ILEIA was established in 1984 as a response to the realisation that Green Revolution technology was neither sustainable nor feasible for many small-scale farmers around the world.  Set up as a learning centre, ILEIA’s aim was to collect and share practical experiences that proved to be viable alternatives to Green Revolution agriculture. ILEIA recognised that there would be much to gain from the exchange of experiences from people working in the field on similar problems and challenges related to food production around the world.  Furthermore, the centre was established to facilitate learning about viable, creative solutions not born from formal agricultural science alone.

The first ILEIA Newsletter was published in 1984: farmers, with their own indigenous knowledge systems based on generations of lived experience and observation; extension agents who develop practical solutions together with farmers; and scientists working in the fringes of the formal system, were invited to share their experiences. The overarching concept gluing the collection of experiences together was Low External Input Agriculture (LEISA).

What we are aiming at with low external input agriculture is the highest possible level of sustainable food production. This means that recycling of nutrients is essential for maintaining soil fertility and that a high diversity in agricultural production is necessary to optimise the ecosystem and to minimise risks”

Extract from ILEIA Newsletter, Number 1, December, 1984

The first ILEIA Newsletter was the foundation for a comprehensive body of practical knowledge on sustainable agriculture that we continue to build on today. The newsletter became the LEISA Magazine in 2000 and Farming Matters in 2009. These changes have reflected ILEIA’s evolving network, focus and unique way of working.

A global network

In the year 2000, ILEIA, together with ETC Andes (based in Peru) and AME Foundation (based in India) laid the foundation for the AgriCultures Network. In 2003, three other organisations joined: IED Afrique (Senegal), AS-PTA (Brazil) and VECO (Indonesia). In 2007 CBIK (China) joined, and two years later ALIN (Kenya) as well. In 2015 we welcomed MELCA in partnership with two Ethiopian NGOs as the  youngest AgriCultures Network member.

All members of the AgriCultures Network publish their own regional magazines in their local languages. Today, in 2016, our magazines reach over one million people, on paper or digitally, in over 179 countries.

Amplifying agroecology

ILEIA’s focus has broadened from focusing primarily on innovative farming practices to also include the socio-political side of agroecology. Today, Farming Matters also documents innovative ways of organising, creating alternative markets, and struggles for food sovereignty, broadening our scope from farming to food systems. Recognising the need for increased connection among different groups working towards the same aim, such as scientists, farmers and activists, ILEIA now also engages in other activities that bridge different types of knowledge, such as advocacy, training and facilitation.

We, at ILEIA continue to learn and refine our way of working in order to be most effective. Whether working with an author on their story for Farming Matters magazine or running a documentation and systematisation training, ILEIA’s team strives to create an empowering learning process for those sharing their experiences while also working to disseminate inspiring stories that will strengthen family farming rooted in agroecology.