Environmental Engineering Reference
from agronomy, ecology, sociology and economics
(Dalgaard et al. 2003 : 39).
This discipline is the science/practice/movement of sustainable agricultural sys-
tems: agroecology. It has so far not been used for the design of sustainable
wastewater irrigation systems but offers a great potential in doing so.
4 Towards an Agro-Ecology of Wastewater Irrigation
A relatively young science, agro-ecology has nevertheless been raising hopes for a
transition toward sustainable agriculture linked to various
fields of sustainable
development. Such hopes are expressed in a statement of the United Nation
Special Rapporteur on the right to food.
Drawing on an extensive review of the scientific literature published in the last five years,
the Special Rapporteur identi es agro-ecology as a mode of agricultural development
which not only shows strong conceptual connections with the right to food, but has proven
results for fast progress in the concretization of this human right for many vulnerable
groups in various countries and environments. Moreover, agroecology delivers advantages
that are complementary to better known conventional approaches
and it strongly con-
tributes to the broader economic development (de Schutter 2011 , p 1).
A worldwide movement, agroecology has a strong basis in Latin America in
general and Brazil in particular (Altieri 1999a ; EMBRAPA 2006 ; Holt-Giménez
2006 ; Wezel et al. 2009 ; Petersen et al. 2013 ).
The following sections will introduce the concept of agroecology and outline its
possible contribution to the design of sustainable wastewater-irrigated agricultural
4.1 What Is Agroecology? De
nitions and Key Principles
One widely quoted de
the science of applying
ecological concepts and principles to the design and management of sustainable
nition describes agroecology as
(Gliessman 2007 : 369). The idea is to learn the design of agricultural
systems from nature:
At the heart of the agroecology strategy is the idea that an
agroecosystem should mimic the functioning of local ecosystems thus exhibiting
tight nutrient cycling, complex structure and enhanced biodiversity
(Altieri 2002 :
8). This means that
the focus is
not so much on individual crops but on creating habitats for crops, for instance in
polycropping systems. Beside a strong emphasis on cycles (Jones et al. 2010 ),
another focus of agroecology, which is particularly relevant for the topic of
wastewater reuse is the detoxi
unlike in conventional agricultural approaches
cation of noxious chemicals (Altieri 1999b ). Further
agroecological principles are listed below in Fig. 3 .