In this 1/2-hour-long power point presentation, prominent agroecology advocate Miguel Altieri presents a critique of industrial agriculture, and the importance of agroecology. This is a very clear introduction to the problems of contemporary industrial agriculture and the potentials of agroecology, drawn primarily from examples in North, Central and South America.
Industrial agriculture is totally unsustainable, continually depleting soil and relying on finite (and destructive) fossil fuel inputs. Altieri dispels the myth that (only) industrial agriculture can “feed the world” because it’s more efficient. Dead wrong: industrial monocultures are less efficient than agroecology and polycultures. Compared to monocultures, integrated systems of animals and a diversity of plant species is proven to produce more vegetables, more protein, and more of other useful resources on the same amount of land. Polyculture farming systems are being displaced not because they’re less efficient, but because they’re less profitable for capitalist firms and corporations that are trying to increase their control over food systems. Altieri argues for a marriage between Western science and traditional knowledges to create sustainable, highly productive food systems. Agroecology and agroforestry are more resilient in the face of climate change, more conducive to equitable local food production, and less reliant on water and external inputs. In the latter part of the lecture, Altieri introduces the concept of food sovereignty, advocating for a combination of state support for agroecology (including agricultural extension programs), land reform, urban agriculture, rejection of biofuels and speculation, and grassroots social movement action (like the land reclamations of Sem Terra in Brazil).