Emerging avenues in Agroecology Education

 Agroecology is not new. It is based on traditional ecological knowledge and can be found in family farmers’ practices, in grassroots social movements for sustainability and the public policies of various countries around the world. However, the education on agroecology has been largely in an informal manner. Given the challenges that food systems face globally, the focus on agroecological education has been growing. Of late there are a number of agroecology programs being offered in the formal education system too.  It is reported that in the last 20 years, over a hundred colleges and universities around the world have begun agroecological educational programs, particularly in Europe. In this article we have attempted to enlist just a few of them, worldwide.

Certificate Course on Agroecology and Action Research

The certificate course is offered by  Centre for Agroecology and Public Health, Department of Economics, University of Kerala in  association with European Union H2020 project- NEXTFOOD and  Collaborated with Institutions like Welthungerhilfe (WHH), Norwegien University of Life Sciences (NMBU) and Sveriges Lantbruksuniversitet, Sweden (SLU). The Certificate Course on Agroecology envisages to inculcate capabilities in action-based learning in Agroecology by fostering knowledge and skills for analyzing and developing sustainable agroecological models. The aim of the course is to equip the students with core competencies to address the transdisciplinary challenges of sustainable development based on action reflection methodology. Certification will be based on continuous and comprehensive evaluation. Twelve post graduate students from multidisciplinary background participate in the twenty-eight-day course offered every year since 2017, and gains with soft skills and green skills needed for an envisaged shift in bringing in agroecological transition and there by sustainable development. Learning arenas will involve not only university territory but also extra university territory involving stakeholder actors, comprising of other departments, universities, farmer cooperatives, local self-governments etc. Class room exercises and discussions along with concrete experience in the field will help in developing competences/ skills needed for fostering sustainable agricultural development.

 For more information: https://caph.co.in/

Amrita Bhoomi Peasant Agroecology Centre

Amrita Bhoomi is La Via Campesina’s agroecology school in South Asia. Amrita Bhoomi is a peasant agroecology training centre, launched in 2013 by Indian farmers to find solutions to the agrarian and ecological crises in India. The training centre with demonstration farms delivers agroecology and ZBNF (zero budget natural farming) training for peasant farmers, and that also promotes and enables a philosophy of self-reliance and local self-governance. Agroecology training is linked with seed banking and distribution, for practical approaches to generating seed sovereignty and food sovereignty through zero budget natural farming. State-level mass training camps in zero budget natural farming methods (ZBNF), are conducted in which on an average around 1000-6000 farmers participate over 5-7 days including women, men and youth. Also, long term residential internships are provided for young people who are keen to learn agroecology and ZBNF methods.

Amrita Bhoomi also conducts short courses (1-2 days) and in-depth courses over a couple of months. These are mostly taught in collaboration with allied teachers, trainers, local NGOs and peasants. Farmer-to-farmer training is a key method used for some of the agroecology courses, where experienced farmers share their knowledge with other farmers, who then engage in a collective reflection as part of the learning process. These courses take place on the Amrita Bhoomi campus, or on farmers’ fields.

 For more information: https://springprize.org/shortlisted/amrita-bhoomi-peasant-agroecology-centre/

Thanal Agroecology Centre

Thanal Agroecology Centre (TAEC) at Wayanad, Kerala is the centre for training and research on agroecology and agrobiodiversity. Thanal is one of the pioneering organisations in Kerala which undertakes various agrobiodiversity conservation programmes. We also inform the general public about the role of agricultural biodiversity, the need to conserve and use it sustainably, and the agroecology practices required to keep it going. TAEC is also a learning centre of the International People’s Agroecology Multiversity (IPAM).

Thanal Agro ecological centre has total 6.5 acres of land out of which 2.2. acres is paddy land. Around 300+ indigenous rice seeds are conserved and around 35 species of trees are maintained  on the campus. TAEC also has a collection of tubers, spices, and bananas and vegetables. The center follows and propagates agroecological farming methods which can improve food security and strengthen food sovereignty, while providing better adaptation to climate change and reducing harmful environmental impacts.

For more information: https://agroecologycentre.in/

EUR –Organic: European master in organic agriculture and food systems

EUR – Organic is a two-year Master in Organic Agriculture and Food Systems. It is an unique study programme in Europe offered by five renowned universities – University of Hohenheim (UHOH), Stuttgart, Germany; University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), Vienna, Austria; Warsaw University of Life Sciences (SGGW), Warsaw, Poland Aarhus University (AU), Aarhus, Denmark; Institut supérieur d’agriculture et d’agroalimentaire Rhône-Alpes (ISARA-Lyon), Lyon, France. These five leading European Universities offer a comprehensive and integrative education in all areas of organic farming, as well as the processing and commercialization of organic food.

The core of EUR-Organic is comprised of areas of specialisation that enable the students to profit from the different foci of organic agriculture teaching and research of the partner universities. These different foci are reflected in thirteen study profiles offered by the partners. It combines high ranking environment with state of the art knowledge from Industry leaders in organic food production.

 For more information: https://www.eur-organic.eu/en/110974

 NextFOOD: Innovative science education for sustainable agriculture

NextFOOD drives the crucial transition to more sustainable and competitive agrifood and forestry systems development by designing and implementing education and training systems to prepare budding or already practising professionals with competencies to push the green shift in our rapidly changing society. The Nextfood approach is a response to the need for education that enables us to deal with complex sustainability challenges. In this approach, the main focus is to train and develop the competencies of observation, dialogue, reflection, participation, visionary thinking and facilitation through action learning in agrifood- and forestry systems. NextFOOD employs a case-based action research to develop relevant and effective education and training programmes for a transition to more sustainable agrifood and forestry systems, and to generate new knowledge needed for similar achievements beyond the specific case.

For more information : https://www.nextfood-project.eu/about-2/

 International Double Degree Programme – M.sc. Agroecology

 The course is offered by University of Life Sciences (NMBU), Norway and ISARA (member of FranceAgro3) in Lyon, France. The objective of the training is to prepare graduates to produce innovation in agroecology, to create and support sustainability in the farming and food systems. The Master of Science Agroecology is designed as a two-year programme curriculum including a practical thesis project. The programme combines 4 semesters with different options for the 2nd  semester.

For more information : https://www.agroecos.fr/

Note: This information has been compiled by Ms. Sanjana B M, Assistant Editor, LEISA India. She can be contacted at sanjana@amefound.org

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