Organic farming ‘benefits the poor’

'Green' farming can produce multiple benefits Copyright: Flickr/IITA Image Library

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Farmers in the developing world can boost yields by adopting organic farming methods, according to a report published today.

‘Green’ farming can produce “dramatic increases in yields as well as benefits to soil quality, a reduction in pests and diseases and a general improvement in taste and nutritional content of agricultural produce,” says The Real Green Revolution.

Greenpeace, which published the report, says that the findings show that “organic agriculture and agroecology can meet the requirements of the world’s population”.

But others are sceptical of the report’s conclusions. “It is difficult to believe that organic farming alone can feed the people in Africa,” says Nteranya Sanginga, a soil scientist at the Nigeria-based International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). “A combination of non-organic and organic farming is the future for Africa.”

The report presents case studies from many developing-world countries highlighting the benefits of organic farming. For example, in Brazil, the use of green manures and cover crops has increased yields of maize by between 20 and 250 per cent.

But the report also shows that only a very small proportion of farmers in the developing world use organic methods. For example, Argentina — the largest certified agricultural producer in the South — has less than 2 per cent of its agricultural land under organic farming.

There is a need for “an increase in funding for research and extension services for the organic sector”, says one of the authors of the report, Nicolas Parrott of Cardiff University in the United Kingdom.

But other researchers argue that channelling funding into organic farming will not solve the complex problem of agriculture in developing nations. “I agree that more funding is urgently needed for agriculture, but not for organic farming per se,” says Dyno Keatinge, director of the Resource and Crop Management Division at IITA.

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