Monday, November 22, 2010

Organic farming mitigates counteracts climate change

Sakina Mohamad in Bernama (Malaysia): It is a tricky situation. The world's population is rising, so the pressure is on to produce more food. Developing countries scramble to ensure food security by prioritising agriculture in their economic agenda. Yet many agricultural practices contribute much to climate change, which in turn affects agriculture adversely and compromises food security.

…For example, in India, the use of hybrid varieties, chemicals and pesticides had increased agricultural output rapidly. Between 1965 and 1996, production had increased by 100 metric tonnes per decade. "However, those who have been practicing conventional agriculture one day found that they were facing all sorts of problems," says Manoj Kumar Menon, the Executive Director at the International Competence Centre for Organic Agriculture in Bangalore, India. He said this when speaking at the two-day International Conference on Climate Change, Agriculture and Related Trade Standards earlier this month.

Menon says conventional farmers found that the cost of cultivation kept rising because the price of chemicals and fertilisers were increasing. Yet food prices remained more or less the same, only shooting up over the last few years. However, it is still not commensurate with cultivation costs. "Farmers are also faced with the continual reduction in efficiency of their resources such as soil, water and labour," says Menon, adding that most of it was a result of the usage of chemicals in farming.

Another problem contributing to the farmers' dissolution is the unpredictable monsoon, rain and other weather patterns that are the result of climate change, which affects yield and undo months of hard labour. "As a result, farmers are no longer interested in farming as the activity is not sustainable. So how can we motivate them to get back into farming again?"

The answer, Menon believes, lies in organic agriculture. "But organic agriculture, in fact, reduces carbon emissions and there is a good market for organic products overseas. This is good news for farmers and the country," says Menon.

….For farmers who are uninitiated to venture into the sector of organic farming, Menon says there are three key benefits to going organic. The first is soil health. … Menon says organic agriculture mitigates [the ill effects of industrial agriculture] by restoring the ecosystem to a healthy one, improving soil condition.

…In India, 70 per cent of organic farmers are smallholders, largely because organic agriculture is less capital-intensive than traditional agriculture which requires expensive chemical fertilizer and equipment. In addition to that , organic farming ensures better return to smallholders, says Menon….

Organic combined growing, in which one species protects another from parasites, shot by Airelle, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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