Special Reporting Project – Agroecology

Background

Agroecology is the application of ecological principles to agricultural systems. These more natural agricultural practices can be viewed in contrast with industrial agriculture using pesticides, high-impact mechanization and synthetic fertilizers. Generally, agroecology embraces a local/community model that emphasizes cooperation and food production for local or regional consumption rather than a large-scale corporate consolidation model that focuses on cash crops for long-distance export and which can lead to land conflict with Indigenous and traditional peoples.

Some examples of agroecology best practices are taken directly from organic and biodynamic (low-input, self-contained, no-till and low-till) farming. These systems encourage the use of native fruit and vegetables along with varieties developed within and for a particular region. The self-contained, biodynamic model sources all materials used on the farm from the farm, while both organic and biodynamic systems compost and reuse garden waste as the base method of maintaining soil health and fertility. Soil is seen as a living community of organisms that, along with minerals, crops and farm animals, form the foundation of a holistic system of food production.

Agroecology needn’t be large scale, and can be adapted to urban, suburban and rural environments; to tropical and temperate zones; and is as applicable in the Amazon as in Paris. Stories might focus on innovative new approaches to farming challenges: for example, growing vertically and encouraging pollinators in city settings; profiling techniques for conserving water and reducing its usage in semiarid and arid settings; relying on native knowledge of past best farming practices adapted to a changing regional climate, etc.

Series objectives

Stories in the Agroecology series need to assess how well the ways people grow food can address problems including climate change, biodiversity loss, poverty and inequality.

This is a solutions journalism project highlighting emerging and traditional farming practices, projects and policies that work successfully in harmony within community or regional environments to create environmentally sound, sustainable, low-input and low-impact agricultural systems as an alternative to the fossil fuel-intensive industrial model.

Suggested story topics and guidelines:

We welcome proposals from experienced journalists for conventional news stories, in-depth features, investigative reports, profiles, and case studies. We will also consider proposals for fully edited and produced videos of up to 10 minutes in length. Mongabay is particularly interested in stories that are relevant to one of the following subjects, themes, or approaches:

  • Agroecology best practices research: Surveys newly published scientific studies and reports on best agricultural practices and food systems relevant to agroecology including their environmental, social, or economic impact.
  • Innovative problem-solvers/success stories: Profiles of projects, organizations, and/or people utilizing practices that restore or support biodiversity to provide food and income for their communities. Engaging stories that introduce readers to the ongoing work of key actors (farmers, pastoralists, community activists, civic leaders, researchers, conservationists, entrepreneurs, NGOs, companies, city planners, thought leaders and others) who are actively exploring and implementing agroecology methods.
  • Overview of successful cooperative practices: Stories can profile a wide range of community involvement in farming, profiling unique organizational systems/structures for food production in urban, rural or suburban settings, including but not limited to co-gardening, food banks, CSAs, farm-to-kitchen-table programs, neighborhood food/work exchanges, cooperatives, ecovillages, seed saving and sharing partnerships, etc.
  • Public and private policy: Analysis, comparison and contrast of public and private sector policies including the economic conditions in which alternatives to industrial agriculture face systemic barriers, and also in which agroecology best practices are encouraged.
  • Other: Mongabay is open to diverse pitches from existing and new contributors for stories that fulfill the requirements of the Agroecology Special Reporting Project (SRP).

Opinion pieces will not be considered for this project and are not paid opportunities. Please share commentary pitches using this form and refer to submission guidelines here.

Each story will be between 800 and 2,000 words in length and will include quotes from at least three original interviews. Authors will be expected to provide five to 10 publishable photos free for Mongabay’s use to accompany their articles, along with captions and photo credits.

Mongabay will negotiate all fees and contracts on a per-story basis. Completed stories will be paid on a per word or fixed fee basis, depending primarily on the journalist’s experience.  Mongabay.com publishes under an open Creative Commons license that allows for sharing, translation, and re-posting.  More information on Mongabay’s editorial standards and practice can be found here.

How to submit your story pitch

To send Mongabay a pitch, please be prepared to also share your resume/portfolio along with three samples of your work. The story pitch should be roughly 500 words in length and include a title for the project. Viable pitches will clearly explain the specific subject you would like to write about in detail and your approach to covering it, and describe a few potential sources. Pitches for video-led stories should also include a shot list and a list of expected interviews.

Support for travel expenses may also be provided by Mongabay. Please include a preliminary budget estimate (using this template) if travel expenses will be required to carry out reporting. Do not include payments for your work in this budget estimate. Please also describe COVID-19-related precautions you intend to take and any travel restrictions that may impact your plans.