ILEIA and Compas publications now online

Agroecology was on the margins of international attention in 1984 when the Information Centre for Low-External-Input Agriculture (ILEIA) was created in The Netherlands at ETC Foundation. ILEIA sought to collect and share practical experiences that offered alternatives to “Green Revolution” agriculture – alternatives appropriate and feasible for small-scale farmers. The centre facilitated learning about local innovations that could complement and enrich knowledge from formal agricultural science to create systems of low-external-input and sustainable agriculture (LEISA).

In the ILEIA Newsletter – after 2000 called LEISA Magazine and after 2009 Farming Matters – experiences were shared by farmers with their indigenous knowledge and creativity based on generations of experience, own experimentation and observation; by agricultural advisors who developed locally appropriate technology together with farmers; and by scientists who worked with these farmers and advisors in Participatory Technology Development (PTD). This was the forerunner of the Participatory Innovation Development (PID) approach of the international Prolinnova network to promote local innovation in agroecology.

Over the decades, ILEIA built up a comprehensive body of practical knowledge on sustainable agriculture and PTD. Its focus broadened from farming practices to include also the sociopolitical side of agroecology. It documented innovative ways of social organisation, creating alternative markets and struggles for food sovereignty, and broadened its scope from farming to food systems. Recognising the need for better linkages among farmers, scientists and activists working towards the same aim, ILEIA also engaged in networking, training and advocacy. The magazine and several books published by ILEIA disseminated inspiring stories that strengthened family farming rooted in agroecology.

Today, agroecology has become mainstream – at least in the rhetoric of institutions of agricultural research, development and education. It is striking how many articles on agroecology refer to ILEIA’s book Farming for the Future: introduction to low-external-input and sustainable agriculture (which was translated into 7 languages) – as academics, scientists and development practitioners now recognise the merits of the LEISA approach through PTD/PID and its contribution to agroecology.

Besides Prolinnova, another initiative that grew out of ILEIA was Compas: Comparing and Supporting Endogenous Development, a network that developed ways of supporting endogenous development based on local peoples’ own values for their material, social and spiritual wellbeing. It created partnerships of civil society organisations and universities focused on the links between agriculture, health and use of natural resources.

The large body of practical knowledge on sustainable agriculture and endogenous development built up by ILEIA and Compas is now available online. When the ILEIA Newsletter started in 1984 and the Compas Newsletter for Endogenous Development in 1996, the issues were printed and sent by post to subscribers worldwide. Two former staff members of ILEIA – Coen Reijntjes and Wietsma Bruinsma – have completed the enormous task of digitalising all the ILEIA and Compas magazines and books. These include the 4 books in the “ILEIA Readings in Sustainable Agriculture” published by Intermediate Technology Publications in the UK, e.g. Joining Farmers’ Experiments and Farmers’ Research in Practice, and the 6 books in the “Compas Series on Worldviews and Sciences”, e.g. Endogenous Development and Bio-cultural Diversity.

The digital collection is hosted by Echo Development Community ( Most of the publications have also been included in the online library of Wageningen University and Research ( for free downloading and can be found in WorldCat ( by searching for “ILEIA” or “Compas”. Many of the publications can be found also on the Prolinnova website.

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