Agroecological design is an approach to conceive a sustainable agroecosystem based on the beneficial interactions between its constituent elements. This is a systemic approach that makes it possible to meet the requirements of resilience and autonomy of farms and territories.
The design must consider the characteristics of the environment concerned. Agroecological design enables ecosystem services to be created at different levels: for example, at the plot level via intercropping, agroforestry and permaculture. At the farm level, the aim is to achieve self-sufficiency and reduce production costs, in particular by using the synergies of complementary farm units. At the territorial level, agroecological design aims to enable the different sectors of activity to work together and exchange resources in order to come up with multifunctional landscapes, that also include the aesthetic function.
The re-design process involves several essential stages: understanding the socio-economic and environmental context, determining the physical and human limitations, and identifying all the available resources. The system is then assessed by analyzing the needs and functions of each design element, so that synergies can be created by combining them. Finally, the physical elements, a proposed governance scheme and an economic model are implemented to achieve the desired organization. This is a dynamic system: once it has been implemented, it is regularly evaluated and modified depending on the results obtained and on the basis of multiple criteria, which are themselves fine-tuned as and when the system’s objectives evolve. To be successful, participatory approaches are essential for co-designing such a system.
The design activity thus makes it possible to rethink the practices and organization of agricultural systems to achieve the objectives of agroecology.