Ecological agriculture is a reaction and an alternative to some of the strategies which have been used by government and donors during the last 50 years, and which have had a damaging effect on rural society and agricultural ecosystems. These damaging strategies include farming technologies which degrade the natural resource base and require high levels of external inputs (including toxic chemicals), and agricultural research and extension services which are based on the notion that technology should be developed by specialists and transferred to recipient farmers through messages and demonstrations
Ecological agriculture entails farmers making decisions and applying practices with the aim of sustaining or enhancing natural regenerative processes and stabilizing interactions within local agro-ecosystems. In practice, this includes:
The management of insect pests by taking account of population dynamics, natural enemies, and plant compensation.
The management of soil fertility by taking account of soil structure and composition, nutrient cycling and the action of microorganisms.
A basic premise of the Field Alliance is that farmers can and should become experts in ecological agriculture. The Farmer Field Schools (FFS) is a proven approach to achieving this goal. The FFS involves groups of farmers studying the ecosystem in their own fields, conducting their own experiments, and carrying out their own analysis of problems and options. Integrated Pest Management is often the core subject of the FFS, but attention is also given to soils and seeds.
The staff of the Field Alliance and Partner Organisations have played an major role in the development and management of agro-ecology training programmes across Asia, resulting in millions of farmers graduating from Farmer Field Schools.
- From Farmer Field Schools to Community IPM: Ten Years of IPM Training in Asia. The final draft of this FAO book can be downloaded from the Community IPM website. Click on this link to go to the table of contents.
- Participatory Ecology Training: Field Guide for IPM Training. A fully illustrated guide by Nanang Budiyanto covering 18 topics [6 PDF files, 38 pages, 1.6 Mb]
- Farmer field research: An analysis of experiences from Indonesia. An examination of five case studies each involving research carried out by Indonesia farmers, plus guidelines for facilitating scientific method. [3 PDF files, 77 pages, 712 KB]
- Agroecology Movement schools in the Rural Ecological Agriculture for Livelihood (REAL) program by the Thai Education Foundation.
- The FAO Global Farmer Field School (FFS) Platform: Provides and Exchange Information on FFS Globally.
- ILEIA, is the Centre for Information on Low-External-Input and Sustainable Agriculture, based in the Netherlands. For more than 15 years the LEISA newsletter and magazine have been a major source of information about sustainable agriculture projects around the world.
- IFOAM is the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, which has established widely recognized standards for pollution-free agriculture.
- The World Resources Institute (WRI) is a key source of information about the relationship between agriculture and biodiversity.