approach requires developing an alternate paradigm of agrarian relations that organize small farmers to achieve “collective production on a national scale” and center knowledge as a force of production (Akram-Lodhi 2021, 690).”

“I set an ambitious goal for my farm experiment. I wanted to develop a sustainable, profitable farm in a manner that is replicable and scalable for the average farmer of our village. It should not need heavy upfront investments, and it should be able to generate enough income to sustain at least one working class family”

“Three years later, we have sowed many things but have rarely achieved a good crop stand. With time our germination rate worsened, and we never recovered a decent output comparable to the conventional system. What happened?”

“Limits of machinery”

“Your village is not my village: what works in irrigated contexts does not work in rain-fed contexts”

“Given that this was an individual effort, our ability to plan the watershed was vastly constrained and we continued to deal with moisture management challenges” Note: This is the major concern with agroecology: the efforts are *individual. We need wider scale planning.*

“Farming is a complex, technical, and multi-skilled endeavor”

“I assumed that I should be able to trial and error my way through learning the basics by using the extensive resources available to farmers”

“However, designing the farm proved challenging and I felt I needed multiple degrees to break this challenge. A farmer must be a hydrologist, a soil scientist, a climate reader, an agronomist, an expert of cropping systems, a landscape reader, a business manager—basically an all-in-one” Note: This is the power of the division of labour. If one individual must know and be responsible for all of this, scaling becomes impossible, let alone rest.

“The force of knowledge in a zero-tillage system is built on years of generational knowledge that gives the farmer the eyes to read everything on their lands, from the soil to the plants, insects, animals, and skies”

“Capitalist agriculture has come at the cost of loss of the ‘art of farming’”

“Scientific precision vs. application”

“A farm experiment like mine is a failing endeavor without engaging with the socio-ecological relationships and practices of land management and farming across the farm, village, and regional landscape”

“Agroecological transformations have been successful in several scenarios where small farmers are organized on a large scale with substantial state support”

“This support is indispensable to transitioning to an agrarian system that prioritizes the development of knowledge as a key force of production. We have so far failed in our endeavor as an isolated island of experimentation on degraded lands surrounded by a hostile regime of production”

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