Pathways to promote agroecology

Agroecological approaches are highly location specific as they connect the links between the food needs, livelihoods, local culture, environment and the economics. Education on agroecology is therefore a holistic approach connecting these links, where farmers are in the centre of the entire process.

With the realisation of the ill effects of chemical pesticides and fertilizers on the environment and the health of the people, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and Community Based Organisations (CBOs) have been promoting non-chemical approaches in agriculture, since many years. These are being promoted under various names, like sustainable agriculture, organic farming, bio-dynamic agriculture, natural farming, regenerative agriculture, agroecological approaches, Low External Input Sustainable Agriculture (LEISA), cow-based farming, etc. With agriculture being reported as a major contributor to the Green House Gas (GHG) emissions as per the third biennial report of India to The United Nations Framework on Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC), Government of India is also encouraging agroecological approaches in the name of natural farming all over the country.

Modern agriculture is more geography independent compared to the agroecological approach. Also, modern agriculture technology has turned farmers into mere consumers of technology. With this, farmers are getting de-skilled or losing their traditional skills like selecting seed suitable to their land, based on the soil type, assessing the weather and planning the activities, selecting better seed varieties from the crops etc.

In agroecological approaches, one has to understand the ecosystem of the agriculture. Ecosystem is not just about the biotic and abiotic environment but also about the economic and socio-political environment. All the ecosystems that influence farmers and farming need to be considered. Farm ecosystem is different from farmer’s ecosystem. The educators need to understand this.

Farming is not about how efficiently resources are used to produce food. Farming is what farmer does in a given agro ecological situation with the resources he or she has. It is a livelihood option connected to the local culture, the local conditions and the local environment. Hence, agroecological education should enable farmers make rational decisions that not only enables food production but also protect the health of fellow humans and the environment. Education that connects the food needs, livelihoods, culture, environment and the economics is the need of the day.

Approaches to farm education

Three key aspects are important for any new technology or process to be adopted: (1) materials and tangible resources (hardware) required, (2) knowledge and training on how to use the technology, and (3) and understanding of why such technology should be used and its related outcomes. Even though the principles remain the same, with change in agroecosystem or geography, the technology (materials used) may vary and the methodology need to be adapted based on the local conditions. For example, training materials and methods must be different for farmers with lower literacy compared those with higher educational achievement. What works in black soils may not work in red sandy soils, plains have a different ecosystem compared to mountains.

For a very long period, the government has been the major player in disseminating information to farmers, through its Agriculture Extension System. However, as it is very difficult to reach out to each and every farmer with the existing mechanism of the Government, various other players, like NGOs, Private companies, financial institutions etc., have got involved in reaching out to farmers.

With NGOs coming into the arena, experiential learning became the centre of focus. Farmers are trained through methods like Farmer Field School (FFS), to experience the process of discovery learning.  In this method, a group of selected farmers meet periodically and observe the crop in the selected fixed plot over a season and understand the crop. Weather-pest dynamics, pest life cycle, pest and defender relationships, observing the loss created by the insects, effectiveness of the solutions opted are some of the key learning s.  While the learning is effective and empowering, the process is resource intensive. This method can be used for developing community resource persons.

Trainings and demonstrations are yet another approach to help farmers understand the process, materials required and its use. Many organisations educate farmers through the training process. In pedagogy, the education is to begin with what is known to the farmer and building on it. In educating farmers, local language and terminologies become very important. Farmers’ experience, knowledge on local resources and their uses are key in agroecological approaches in agriculture.  While training, understanding the local ecosystem is very important for the trainers. Farmers are not accustomed to sit in the classrooms for the whole day and listen to lectures. Keeping them active through audio-visuals and activities is important.

CSA – Role in agroecology education

Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) is an independent impact creating organisation engaged in promoting sustainable agriculture. It has been establishing models based on scientific background, in collaboration with governments, Non-Governmental Organisations, Community Based Organisations and farmers’ organisations (Farmer producer organisations (FPOs) etc.), by scaling up the successful models. The major contributions of CSA are Non-Pesticidal Management (NPM), organic/natural farming, open source seed systems, farmer producer organisations and public policy issues.

