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. Characteristically, AEI:
- uses local and global knowledge to improve efficiency and effectiveness of crop, tree, livestock, pest and disease, and soil management;
- enhances soil health and fertility, increases functional diversity, and reduces pre- and post-harvest losses;
- contributes to the development of local values networks and diverse and nutritious human diets;
- is flexible and responsive to local conditions, including farmers’ access to inputs and markets;
- is based on evolving understandings of biophysical, socioeconomic, cultural, gender, climate, and other contexts;
- reduces risk and increases productivity through enhanced resilience and adaptation;
- requires cross-sectoral collaboration that considers power and equity.
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.