Transitions to agroecological systems: farmers’ viewpoints

ORC has been contracted by the Land Use Policy Group (LUPG) to carry out a second study, building on the report by Nic Lampkin and others on the Role of Agroecology in Sustainable Intensification

The Role of Agroecology in Sustainable Intensification study that ORC carried out for the LUPG group found that agroecological approaches in farming can make a major contribution to the sustainable intensification of agriculture. In particular, we investigated the contribution of integrated agriculture, organic farming and agroforestry, comparing them on the basis of productivity, profitability, energy and greenhouse gases, soils and water, and biodiversity (see Four page summary from ORC Bulletin 119). The Land Use Policy Group brings together the statutory conservation, countryside and environment agencies in the UK.

The aim of the current study is to provide more insights into the transition process to agroecological systems on farms. We understand that as the process through which a farmer shifts from managing a system with low diversity and high reliance on external inputs, to a system that puts more emphasis on diversity and reliance on ecological processes as well as making greater use of on-farm resources. The Land use Group wishes to learn more about the experience of those farmers who have undertaken significant shifts in their methods of production. Transition towards a more agroecological approach may range from increased resource efficiency through input substitution to whole system redesign. We will investigate whether this corresponds to the farmers’ experience and how they perceive transition, by doing interviews with those who have done it. Questions will cover motivations and pathways, external and internal influences (personal, technical and economic) and any support that the farmers received (from peers to policy) and most importantly how they experienced their own transition process. The project has started in November 2016 and should be completed in May next year. We will work jointly with Jim Egan and Amelia Woolford from the GWCT Allerton project, who will help with identifying farms, carrying out analysis and contribute to the analysis. The project will be led by Susanne Padel, with Oliver Rubinstein carrying out interviews and Bruce Pearce contributing to the running of the project and the final report.

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