A recently released UN report on the effects of organic, or near organic, farming methods in 24 African countries has some interesting, and encouraging, findings. 114 projects in the 24 African countries were analyzed and the results found that yields more than doubled where the organic, or near organic, methods were implemented. In East Africa the results were even more impressive.
found that organic practices outperformed traditional methods and chemical-intensive conventional farming. It also found strong environmental benefits such as improved soil fertility, better retention of water and resistance to drought. And the research highlighted the role that learning organic practices could have in improving local education.
Africa has been a continent where many have advocated the use of GMO crops and factory farms that use unsustainable methods to stop the food shortage that many parts of Africa are experiencing at the moment. But this study shows that perhaps these modern farming techniques are unnecessary and perhaps counterproductive.
The research conducted by the UN Environment Programme suggests that organic, small-scale farming can deliver the increased yields which were thought to be the preserve of industrial farming, without the environmental and social damage which that form of agriculture brings with it.
Proponents of organic farming have long argued that organic methods, when consistently and accurately practiced, lead to food security, particularly in areas experiencing food shortages. The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) says that
Organic production has the potential to produce sufficient food of a high quality. In addition, organic agriculture is particularly well suited for those rural communities that are currently most exposed to food shortages.
Organic agriculture contributes to food security by a combination of many features, most notably by:
- Increasing yields in low-input areas
- Conserving biodiversity and nature resources on the farm and in the surrounding area
- Increasing income and/or reducing costs
- Producing safe and varied food
- Being sustainable in the long term
I was a teenager in the ’80’s when the majority of the world became aware of Africa’s food shortage problems. At that time I thought that the endless running of USA for Africa’s video We are the World on MTV could solve the problem. But it’s 23 years later now and Africa once again is facing a food shortage, this time with a much larger population.
The modern methods of farming haven’t seemed to have solved Africa’s problems. Perhaps its time to equip African farmers to be able to farm organically, helping them to sustain their people and their environment.
Image courtesy of flickr.