To learn more about Agroecology in South America, we felt a need to do a mapping and get the latest insights and developments. The findings serve as a starting point for conversations with key actors in the field.
Our research question was formed as follows:
What are the actors and factors to either enhance or inhibit a shift in thinking and practice to agroecology in South America?
This led to the following research report:
Agroecology in South America by Marina Yamaoka
About the researcher:
Marina Yamaoka is an experienced researcher with over six years of professional experience in the field of sustainable development, including work with the IPES and a master’s degree in international development with a focus on agricultural policies and food security. Experienced in research, policy analysis, and support to program management. She speaks English and Portuguese, French and Spanish.
What is in the report?
Marina takes a slightly different angle than the previous two reports in that she differentiates between the term ‘agroecology’ and ‘regenerative agriculture’. Marina found that the term ‘agroecology’ was better suited to the South American climate since the term has a deep history there and is very much linked to the term ‘regenerative agriculture’, which is a much more recent term. They share common ground and principles.
The report lists the following barriers to growth in agroecology: lack of financing and resources, fragmentation between agroecological supporters, compartmentalized knowledge and lack of recognition of agroecology.
After finding the barriers to agroecology, the report provides a list of innovators.The innovations are diverse, ranging from a shift from chemical to organic inputs to recovering indigenous and local agricultural practices. The innovations also include the design and implementation of online social platforms that give farmers advice and find solutions for their questions about when to harvest or the creation of farmers agroecological schools, and even a new curriculum for farming students.
The report states that food producers might face difficulties to access markets for their products. Some of the problems they face are inadequate infrastructure, high transport costs, or limited market information. Although this can be applied to all agricultural systems, it is more a burden for small producers that don’t have bargaining power to negotiate with the ‘middlemen’ that often buy their produce.
In general, the report found four ‘levels’ of innovations: Production Practices, Knowledge Generation and Dissemination, Social and Economic Relations, Institutional Framework. Just as in the previous reports – Marina chose to use Gliessman’s framework which analyses the ‘level’ of food system transitions to agroecology to understand the current state of play of the countries and the region based on the mapped initiatives .
Marina created a mapping exercise to find the actors offering solution and the innovations they are putting in place. More than two hundred individuals, organisations, or projects were found in South America and gathered in a database within Airtable – which is also open to all, just as her report. This in itself is a hugely useful resource.
The objective of the research is to find thought leaders. In order to get to the ‘short-list ‘of actors and innovations. The quantitative indicators were used as a first criterion to help to select the most influential actors. For the remaining actors in the database, the second criterion prioritized diversity in their innovations.
The actors were grouped by type of change. A second grouping was done considering the obstacles -this was to guarantee that there would be a diversity of views on the factors that are hindering sustainable agricultural practices in South America. The last criterion was to ensure geographical diversity. Therefore, each one of the five actors had to come from a different country. Lastly, the sample tried to encompass actors coming from different sectors (civil society, private sector, public sector, and research).
Marina presents her view of leaders in the field of Agroecology. Alongside the leaders, she also present additional groups or individuals where a conversation would also be interesting for potential funders or investors such as Mustardseed Trust.
The report concludes that in the researcher's opinion, to unblock the barriers that are hindering the transition towards agroecology, that further work with the agroecological knowledge hubs or the actors that are guaranteeing resources would be a huge step in the right direction.
The full report is below.