Takeaways From the First Stakeholders’ Workshop on 'Scaling up Agroecology in the Himalayas'

On 14-15 March 2023, IFOAM - Organics International and World Future Council organised a virtual workshop on "Scaling up Agroecology in the Himalayas", to discuss how agroecology as a key transition pathway can more holistically address the multifaceted crises we face, for instance, food insecurity and malnutrition, climate change, gender equityloss of biodiversity, among others.

The dynamic and interesting two-day workshop was held online with over 60 stakeholders from Bhutan, India, and Nepal. Policymakers, parliamentarians, academics, representatives of civil society organisations, members of the private sector, and donors were among those present.

Watch the workshop here!

Stakeholders from the three countries discussed the fundamental steps needed to achieve sustainable food systems through agroecology in the Himalayas and they exchanged views on

  • the current situation of food systems and agroecology in the Himalayas,
  • key challenges and opportunities for positive change
  • the available policy solutions that support sustainable and healthy agri-food systems,
  • their potential for improvement as well as ideas for additional policy initiatives.

The value of sharing experiences within the region and across borders on agroecology and the food systems approach, innovation through cooperation, strengthening institutional mechanisms and empowering small-scale farmers at the grassroots level was recognised.

To achieve this, an integrated, holistic and mountain-specific approach was emphasised, as well as the importance of increased coordination and cooperation. This would require the involvement of more policymakers and the development of a common roadmap. This was foreseen to be a mammoth task that would require a lot of dedicated coordination and support, but very vital. This is discussed in more detail below.


    This workshop is just the first in a series of stakeholder events that will culminate in a joint roadmap by the end of 2023.

    By scaling up agroecology in the Himalayas, we can create a blueprint for sustainable food systems that can be replicated in other regions of the world. It is also a crucial step towards securing our shared future on this planet, recognising that the health of our ecosystems and the well-being of all living things are inextricably connected. More information on the next workshops will be shared soon.

    On the first day, the primary challenges and opportunities of scaling up agroecology in Bhutan, India, and Nepal were discussed. The food systems approach served as the framework for the sessions, which also featured a broad panel discussion and four breakout groups.

    The breakout sessions covered a wide range of themes, including coordination and integration for increased policy coherence and consistency, sustainability along all food value chains, resilient, inclusive, and diversified food production systems, sustainable and healthy diets, and more.

    Following up on the first day's discussions, participants concentrated on the policy aspects of sustainable food systems on the second day. Once more, a panel discussion and breakout groups were used. Participants identified and discussed policy solutions that support and hinder healthy, sustainable agri-food systems, exchanged ideas on how to close existing policy gaps and reflected on how to make policies more coherent and consistent.

    The urgent need to transform our food systems is now widely acknowledged. Many challenges strongly linked to the way we produce, trade and consume our food were discussed and they included: food insecurity and malnutrition, availability of arable land, climate change, migration and labour shortage, gender equity in agriculture, loss of biodiversity, water scarcity, unsustainable agricultural practices, soil health, urbanisation, loss of community knowledge, dependence on external inputs (especially fertilisers), low competitiveness of domestic production, food imports and the impact of the recent pandemic, access to markets, low-value addition, post-harvest losses and food waste, lack of coordination and hence convergence, and lack of mountain-specific policies, programmes and approaches.

    To address these issues raised, some opportunities were highlighted that included:

    • using agroecology as a transition pathway and raising its awareness among policymakers,
    • having a dedicated legal framework and a national agroecology promotion policy,
    • setting up a national centre of excellence for agroecology and strengthening research, teaching and extension services,
    • increasing engagement with donors to provide support for capacity-building,
    • improving the water distribution and efficient water use,
    • using malnutrition as an outcome indicator for poverty alleviation schemes. This would entail focusing also on nutrition-sensitive agriculture and the integration of nutritious foods,
    • strengthening of local economies through distributing and procuring local food baskets,
    • investment and access to finance, coupled with supporting access to markets and providing price incentives,
    • increasing consumer awareness,
    • farm mechanisation,
    • forming producer groups and achieving economies of scale,
    • agroforestry,
    • integration with non-farm enterprises such as tourism

    While there are some promising policies in place, their weak implementation is preventing resilient and agroecological agriculture from spreading more effectively and more sustainable food systems from flourishing. In order to bring about significant change, stakeholders highlighted the need to make policy development more inclusive and include mountain-sensitive approaches in general, to improve the science-policy interface, and to raise awareness of the importance of healthy, nutritious and diverse food among key actors such as government officials, teachers, farmers and consumers.

    A national-level mechanism encompassing all relevant stakeholders was considered necessary to strengthen coordination and convergence between different levels of government, food system relevant departments as well as all food system stakeholders, to advance collaborative efforts towards sustainable food systems and to address contradictory policy outcomes.

    Over the past 10 years, policymakers in Bhutan, India and Nepal have increasingly recognised the need to transition to sustainable agricultural systems to preserve their natural resources and improve the livelihoods of their rural populations. Political commitments have been implemented with varying degrees of intensity, including policies and programmes with specific budget allocations for measures to support organic farming and agroecology. More recently, other parts of food systems, such as value chains and markets, have also received more attention from policymakers.

    To build on this momentum and explore how agroecological food systems can be better scaled up, we organised this two-day interactive stakeholder workshop. The event brought together food system stakeholders from diverse backgrounds who share a common understanding of the need for change. We created a platform to collaborate and find innovative solutions to accelerate the transition to more sustainable food systems based on agroecology.

    The workshop was part of the 'Scaling up Agroecology in the Himalayas' project, which aims to draft a common roadmap and build on the digital event ‘Scaling up Agroecology in the Himalayas Together" that was held in April 2021’,  and the study ‘The Mainstreaming of Organic Agriculture And Agroecology in the Himalaya Region’.



    Day 1

    Day 2