Food is political. The manner in which we cultivate the soil, the methods of product distribution and pricing, the remuneration of farmers, and ultimately, the rights of local communities to land, all have systemic implications. However, in today’s world, these aspects of food production are often marginalized, and our knowledge of the origins of our food is frequently elusive.
Therefore, we must begin to unravel the long chains of supply and liberate the land from the pressures of the market. Embrace agroecology and permaculture, but view them as means to transform the entire system, not just the destinies of individuals.
The evidence that these methods have the potential to help reform the food system lies in the countries of the Global South, where agroecology has become a pathway to a better life, combating hunger, poverty, and exclusion.
For that reason, what we need most today is not the construction of beautiful, ecologically sustainable shelters in isolation from the rest of society, but collective action towards redefining the food system and modern agriculture. This way, no one is left behind.
We believe that agroecology and permaculture can become part of a large systemic transformation and, as politically driven actions, help to mend the world. And we want to be a part of that change.
The Agro-Perma-Lab Foundation (APLab) was founded on the foundation of the pilot training Agro-Perma-Lab: Training Leaders in Agroecology (2019, http://agroekologia.edu.pl), funded by the LUSH Agroecology & Permaculture Fund. This training was recognized as an example of good practice in the EU by the Ruralisation project and described in a scientific article (Land 2021, 10(2), 214; https://doi.org/10.3390/land10020214).
APLab’s vision from the beginning was to strengthen the organizational, educational and advocacy capacity of the Food Sovereignty Network, Nyeleni Poland, which has been active in Poland since 2016. In July 2020, a social drop (https://zrzutka.pl/kmtenk) was initiated to fund the Agro-Perma-Lab Foundation and further educational activities for agroecology.
The support of more than 100 people, provided the Founding Fund for the establishment of the structures of the organization, which was registered in the National Court Register on September 26, 2020. Part of the money from the crowdfunding campaign was used to strengthen the APLab Seed 2020 project, including the establishment of the first pilot Community Seed House.
Since from its very begining, the Foundation has carried out many international and national projects, including:
Lush Agroecology&Permaculture Fund. “AgroPermaLab: Agroecology: Research, Training, Pilot”
Community Seed Bank Academy (Arche Noah Austria) “AgroPermaLab: Seeds, Research, Training, Pilot”
Culture of Solidarity Grant: “The Supermarket Museum” & International Forum of Permaculture Educators”
Agricultural Advisory Center: “Guides to permaculture and agro- and biodiversity”.
FAO/Schola Campesina: “TAPE Pilot Research in Agroecology”
Agroecology Fund: “Sharing Knowledge for a Stronger Agroecology Movement in Europe and Central Asia 2022”
The foundation was founded by Joanna Bojczewska (the initiator of APLab) and Veronika Koralewska, who constituted the first Board of Directors.
Embodying these ideas into action, we were the initiators for the creation of the Polish version of the Declaration of the International Forum for Agroecology, signed at the Nyéléni Centre in Mali between the 24th and 27th February 2015.
Agroecology is a way of life and the language of Nature, which we learn as its children. It is not simply a collection of techniques and production methods. It cannot be implemented everywhere in the same way. It is based on principles that, although they may be similar across our diverse territories, can be and are implemented in many different ways, where each sector adds its own colours to the local reality and culture, while always respecting Mother Earth and our shared values.
The production practices of agroecology (such as intercropping, traditional fishing, migrational herding, agroforestry, animal and fish husbandry, fertilization, composting, use of local seeds and fodder, etc.) are based on ecological principles. These principles include enhancing biological life in the soil, recycling nutrient components, dynamic management of biodiversity, and energy efficiency regardless of scale. Agroecology drastically reduces reliance on external inputs that often involve purchasing from industrial enterprises. It avoids the use of chemical pesticides, artificial hormones, GMOs, and other new and dangerous technologies.
Territories are a fundamental pillar of agroecology. Nations and communities have the right to preserve their own material and spiritual connections to the lands they inhabit. They are entitled to safeguard, develop, control, and reconstruct the customary social structures and govern their own lands and territories, including fishing grounds, both socially and politically. This entails full recognition of their rights, traditions, customs, systems of property rights, and institutions, and affirms the recognition of the rights of nations to self-determination and autonomy.
Collective rights and access to Common Goods are key pillars of agroecology. We share access to territories that serve as home to diverse groups of people, and we have elaborate customary systems to regulate this access and avoid conflicts, which we aim to preserve and strengthen.
Diverse knowledge and ways of comprehension inherent to our nations are a foundation of agroecology. We cultivate our ways of knowing through dialogue among them (diálogo de saberes). Our learning processes are based on widespread education, are horizontal, and rely on direct knowledge exchange (peer-to-peer). This exchange takes place in our own training centres and locally (farmers teach farmers, fishermen teach fishermen, etc.), and it also occurs between generations, as knowledge is shared between the young and the elderly. Agroecology thrives through innovations, research, crop and livestock selection, and breeding.
