Since 1987, the scientific and methodological focus on the actions of extension and research at the Federal University of Viçosa (UFV) have been an object of study for various professionals from diverse departments within the institution, in association with other public research and technical assistance organizations such as the Agricultural Research Corporation of Minas Gerais (EPAMIG), and the Technical Assistance and Rural Extension Company of the State of Minas Gerais (EMATER).
The development of sustainable agroecosystems with agroecological bases has been a central focus of actions and partnerships between research groups at UFV and their collaborators. These agroecosystems seek to enhance the use of biodiversity, food and nutritional security and sovereignty, the health and well-being of farming families, and production for auto-consumption and preservation of environmental resources, such as soil and water. The experiences developed provide significant results, especially in relation to the sustainable use of agricultural productive resources, generating visibility and stimulating other similar initiatives in the region.
These elements grounded the proposal to create the interdepartmental Graduate Program in Agroecology at UFV, at the Academic Masters level, adding courses that are offered by other graduate programs, as well as skills and teaching staff from the Agronomy Department (originally the Plant Science Department), Nutrition and Health Department, Soils Department and Animal Science Department, thus valuing interdisciplinary and multi-professionality as driving elements of modern science. In August 2011, UFV established the Graduate Program in Agroecology which, since then has maintained a 4 rating evaluation from The Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES).
The involvement of these four departments of UFV resulted in the establishment of the Agroecology program, which until then was seen as solely belonging to the field of agrarian competencies, by the Center of Agrarian Sciences and the Center of Biological and Health Sciences. The interaction of Agrarian Sciences with Biological and Health Sciences was seen as an unprecedented partnership that brought UFV to the approximation, amplification and trade of knowledge, from the undergraduate level to the graduate level, considering the expansion of knowledge regarding the production chain as well as its interrelation with food and nutritional security and food sovereignty.
Both in undergraduate courses in the field of Agrarian Sciences and in Biological Sciences and Health, food and nutritional security, food sovereignty, the use of conventional production or alternative production, as well as the use of pesticides and their relationship with health are discussed. With the offering of the Graduate Program in Agroecology, the graduates of the program leave with a more integrated and multi-professional vision, just as an undergraduate student receives more critical knowledge based on this mix of professional views.
Currently, in addition to the established partnerships with EPAMIG and EMATER, the program has agreements with various organizations such as the Development Company of the São Francisco and Parnaíba Valleys– CODEVASF, as well as cooperation with civil societies (NGO, unions, and farmers organizations) in the region of Viçosa and the Zona da Mata, such as: the Center for Alternative Technologies of the Zona da Mata- CTA; as well as international entities such as the University of Lúrio – Mozambique, the Universidad Autonoma de Chapingo, Mexico, Wageningen University and Research, the Netherlands, and other institutions that have partnerships with UFV.
The team of advisers consists of professors from multiple departments of UFV, specifically the Agronomy, Nutrition and Health, Soils, Animal Science, Veterinary Medicine, and Education departments. Whenever necessary, the program looks for the collaboration of other departments of UFV, both from the main campus and satellite campuses, other institutions of higher education and research, both in Brazil and abroad, for the advising and co-advising of students.
The Graduate Program in Agroecology began its activities in August 2011 and has maintained an evaluation score of 4 from CAPES (The Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel) ever since.