“Coriander, spinach, onions, cassava, tomatoes. I like everything we eat. I prefer to sow plants that have flowers, because I think they’re pretty.” In the midst of the tall grass, Consuelo Minda’s two daughters list with relish the products that are now a feast for both their eyes and their taste buds. Hard to believe, surrounded by so much greenery, that a few years ago these Colombian fields were nowhere near as lush, and the families nowhere near as content. “If we run out of money today, we don’t have to worry because we have everything here,” says Consuelo proudly. Healthy fields are also what Flor Collaguazo has been seeing in Ecuador, where her community, with its commitment to agroecology, has overcome the
recent years of crisis thanks to soil protection, organic inputs and the use of seeds adapted to the climate. “We’ve learned to value our land more. Our fields and our knowledge of agroecology have saved us.”
Coriander, spinach, onions, cassava, tomatoes. I like everything we eat.
Consuelo’s daughters in Colombia are delighted with the fields surrounding their home. Thanks to agroecology, their mother has made green crops flourish in a few years.
Different continent, different climate, different culture
Thousands of kilometres away, Aminata Balde, a farmer from Guinea-Bissau, has reached the same conclusion – ever since she started practising agroecology, her crops have improved significantly. “Onions can now be stored for much longer without chemical inputs. The organic pesticide we make ourselves is equally effective.”
Consuelo, Flor and Aminata are among the 52,000 families supported by SWISSAID who practised agroecology in 2021. In its fight against hunger, and in its vision of a world where even the poorest can live a healthy, dignified and self-sufficient life, the foundation considers agroecology to be its best possible ally. Convinced that agroecology is a social and economic lever that is environmentally friendly and sustainable, SWISSAID has made this method of agricultural production one of its main pillars for decades. Of the 64 projects carried out in our partner countries in 2021, 47 concerned agroecology. These projects involve training in the creation of compost and organic fertilisers, crop diversification, traditional seed saving and moderate water use, as well as awareness of gender equality.
The 13 Principles of Agroecology
Farmers who practise agroecology reduce their dependence on harmful and expensive chemicals such as pesticides and fertilisers, as well as seeds from big industry. This enables them to spend less, and to increase their income through more resilient and environmentally friendly crops. The techniques of agroecology help to protect the soil and strengthen crops in the face of climate change. Harvests are more regular, less subject to extreme weather, and do not deplete the soil over the years. In addition, farmers are encouraged to save, sell, exchange and cultivate traditional seeds that are particularly well adapted to the region, need less maintenance and enhance the soil.
Discover the 14 principles of agroecology, which SWISSAID follows in its projects, based on the 13 principles defined by the HLPE (High Level Panel of Experts). SWISSAID adds a fourtheenth principle: gender equality.
Tangible and concrete results
With an extensive network of local partners and trainers in the field, SWISSAID has become an expert in agroecology. Today, scientific studies are starting to give weight to this method, beyond the successes experienced in the field. In 2021, a meta-analysis of 11,771 articles on agroecology published between 1998 and 2019 concluded that 78% of studies found a positive relationship between agroecological practices and improved food security and nutrition (Kerr, R., et al. 2021. “Can agroecology improve food security and nutrition? A review.” Global Food Security (29)).
A solution we believe will improve the living conditions of the 800 million people in the world who still suffer from hunger. And a solution we are campaigning for both in Switzerland and in the countries of the South. In September 2021, SWISSAID published a report on agroecology in response to the UN World Food Summit, which brought together only political decision-makers, while excluding the main stake-holders themselves. By giving a voice to women farmers in the South, the report clearly demonstrates how agroecology is a method of choice for women with minimal resources.
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In line with the UN goals
By introducing agroecological practices, SWISSAID projects contribute to the achievement of many of the UN’s sustainable development goals. When Aminata makes her own compost from a mixture of manure and other organic materials she has at her disposal rather than buying expensive industrial fertiliser that destroys her soil, she is, for example, contributing to Goal 12 of responsible consumption and production. When the community of Flor in Ecuador develops and distributes 16,000 organically grown plants to enable remote villages in response to the cut-off of supply chains during the pandemic, it contributes to the goals of no poverty (1), zero hunger (2) and urgent action to combat climate change (13). Finally, when Consuelo and other women farmers in Colombia come together to take their place in the market, sell their product and obtain a better income, they are contributing to Goal 5 of gender equality and Goal 8 of decent work and economic growth.
But agroecology is not only a solution for the countries of the South. Here, in our own environment, when we buy local, commute by bicycle or vote to ensure that traditional seeds can continue to be freely shared, we are promoting good health and well-being (3) and sustainable life on land (15). And contributing to a more harmonious world as we do so.