AGROECOLOGY – IS THERE AN ALTERNATIVE?
Agroecology is a method / system of agriculture which recognizes the interconnectedness of agronomy with its relationship to the environment
Agroecology is the science of sustainable agriculture; the methods of agroecology have as their goal achieving sustainability of agricultural systems balanced in all spheres. This includes the socio-economic and the ecological or environmental aspects. The agroecologist views any farming system primarily with an ecologist’s eye; that is, it is not firstly economic (created for a commodity and profit), nor industrial (modeled after a factory). In fact, agroecosystems are both understood and designed following ecological principles
Agroecology has been described as a system of sustainable agriculture, as a science and as a philosophy
The term agroecology encompasses a broad range of approaches, and is considered “a science, a movement, and a practice”. Agroecological research considers interactions of the all-important bio-physical, technical and socio-economic components of farming systems and regards these systems as the fundamental units of study. Mineral cycles, energy transformations, biological processes and socio-economic relationships are analyzed as a whole in an interdisciplinary fashion.
Agroecology takes the best of the previously existing forms of agriculture and combines this into a whole systems approach, it integrates rather than separates and it stops the “best” debate and tends to instil an attitude of objectivity to the three cornerstones being, the planet or environment, people or the social and prosperity or economics which are all cornerstones to sustainability and are often referred to as the triple bottom line.
Lindros focuses on four basic systems and technologies being;
1. Permaculture as a design system
2. Organic agriculture
3. Kyusei nature farming in association with the Effective Micro organisms (EM)
4. Biodynamic agriculture
The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death to life. Without proper care for it we can have no human community, because without proper care for it we can have no life. (see Wendell Berry)
There can be no denying that our planet, positioned in the cosmos, is a living organism or being. Within this powerful organism, it seems that death occurs for the good of life. We see by following this cycle that we have a description of the fundamental biological process. It is impossible to contemplate the life of the soil for very long without seeing it is analogous to the life of the spirit.
Because the soil is alive, various, intricate and because its processes yield more readily to imitation than to analysis, more readily to care than coercion, Agriculture can never be an exact science. There is an inescapable kinship between farming and art. For farming depends as much on character, devotion, imagination, freedom and a sense of structure as on plain knowledge or academia. It is a practical art.
The word Agriculture, after all, does not mean agri-science much less agri-business. It means “cultivation of land”. “Cultivation” is at the root of the sense born of culture and cult. The ideas of tillage and worship are thus joined in “culture”.
It is only by understanding the cultural complexities and largeness of the concept of Agriculture that we can see the threatening diminishments to our humanness implied by the term “agri-business”. If we corrupt Agriculture we corrupt culture.
If Agriculture is acknowledged to have anything to do with culture then its study has to include people. But the agricultural “experts” ruled people out when they made their discipline or specialty or collection of specialties.
Let’s look at the biography of Agriculture. We see that in the earliest times man was a hunter-gatherer. Later he was led to know which plants and animals could be domesticated. Man felt himself to be immersed in Nature – he was one with Nature. He looked to the heavens for guidance – he was one with the heavens. Evolution took a leap forward and so does man’s consciousness. He separates himself from Nature and sees the natural world “out there”. Up to the 1840’s man had known that the plant was fed from the soil. It depended on the life of the soil. Humus was known to reflect the health of the soil. Healthy, rich earth said to be “of good heart” was a reflection of the presence of the humus in the soil.
Agricultural history reaches back into the most distant past and is present at every stage of evolution of the History of Man. A fundamental shift started to take place in the thinking of Man. Up to the 1840’s man knew he must nurture the life of the soil to maintain and improve soil fertility. A German scientist/chemist, Baron Justus vonLiebig, wrote at this time a paper called “Chemistry in its application to Agriculture and Physiology”. He studied the ashes of plants and came up with the now N P K theory of Agriculture. But more importantly he too said that humus was not soluble in water therefore it could not be ‘feeding’ the plant. This one paper has led to modern Agriculture and its dissociation from Nature and its specialization into micro sciences ensuring that the parts are more than the whole. This basic misconception is the fundamental block in modern Agriculture. Life begets life.
When one looks at the practices of modern Agriculture one sees that they are working out of the mineral kingdom of nature. This is a lifeless kingdom immersed in the physical. For a true sense of Agriculture we need a balance, a natural occurring symbiosis between the four kingdoms of nature. These are the mineral kingdom, the plant kingdom, the animal kingdom and the kingdom of man. Life begetting life.
The disadvantages of not being true to the above is the situation we find ourselves in today. The lack of a true cultural understanding that it is man’s birthright to have access to food; that it is a spiritual fact that man cannot own land but merely be a custodian for a period of time; that the earth needs to be fed not the plant; that as with any other organism if it is healthy it will have a natural resistance to pests and disease.
A healthy organism can only flourish if it is fed out of the living. It can only be sustained out of the living. The task of the farmer is to immerse himself as far as possible in this area. It seems an almost obvious solution that this can only be done out of what is described as Organic Agriculture.
Fundamental to this is the direct relationship between the health of the soil and the health of the people who feed from it. This is known fact. There is a proven difference between food grown conventionally and that, which is organically grown. There can be no doubt that nutrition is the basis of any man. If we receive a healthier diet from nature’s way of growing would any sensible person not choose that way?
Can man be so clever yet so unwise. There should be no doubt that the present way of Agriculture is bound to fail as it is not self-sustaining and is a materialistic way of working within nature.
I end with the following quote:
“So long as one feeds on food from an unhealthy soil, the spirit will lack the stamina to free itself from the prison of the body”. (R. Steiner)