FAO and CCRP Collaboration Focuses on a Practical Tool for Agroecological Assessment
CCRP is delighted to collaborate with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) on advancing agroecology (AE). Since 2015, the CCRP’s grant support to the FAO has supported the development of the FAO’s Agroecology Knowledge Hub website. Its support also allowed the FAO team and its collaborators to conceive and present the 10 Elements of Agroecology framework, on which the recent events below were built:
In 2018, the FAO held its 2nd International Symposium on Agroecology. Strong attendance, including a deep CCRP delegation, demonstrated the growing global commitment to AE. The symposium marked a shift of focus from dialogue to action for FAO’s efforts to scale up AE. The chair’s summary, together with recommendations from various countries and partner organizations, stressed the need for the FAO to “take the lead on developing methodologies and indicators to measure sustainability performance of agricultural and food systems beyond yield at landscape or farm level, based on the 10 Elements of Agroecology framework and experience in developing [SDG] indicator 2.4.1.”
The FAO’s 26th Committee on Agriculture welcomed the Scaling Up Agroecology Initiative and supported the 10 Elements of Agroecology. The committee further requested that the FAO assist countries and regions to engage more effectively in transitioning toward sustainable agriculture and food systems by strengthening normative, science, and evidence-based work on agroecology; developing metrics, tools, and protocols to evaluate the contribution of agroecology and other approaches to transforming sustainable agriculture and food systems. TAPE constitutes the FAO’s response to these requests.
As part of the FAO’s Scaling Up Agroecology Initiative, the FAO’s AE team recently developed the Tool for Agroecology Performance Evaluation (TAPE). Its development and the ways in which the CCRP and wider community are using it to advance AE in different contexts are a success story. TAPE was developed through an inclusive, two-year process that included diverse stakeholders from across sectors. The tool provides a stepped approach to assessing the multidimensional performance of agroecology across social, economic, and environmental dimensions of sustainability. Professor Pablo Tittonell, of the Natural Resources and Environment Program of INTA, Argentina’s agricultural research organization, was an important collaborator in its development. The framework has three sections: description of context and system, a rubric for “characterization of agroecological transitions” (CAET), and a survey of core criteria.
With CCRP support, the FAO held a workshop in Mexico City in November 2019 to share TAPE’s origins and advances. A wide variety of actors holding diverse agroecology perspectives assessed the challenges and opportunities of applying TAPE in their particular Latin American contexts. In addition, this broad representation of agroecology academics, activists, and practitioners engaged in a rich dialogue with the FAO and communicated their needs and concerns. Attendees included the CCRP’s Andes regional team and Tittonell. Meeting outcomes included:
- Appreciation for the political importance of generating data for global analysis
- Desire from participants for the TAPE process to support their ongoing initiatives with local adaptation and testing. Several participants committed to conducting case studies using TAPE in their regions. A CCRP-funded project in Bolivia, for one, is keen to put TAPE to use. CCRP users are working to adapt CAET to different contexts.
- Organization of a follow-up committee to maintain communication and collaboration among participants
The CCRP’s communities of practice (CoPs) in Africa have received the TAPE tool with excitement. Within the East and Southern Africa and West Africa CoPs, grantees led by the CCRP’s research methods support team looked at draft versions of TAPE during 2019 workshops (in Tanzania and Burkina Faso, respectively) focusing on research methods for agroecology. The ESAf CoP revisited the tool during its 2019 annual CoP meeting in Malawi. Project teams have drawn three inspirations from TAPE:
- Using the 10 Elements of Agroecology as a frame helps in thinking about systems in a broad sense, moving the focus beyond specific problems.
- It can prompt thinking at landscape and community levels, not just the farm level.
- Assessment across the many different dimensions of agroecology need not be complex or burdensome.
Since then, teams have had a series on online meetings and considered the objectives of work inspired by TAPE. These include:
- Characterizing the agroecological state of farms and landscapes
- Creating awareness of the many dimensions of agroecology
- Training farmers or others in agroecology
- Envisioning alternative farm futures and planning actions to promote transformation
- Measuring change
- Identifying additional dimensions of agroecology important in specific contexts
They requested more grounded help to put these into practice. The ESAf regional team is thus staging a February 2020 field workshop in Uganda during which participants will develop protocols and pilot them with farmer groups.
Edmundo Barrios, FAO Agroecology team: Claire Nicklin, CCRP-Andes regional team; Ric Coe, Statistics for Sustainable Development and CCRP’s Research Methods Support team; and Ernesto Mendes, U of Vermont. Editor: Rebecca Nelson.