The essence of our vision of the cosmos lies in the necessary balance between nature, the universe, and human beings. We acknowledge that as humans, we are merely a part of nature and the universe. We share a spiritual connection with our lands and the entire web of life. We love our lands and our nations, knowing that without this love, we will not be able to defend agroecology, fight for our rights, or feed the world. We reject the commodification of any life-form.
Families, communities, collectives, organizations, and social movements are fertile soil in which agroecology flourishes. Collective self-organization and action are what enable the spread of agroecology, the building of local food systems, and effective resistance against corporate control of our food system. Solidarity between nations and between rural and urban dwellers is a key element in this process.
Agroecology autonomy eliminates the control of global markets and enables community self-governance. This means minimizing the use of externally purchased inputs. It requires transforming markets to be based on principles of a solidarity economy and ethics of responsible production and consumption. It promotes the emergence of direct and fair distribution chains. It implies transparent relationships between producers and consumers, based on sharing risks and benefits in solidarity.
Agroecology is political; it requires us to question and transform power structures in society. We must regain control over seeds, biodiversity, land, territories, water, knowledge, culture, and other common goods, placing them in the hands of the people who feed the world.
Women and their knowledge, values, visions, and leadership are of crucial importance for further development. Migration and globalization have led to increased labour participation by women, but they still have much worse access to resources compared to men. Too often, their work goes unnoticed and unrecognised. In order for Agroecology to achieve its full potential, we must strive for equal distribution of power, responsibilities, decision-making, and remuneration.
Young people, alongside women, constitute one of the two main social foundations for the evolution of Agroecology. Agroecology can provide young people with space for engaging in the radical social and ecological transformation that has begun in many of our societies. The responsibility rests on the shoulders of the youth to carry forward the collective knowledge they have learned from their parents, elders, and ancestors into the future. They are the stewards of Agroecology for future generations. Agroecology must generate social and territorial dynamics that create opportunities for rural youth and value women’s leadership.
We hereby present “The Gender Equality Plan” for the AgroPermaLab Foundation, which was conceived of and created on the basis of input from our employees and board members.
The primary objective of the plan is to ensure that our Foundation is a safe place for everyone, and functions in a manner which respects equality and diversity, is free of discrimination, and ensures open progress for all.
The Gender Equality Plan for AgroPermaLab builds on assumptions included in the “Strategy for the development of human resources taking into account the principles of the European Charter for Researchers and of the Code of Conduct in the process of the recruitment of researchers, 2015-2019”, and integrates the pro-equality activities carried out by our organization.
What distinguishes our organization is its seniority and gender structure. AgroPermaLab Foundation was not only established by women and is still women-led, but also all our employees are women. This does not mean, however, that we are not exposed to the phenomenon of discrimination when choosing the topic of our research we carry out, during trainings and workshops we conduct or meetings and conferences we are in charge of.
Due to the feminine nature of our organization, we should also be particularly sensitive to the aspect of gender inequality during the recruitment process or entering into contracts with external partners. As a feminized community, we want to place special emphasis on making our organization male-friendly and creating equal opportunities for all.
As our statute implies, equality is one of the most important elements of our mission. Agroecology is an idealogical pillar of our activity, as it places a strong emphasis on human and social values, such as dignity, equity, inclusion and justice all contributing to the improved livelihoods dimension of the SDGs. It puts the aspirations and needs of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems.
Agroecology seeks to address gender inequalities by creating opportunities for women. Globally, women make up almost half of the agricultural workforce. They also play a vital role in household food security, dietary diversity and health, as well as in the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. In spite of this, women remain economically marginalised and vulnerable to violations of their rights, while their contributions often remain unrecognized.
Agroecology can help rural women in family farming agriculture to develop higher levels of autonomy by building knowledge, through collective action and creating opportunities for commercialization. Agroecology can open spaces for women to become more autonomous and empower them at household, community levels and beyond – for instance, through participation in producer groups. Women’s participation is essential for agroecology and women are frequently the leaders of agroecology projects.
The Gender Equality is the result of consultations carried out amongst our staff members. It is a strategy for three years – 2022-2025, whereas internal evaluation will take place after two years, in 2024.
In the first year of implementation of the Gender Equality Plan a “roadmap” for the Plan will be created, with a list of activities that entail implementation of new procedures aimed at ensuring gender equality both in the recruitment process and in the work itself within the organization.
The Gender Equality Plan is based on four objectives which will be achieved through specific activities, whose effectiveness will be monitored using particular indicators.