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Why have we developed a dictionary dedicated to agroecology ?

Agroecology is a topical subject with rather unclear contours, it is sometimes controversial, and highly publicized: agroecology has several dimensions. It is both a social movement and an agricultural model often associated with a more responsible agriculture, ecologically and socially, and a scientific field. This dictionary of agroecology was designed to define this field’s semantic outlines and allow the greatest number of people to understand the stakes and practices.

It is a real tool to support the agroecological transition; its content – which has been validated by an interdisciplinary panel of researchers – provides knowledge that can be used by actors from the agricultural industry who wish to change their practices in order to have a more efficient, environmentally friendly and socially fairer agriculture.

A dictionary accessible to all

Its online edition provides an open and free consultation. Its structure and organization offer different reading levels and make it a dynamic tool thanks to pictures, videos, author interviews and computer graphics. It is also an evolutionary tool which must allow other actors and territories to use it and participate in its enhancement by commenting the definitions or by proposing other terms to be defined.

Born from a territorial monitoring device …

In 2013, Véronique Batifol-Garandel and Marie-Colette Fauré (Inra, Toulouse) implement, at the Midi-Pyrénées region level, a territorial monitoring system on Agroecology. Information tracked from scientific, regulatory, associative, administrative sources … from web pages, internet websites, RSS feeds, blogs, general and specialized press …, is collected, analysed and validated.

This work enabled a compilation of over 300 words which define the different elements related to agroecology, from the observation and analysis of field practices. These definitions establish a terminological resource which deserved to be organized and spread. The dictionary of agroecology project was born from this observation.

A tool and scientific animation product

In order to shed light on the defined terminology and benefit from the scientific support necessary for its development, this dictionary project was rapidly backed by a scientific project, the PSDR project for the Accompaniment of Agroecological Transformations – Engineering Research (in French “Accompagnement des transformations Agroécologiques – Recherche ingénierique” ATARI), coordinated by Laurent Hazard (INRA, Toulouse).

Each definition is written by a scientific expert. A first set of definitions were drawn up by researchers from the Mixed Research Unit. A set of first terms were written by researchers from the Joint Research Units of the Inra Centre of Toulouse (UMRs AGIR; DYNAFOR and GenPhyse). Some definitions were written with fourth-year students from the Agricultures and Sustainable Development course of the Purpan School of Engineering in Toulouse, and third-year students from the AGREST specialisation – AGRoEcology of the production system to the territory – of the National Agronomy School (Ecole Nationale Supérieure Agronomique) of Toulouse.

During monthly scientific animation seminars, the definitions are debated, which favours interdisciplinary exchanges on the terms or concepts of agroecology … Any interested researcher can therefore contribute to improve the first drafts. Once validated collectively, the definition is available online.

Additional visual elements (videos, interviews of authors, infographics) are sometimes associated to a definition for better understanding. This original approach, thought of from the very conception of the dictionary is conducted with “Directing” students of the Audio-visual School ESAV (l’Ecole Supérieure d’Audio Visuel).

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