Response to the HLPE report on Agroecology

Over the past five years (2014-2018), the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) convened a series of regional and international meetings on agroecology. More than 2,100 participants from 170 countries attended to give their input on the potential of agroecology to transform food and agriculture. In 2018, the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) High-Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) appointed a project team to report on those consultations and the role of agroecology in food security and nutrition. Two ARC members, Barbara Gemmill-Herren and Rachel Bezner-Kerr, are among the ten experts selected. In the HLPE’s words, the project team is charged with drafting a report on “Agroecological approaches and other innovations for sustainable agriculture and food systems that enhance food security and nutrition.”

In October 2018, The HLPE released a “version 0” draft of the report and invited comments from the public. ARC members found the draft deeply problematic in its framing and emphasis, and submitted a collective comment to the HLPE in November. In June 2019, the HLPE released an excerpt of the final report, and formally launched the report at FAO headquarters in Rome on July 3. At the time of this writing, the full report has not yet been released. While the project team is responsible for drafting the report, the HLPE itself has final say over the content of the final draft.

UPDATE 07.17.2019

The full UN report “Agroecological and other innovation approaches for sustainable agriculture and food systems that enhance food security and nutrition” is now available:

Some excellent analyses based on the summary released in June:

New UN report on agroecology for climate, food security and human rights, Shiney Varghese, IATP, June 26, 2019

Agroecology as Innovation, Timothy Wise, Food Tank, July 3, 2019

ARC was pleased to sign onto this letter:

Statement in Support of the UN Committee on World Food Security, Agroecology, and Small-Scale Food Producers and Against US Obstructionism, October 16, 2019

See also on USFSA website:

UPDATE 12.5.2019

Towards agroecology policy

ARC members are providing input to the Commission on Food Security (CFS) to inform its development of policy recommendations on agroecology. This policy convergence process started in October 2019 at the 46th CFS Plenary Session, with a meeting focused on the HLPE Report on “Agroecological and other innovative approaches for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems that Enhance Food Security and Nutrition” (meeting notes here). Ambassador Mohammad Hossein Emadi, Rapporteur for the policy convergence process, subsequently invited written inputs from CFS stakeholders and the general public towards assessing “your views on what the priority issues to be addressed during the CFS policy convergence process are.” This feedback will inform an initial “zero draft” with the aim of reaching consensus on draft policy recommendations by October 2020.

In compiling our recommendations, ARC members had a few main objectives. One was to broadly lend support for the CFS agroecology process which some parties including the US appear intent on obstructing. Second was to echo, affirm, and expand upon inputs from the Civil Society Mechanism (CSM), which represents 11 constituencies at the CFS, including smallholder farmers, pastoralists, fisherfolks, indigenous peoples, agricultural and food workers, landless, women, youth, consumers, urban food insecure and NGOs. Third was to build on comments we submitted last year on the “draft zero” version: calling for rights-bases to anchor agroecology (right to food, food sovereignty, rights of the Mother Earth), arguing for more direct addressing of power and political economy in policy guidelines, and underlining the need to clearly distinguish between agroecological and sustainable intensification approaches – which the report itself validates but the summary recommendations problematically conflate.

Below, we share our comments in hopes that they are useful to others.

Agroecology and sustainable food systems researchers’ inputs for the CFS policy
convergence process on “Agroecological and other innovative approaches for
sustainable agriculture and food systems that enhance food security and nutrition”

December 5, 2019
Dear Ambassador Emadi,

Writing as North America-based scientists who work in food systems from a variety of social and natural science disciplines, we would like to convey our appreciation to the CFS for undertaking this policy convergence process. We previously submitted feedback on the V0 of the HLPE report “Agroecology and other innovative approaches” and now welcome these subsequent steps as an important affirmation of agroecology in international policy circles. Our prior submission, “Comment by transdisciplinary team of scientists working in food and agriculture systems” (Iles, Montenegro, Shattuck, Wittman et al.) was signed by 24 researchers who broadly endorsed our recommendations. In this letter, signed by 41 scientists, we take the opportunity to briefly communicate our assessment of the final report.

The HLPE in our view, has provided a strong accounting of agroecology in comparison to other models of agricultural production. We appreciate the range of case studies and field data demonstrating that agroecology can, with proper institutional and economic support, advance CFS goals to ensure food security sustainably and equitably. Attention to “agency” was a particularly welcome inclusion, and we echo the call for CFS to consider the emerging importance of this concept as a fifth pillar of food security and nutrition. Going forward, it is essential that the recommendations and any policy designs based on them reflect the report’s emphasis and focus on agroecology, rather than a watered-down endorsement for “all innovative approaches.” Rights-based frameworks including the right to food, rights of Mother Earth, peasant rights, and food sovereignty can help anchor agroecology in political, environmental, and ethical commitments needed to transform the food system.

Continue reading our comments on PDF here: