Among the agricultural models to be promoted in order to encourage farming methods capable of meeting the challenges of global change, in which « food security and the demographic challenge » are a priority concern (ANR « Challenge 5 »), agroecology (Action 3), or more accurately several of its currents, has recently been gaining recognition to the point, in some cases, of becoming institutionalised. At worldwide scale, the United Nations, FAO and IAASTD consider that agroecology is a model to be supported as a way of overcoming the limitations of the green revolution. At the country level, Brazil is probably where the process has advanced the most, since agroecology is being promoted at ministerial level, by the Ministry for agrarian development, which has made it the standard-bearer for agricultural production from family farmers, its main audience, thus clashing head-on with the entrepreneurial farming model promoted by the Ministry of Agriculture. In France, the Ministry of Agriculture and agronomic research organisations are promoting agricultural development and research policies that they themselves describe as agroecological, although this does not sit well with the social movement that initially launched the agroecology concept. Argentina, another leading nation for agroecology, has promoted the model for over ten years through the National Institute of Agricultural Technology, as the matrix for a programme (Prohuerta) launched to develop periurban market gardening, thus separating agroecology from the agricultures spheres that resulted from the green revolution. This institutionalisation of agroecology is unprecedented: of all currents critiquing the green revolution, this is the only one that has succeeded in becoming institutionalised, in other words recognised as a viable agricultural model. However, as the above examples indicate, the logic underlying its institutionalization has been profoundly different in each country, while the accompanying chorus of controversy reveals its highly political nature. The aim of this project is to make an exhaustive and critical investigation of the nature and scope of this process of institutionalisation, at the worldwide scale and in each of the three countries indicated above. We will describe the types of agroecology that are becoming institutionalised, in order to observe how the different patterns of institutionalisation change the balance of powers between the players involved and to analyse the successes and limitations of the different pathways towards institutionalisation.
Understanding the process means understanding different currents and schools of thought that reflect a variety of different production models. While the common characteristic of agroecology is that it is based on agronomic perspectives where diversity and ecosystem functioning are central to production systems, its aim according to some authors is to give rise to wider transformations in the food system and even to promote an alternative project for society, hence the emergence of at least five different currents. Its institutionalisation is a challenge for research, because of the importance now given to the term in agricultural policy, but also because of its intrinsically multiple meanings. It is true that, in environmental policy especially, multiple meaning is a factor that strengthens opportunities for the dissemination of one model as opposed to another, but it can also result in ambiguous translations, general or sectoral adjustments and appropriation mechanisms that ultimately void the term of any meaning at all. To be both critical and exhaustive, an investigation of the institutionalisation of agroecology implies an analysis of its potential for generating conflict. Are we looking at the recognition of an alternative current, or at the exploitation of a critique by the dominant system? How is the balance of powers changing between those promoting different conceptions of agroecology, and are these new patterns generated by the institutionalisation trend itself?
Finding answers to these questions will enable us at once to provide a portrait of agroecology and its current recognition, to grasp the potential variety of institutionalisation patterns in different contexts and to understand the pathways leading to it.