Sustainable agriculture and agroecology

© GIZ/Harald Franzen

Agroecological approaches and practices have positive impacts on the sustainability, resilience and diversification of agriculture and therefore represent an important concept in the transformation of agricultural and food systems.

The global demand for food and agricultural commodities is constantly increasing. At the same time, current agricultural and food systems are generally neither crisis-proof nor sustainable and overuse natural resources, such as soil, water and biodiversity. Efforts to increase agricultural productivity in the short term often neglect ecological and social aspects and lead to considerable external costs in terms of environment and health. Examples range from greenhouse gas emissions, soil degradation and water and air pollution to depleted aquifers and biodiversity loss. In terms of health, the list continues with food-borne infectious diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, increasing resistance to antimicrobial substances and malnutrition, with serious consequences for health care systems. At the same time, the effects of today’s global polycrises (climate change, species extinction, energy, inflation, food and security crises) are threatening ecosystems and natural resources and therefore the future viability of our agricultural and food systems.

A sustainability transformation of agricultural and food systems is long overdue – not only because of the environmental and social challenges posed by current systems and their lack of resilience, but also for economic reasons. In the long term, agrifood systems should provide affordable, healthy food for all while respecting planetary boundaries and ensuring social wellbeing. They should also guarantee fair incomes and good working conditions and keep the distance between producers and consumers short.

While the potential for sustainable increases in productivity is particularly high in smallholder agriculture in countries of the Global South, efforts are needed to drive a transformation towards sustainable agricultural and food systems in other parts of the world, based on environmentally friendly production that is economically profitable and socially just.

On behalf of the German Government, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH supports its partners in developing and implementing concepts and strategies that improve the resilience, equity and sustainability of agricultural and food systems. Sustainable agricultural practices and agroecological approaches that go beyond the farm and production level are promising levers for this profound change and offer holistic solutions to the structural challenges of rural development.

To this end, GIZ is active in the following areas:

  • It advises partner governments seeking to promote sustainability in agriculture, for example, on the design of agricultural policies and the creation of framework conditions to promote sustainable production systems. GIZ has tried-and-tested support concepts that are adapted to the specific needs of the partner country.
  • It works closely with agricultural and farming businesses and their organizations, drawing on the professional and technical expertise available locally. It involves government and civil society partners as well as other relevant actors in food systems and promotes development partnerships with the private sector. It pursues a multistakeholder and multilevel approach and supports partners in jointly developing holistic approaches for switching to sustainable methods and production systems.

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