Long-Term System Comparison

Ecological farming in the tropics under scrutiny


-> News from the project, June 30 2016

This long-term study is carrying out a systematic comparison under comparable conditions between organic and conventional methods of farming. The project in Kenya supported by Biovision is part of a wider research programme being conducted simultaneously in India and Bolivia. The study is looking at the effect of the two methods of farming on issues such as plant growth, yields, soil fertility and the quality and shelf life of produce.

The research findings to date have identified potential benefits in the use of organic farming methods - depending upon soil fertility, rainfall or stage of crop development.

In a special element of the project, farmers are working with scientists in order to develop specific solutions designed to resolve the problems they face in practice. The solutions are then tested, evaluated and fed back into the long-term scientific comparison.

Field trials show the effect of different methods of cultivation on the quality, quantity and shelf life of crop yields and on soil fertility.

Relevance

The use of organic farming methods opens up new opportunities for sustainable development in the Global South. Factors such as consistent yields without using expensive artificial fertilisers, healthy soils and maintaining biodiversity are all important. The project is the first to conduct scientific, systematic and long-term research into whether and to what extent organic farming can contribute to food security and sustainable development in tropical regions. The research is designed to provide policymakers with the baseline data they need when deciding which farming methods are suitable for their requirements as well as confirming the Biovision approach in favour of sustainable agriculture.

Beneficiaries

In Kenya, 200 farmers have benefited directly from new agricultural technologies developed through participatory trials and have also received evidence-based training. A further 1000 farmers, scientists, students and representatives of public bodies and NGOs have received training in sustainable agriculture during the public fieldwork days.

Objectives 2015 - 2018

  • Develop further the scientific data based on well-managed long-term research and which shows the contribution made by ecological farming to sustainable development
  • Disseminate the results of the project more widely through the media including the regular publication of productivity data
  • Major stakeholders, both nationally and internationally are using scientific, evidence-based data comparing the opportunities and risks of conventional and ecological farming.
  • Develop locally adapted technologies and encourage innovations that achieve long-term, sustainable increases in farming yields.

Achievements

The initial results of the study in Kenya were presented to the public in June 2016. They showed that organic agriculture not only produced comparable yields but also generated a higher income for small-scale farmers. The study also analysed soil fertility - a further important factor - and here the results showed that organic methods of cultivation improve soil fertility. In addition, the absence of chemical inputs had a positive effect on the ecosystem and can also improve human health as the foodstuffs contained no chemical residues. Parallel studies into the production of cotton in India and cocoa in Bolivia have produced equally positive results for organic methods. In India, it was found that organic cultivation required less capital investment, which in turn reduced the dependence on loans and the risk of debt. In the longer term, stable production costs and incomes from organic agriculture may help to combat poverty, particularly when combined with the premium prices paid for organic farm produce.

Additional information

Information on the results of the systems comparison is disseminated to Kenyan farmers via The Organic Farmer (TOF) magazine and TOF Radio. In each of the three project locations in India, Bolivia and Kenya, the project is also supporting doctoral and master students. The results of the studies in India and Bolivia are available online.