Strengthening the Contribution of Agricultural Research, Extension, and Education in Mainstreaming Agroecology in the Asia-Pacific

Food systems transformation in the Asia-Pacific depends on the dissemination and mainstreaming of new approaches that foster sustainable agriculture. One such approach is agroecology. Agroecology is fundamentally different from other approaches to sustainable development due to its systemic and holistic nature and by its reliance on localized and bottom-up solutions, ensuring that farmers, their communities, and their local knowledge are fully integrated into improving agricultural sustainability (FAO 2018). This adaptable and flexible approach suggests ways to not only promote efficient and resilient agricultural systems, but also to ensure food security and healthy diets, empowerment of family farmers and their organizations, so as to foster responsible governance and to support the conservation and restoration of biodiversity.

A succession of events and workshops across the region over the last year emphasised the need for promoting agroecological approaches. Apart from these, many pilot experiments across the region have also revealed the benefits of promoting agroecological approaches. Throughout the Asia-Pacific, several agroecological practices – mainly aimed at enhancing soil fertility, increasing resilience to climate change and other external shocks, promoting biodiversity, biocontroling pests and diseases, etc., – have long been promoted. Currently, there is an increasing appetite for such practices among farmers and their organisations with an aim to replace the conventional chemical-intensive farming, especially given the rising cost of imported synthetic agro-inputs. However, mainstreaming agroecological approaches within the Agricultural Innovation Systems (AIS) necessitates some fundamental changes in the way all actors in the AIS approach agricultural development.