Sustainable Food Systems

Large-scale industrial agriculture remains the most touted solution to global hunger in development discourse. However, an increasing number of reports and research, endorse agro-ecological approaches that prioritize smallholder crop production to successfully meet the challenges of climate change and hunger.

The Facts

The current development landscape is dominated by Green Revolution ideals—improved or genetically modified seeds used in capital-intensive large-scale agriculture schemes with a prominent role for pesticides and fertilizers. Rather than contributing to food security and sovereignty, these efforts lead to large tracts of monoculture that prioritize export crops, require increased mechanization, and depend on multinationals for chemicals and seeds.

Agro-ecology provides another path. It encompasses a wide-variety of practices, which are coherent with key principles of environment preservation, social fairness, and economic viability. Agroecology combines parameters of sound ecological management, like minimizing the use of toxics by using on-farm renewable resources and privileging endogenous solutions to manage pests and disease, with an approach that upholds and secures farmers' livelihoods. Agro-ecological systems like the Rice Intensification implemented along the Niger River in Mali, can double small farmers’ agricultural output. Supporting smallholder farmers, who already produce over 80 percent of the food consumed in many developing regions, is the quickest way to lift over one billion people out of poverty.

What we are doing about it

Adhering to a high investigative standard with consideration of local impact and international trends, The Oakland Institute documents and advocates for agro-ecological farming methods that empower local producers.

The Institute’s thirty-three case studies released in 2015 shed light on the tremendous success of agroecological agriculture across the African continent. They demonstrate with facts and figures how an agricultural transformation respectful of the farmers and their environment can yield immense economic, social, and food security benefits while also fighting climate change and restoring soils and the environment.

Jadu'I: The Lost Watermelon of Jenin, Cover

Jadu'I

Jenin is a city located in the northern West Bank where Palestinian farmers used to grow the ba'al succulent watermelon known as Jadu'I. Under the occupation, the Jadu'I was nearly lost. But today, a new generation of agriculturalists are trying to revive it.

Canaan Palestine: Cover

Canaan Palestine

Caanan Palestine helps Palestinian farmers to grow organic crops and get fair trade certification. Improved market access and increased returns on their crops makes it possible for thousands of Palestinian farmers and their families to earn a better living. The project gives hope for the future of food producers living and working under Israeli occupation.

Tanzanian farmer intercropping grains with legumes. Credit: Michael Farrelly

Agroecology Case Studies

The thirty-three case studies shed light on the tremendous success of agroecological agriculture across the African continent. They demonstrate with facts and figures how an agricultural transformation respectful of the farmers and their environment can yield immense economic, social, and food security benefits while also fighting climate change and restoring soils and the environment.

Voices From Africa: African Farmers & Environmentalists Speak Out Against a New Green Revolution in Africa

This report issues a direct challenge to Western-led plans for a genetically engineered revolution in African agriculture, particularly the recent misguided philanthropic efforts of the Gates Foundation's Alliance for a New Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), and presents African resistance and solutions rooted in first-hand knowledge of what Africans need.

The High Food Price Challenge: A Review of Responses to Combat Hunger

High food prices in 2007-2008 threatened the livelihoods and food security of billions of people worldwide for whom getting enough food to eat was already a daily struggle. All over the world, individuals, civil society groups, governments and international organizations took action to cope with the crisis triggered by skyrocketing food prices.

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How Food Became a Casualty of Biotechnology’s Promise

The first genetically engineered (GE) crops were approved for human consumption in the mid-1990’s. Now, millions of genetically modified meals later, the clamor over GE foods has become a fixture of food policy debate. The parties to the argument generally fall into one of two ...

Facing Goliath: Challenging the Impacts of Retail Consolidation on our Local Economies, Communities, and Food Security

In the 1920s and ‘30s, a robust citizen movement to protect local economies from the impacts of chain stores swept across the nation. One ardent spokesperson, writing in a 1929 issue of Harper’s magazine, argued that “chain stores represent a sort of absentee landlordism. On our Main Street, and on thousands of other Main Streets, there is a situation where policies are dictated and standards are set by men who have possibly never seen our...

November 8, 2016
“Given agriculture was absent from the COP21’s Agreement, this renewed attention to the sector should come as good news,” said Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute. “Unfortunately, the solutions offered fail to address the key drivers of the climate crisis. Industry-coopted ‘climate smart agriculture,’ which is supposed to help farmers adapt to rising weather shocks, is dependent on fossil fuel-based inputs and fails to uphold small-scale, localized food production. World leaders should stop getting in the way of a radical transformation of our food system, moving away from industrial agriculture to agroecology, which is crucial to tackle climate change.”
November 28, 2011
Climate change threatens the livelihoods and food security of billions of the planet’s poor and vulnerable, as it poses a serious threat to agricultural production. At the same time as they pose a huge climate threat, industrial agricultural systems are highly vulnerable to climate change.
March 2, 2009
This report issues a direct challenge to Western-led plans for a genetically engineered revolution in African agriculture, particularly the recent misguided philanthropic efforts of the Gates Foundation's Alliance for a New Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), and presents African resistance and solutions rooted in first-hand knowledge of what Africans need.
February 3, 2009
A key question that is often asked about ecological agriculture, including organic agriculture, is whether it can be productive enough to meet the world’s food needs. While many agree that ecological agriculture is desirable from an environmental and social point of view, there remain fears that ecological and organic agriculture produce low yields.
October 1, 2008
The challenges facing agriculture today are immense. Of immediate concern is the global increase in food prices, starkly brought home by reports of food riots and food shortages in many countries around the world. During the first three months of 2008, international nominal prices of all major food commodities reached their highest levels in nearly 50 years while prices in real terms were the highest in nearly 30 years (FAO, 2008).
April 1, 2008
An independent and multi-stakeholder international assessment of agriculture has concluded that a radical change is needed in agriculture policy and practice, in order to address hunger and poverty, social inequities and environmental sustainability questions.