Agroecological intensification (AEI) means improving the performance of agriculture through integration of ecological principles into farm and system management. Depending on the context, improved performance may mean any or all of the following: improved efficiency, increased productivity, enhanced use of local resources, better diets, improved livelihoods, and increased equity with associated increases in resilience and environmental service provision from farmed landscapes.
Conventional agriculture research tends to be top-down and isolated from smallholder farmers and their local ecological, economic, and social realities. As a result, farmers often find the products of the research—from seed varieties and tools to policy recommendations—inaccessible, irrelevant, or nonfunctional. Much of the global effort to support farming communities has been ineffective, exacerbating instead of reducing hunger, poverty, and ecological degradation.
The CCRP supports AEI research that can be applied by farmers and communities to improve productivity, nutrition, livelihoods, equity, and rural vibrancy. Beyond these tangible impacts, many of the research principles that AEI embodies—farmer participation and ownership in the research process, integration of global and local knowledge, cross-sector and multilateral collaboration—help strengthen societal structures. As local people build networks through CCRP projects, they help to revitalize the economy and culture of rural communities.
AEI v. AE: why/not the “I”?
Agroecology (AE): science, practice and movement
Agroecological Intensification = a process fueled by the application AE principles
- Improving the farm and system performance through the implementation of agroecological principles
- Intensification: we mean “more through AE”
- But it is fraught – for many, “intensification” is associated with “more through non-AE inputs” (synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, etc.)
- 7 Characteristics of AEI
Regional Agroecology Hubs Move Forward
Supporting a transition to farming based on agroecological principles will require a new generation of farmers, thinkers, opinion leaders and researchers who see the transformative potential of agroecology, understand the technical particulars, are committed to change for greater sustainability and equity, and are connected through strong networks.
To help create the conditions needed for this new generation, the CCRP has recently made grants to support several agroecology hubs two of which are based at universities in the East and Southern Africa CoP (ESAf): the LUANAR AE Hub in Malawi, and the Sokoine AE Hub in Tanzania. The AE Hub based at Manor House Agricultural Centre in Kenya is focused on supporting farmers and civil society organizations that work together on agroecologicial research and action.
There is another hub within the West African CoP (WAf) based in Maradi, Niger. It represents a cluster of six CCRP-funded projects, namely Sahel-IPM, Networking-for-Seed, Cowpea Square, Productivity of Women’s Fields, Cereal-Legume Processing, and CATI-Gao. The overarching goal is to strengthen agro-ecological intensification (AEI) of pearl millet-based farming systems. Individual projects focus on cereal and legume seed production, biological pest control, systems diversification and soil fertility enhancement via legume and crop-tree-livestock integration, use of locally available resources as fertilizer (including sanitized human urine and more recently, also solid human waste), and processing and marketing of nutritious products derived from the primary harvest. Several projects work specifically with women. The project cluster is considered a hub since activities are centered within the Maradi-based Farmer Federation FUMA Gaskiya, i.e., the different project activities are integrated at the Federation’s level and farmers of the Federation have access to and experiment with AEI options along the whole value chain. Partners include researchers from University of Maradi, the National Agricultural Research Institute INRAN, ICRISAT, the French Research Institute CIRAD, and the NGO RAIL, as well as farmers from the MOORIBEN farmer federation which is also based in Niger.