In late 90’s and early 2000, pesticides were the major issue. CSA addressed the pest problems by educating farmers and the people working with farmers on NPM. NPM is about various methods of pest management practices without chemical pesticides. Farmers were educated on the life cycle of pests, difference between beneficial and harmful insects and various preventive methods like including trap crops and border crops in the cropping system, setting up pheromone traps and preparing biological inputs with the locally available resources like plants, animals etc. When farmers understood the principles behind the practice, they started experimenting with various other plants based on their traditional knowledge and CSA added on modern scientific knowledge. Though CSA started its work with NPM, it worked with a holistic understanding. Starting with an issue on hand, it integrated other aspects of agriculture, seamlessly.

In the process of educating the farmers, developing community resource persons as extensionists gave very good results. The community resource persons played crucial role in scaling up the agroecological approaches in farming community.

Agroecology is not about going back to the old systems, but combining traditional knowledge with modern scientific understanding to address the current and future projected issues in agriculture. In this process, policy makers were made aware with evidences to encourage them to initiate programs that help farmers in taking up agroecological approaches.

Catching up with the internet era, CSA has developed several mobile (android) based apps which are useful for the field functionaries, community resource persons and educated farmers. Pestoscope is one such app which is useful for pest identification at the field level. The field functionaries can take a picture of the problem and send query. The photos sent are automatically geo-tagged. The expert panel responds and sends the solution. The app can be downloaded from google play store and is also available as a web page ( Similarly, a Youtube channel, ( is run by CSA. This has various video based content covering the experiences, preparations, films, on various topics in different languages.

CSA has trained many NGOs, Governmental officials, Community based organisations and individuals on agroecological approach, since its inception. The lockdown condition during COVID 19, gave an opportunity to CSA to explore virtual trainings. Though virtual trainings were very new to the community as well as to CSA, soon CSA adopted to it and the content was modified accordingly. Presently, virtual trainings and online discussions have become part of everyday life.

CSA has initiated Grameen Academy ( a rural education portal which regularly organises courses on various rural development topics.  Grameen Academy was started with an aim to create an alternative learning ecosystem to build the knowledge and skills of rural youth, women and others who want to have their employment or entrepreneurial journey in the rural sector. It offers courses on various subjects related to rural development, physically, virtually and a mix of both. Grameen Academy collaborates with various other organisations in offering courses. Apart from CSA, other organisations too can bring their expertise by offering courses on this platform with mutual discussions.

CSA has also launched Krishna Sudha Academy of Agroecology, to initiate formal education in agroecology in partnership with various universities globally. CSA has signed an MoU with centurion university for jointly offering courses on organic/natural farming, rural livelihoods, FPOs, on research and other areas of mutual interest. CSA would develop content for the courses it offers, offer trainings to the teachers on organic farming/natural farming, FPOs, policy issues etc.


The crux of the agroecological education is understanding the local situation and suggesting suitable agroecological methods in addressing the current needs and future needs of the farming community. Like the staves of Liebig’s barrel, if the current problem is addressed, there may be another issue that might become farming communities’ major issue. The issues also change over time. Hence, organisations too need to evolve based on the dynamics of the farming community. Timely updating of content and appropriate resource materials based on the learning are important aspects in agroecological education. Also, involving farmers as technological, extension and innovative partners in the education process is essential for evolving local solutions specific to the local agroecosystem.

 G Chandra Sekhar, G. Rajashekar and G V Ramanjaneyulu

G Chandra Sekhar, G. Rajashekar and G V Ramanjaneyulu

Centre for Sustainable Agriculture

H. No. 12-13-568, Nagarjuna Nagar, Street No 14, Lane No.10,

Tarnaka, Secunderabad – 500017


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