Can Organic Farming Feed the World?

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Agriculture is important to mankind as it actually helped to develop our civilization and to date, it feeds billions of people on earth. However, the same agriculture is also responsible for degrading our environment, degraded soil, polluted rivers, polluted food, an increase in greenhouse emissions and a decrease in biodiversity are just a few of the outcomes. Contrary, there is a genuine need to have food production increased as the population is projected to hit over 9 billion people by 2050. The big question now is: can we produce food to sustain the massive populations and at the same time protect the ecosystem?

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More techniques are needed to feed the world sustainably and agroecology, organic farming, and permaculture are just a few of them. However, proponents of the conventional means of agriculture claim that there is a significantly lower yield of crop produce when organic agriculture is done. According to a survey conducted by USDA in 2014, analysis of 371 crop/geography comparisons that represented 80% of all USA’s cropland showed that organic yields were lesser by 20-50% of the conventional yields. However, the yields for hay and fodder crops were much higher in organically grown produce (Kniss, Savage, & Jabbour, 2016). While this discussion is valid, production across various geographical zones could mean that it is possible to get higher yields in certain areas that studies have not yet exhaustively covered. Currently, organic agriculture is done on only 0.3% of land mostly in developed countries even though there is a lot of fertile and arable lands in the African continent that is not yet cultivated using any method hence if organic means could be deployed, the lands would significantly increase the total organic food output.

Rotting

Food loss and wastage have been a global public health problem for quite some time with the 2030 SDG agenda showing the increased awareness of this problem globally. According to FAO’s presentation, up to 1/3 of the total food produced (1.3 billion tons) gets lost or wasted every year (FAO, 2011). SDG Target 12.3 calls for global per capita food waste values reduced by half at consumer and retail levels in addition to the reduction in losses at all production and supply chains. This element is one that is often left out when discussions surrounding food production happens. Food loss and wastage need to be addressed across all sectors for there to be proper utilization of grown food. In developing countries such as Kenya, lack of infrastructure is possibly the leading cause of food loss couple with ineffective food distribution structures. Food travels long journeys from the farmer to the plate and is often damaged due to poor handling or spoilage. There is a need for effective distribution so that people get access to food all the time.

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It is now becoming clear that conventional farming methods are causing massive deterioration in the quality and life of soils. In Kenya, a recent study commissioned by the Daily Nation in eleven counties revealing that the soils are quite sick and cannot grow significant produce. The research covered Trans Nzoia, Bungoma, Uasin Gishu, Bomet, Nyamira, Narok, Kisii, Makueni, Kirinyaga and Nyeri counties, which are the leading food baskets in Kenya (Daily Nation, 2019). Despite the president calling for speedy rehabilitation of soils 5 years ago, there is not much that seems to take place to make that happen especially since the poor condition of soils is attributed to heavy fertilizer and pesticide use that is often unregulated or monitored. The implication might not be seen from small scale farmers but taking aggregates, there has been a 25% drop in maize harvest from 44million bags last year to 33 million this year (Daily Nation, 2019). It is a sad state since it is proving that it is not so much use of chemicals that will warrant a harvest. Let’s not repeat the mistake industrial agriculture made in Europe and US, let’s be innovative and implement our traditional knowledge together with innovative new techniques from permaculture, biodynamic farming, agroecology and organic farming to feed us, our soil and our next generation.

For commercial farms, it might be a challenge to quickly shift to organic farming practices since research is still underway especially with regard to pesticide control. However organic practices must quickly be adopted for us to restore the life and fertility our soils have. There is a need for the government to invest heavily in this area so that production will be increased and that we will not need to keep getting food aid. In addition, small scale farmers and urban dwellers should adopt organic farming immediately for subsistence production as well as for sale since smaller farms are easier to manage using organic techniques. The government should also support farmers with affordable organic inputs such as organic pesticides and fertilizers. Regenerating the health of our soils is the key to any organic practices since healthy soil means healthy plants and fewer pest problems. For techniques to improve your soils contact Silke Bollmohr at silke.bollmohr@gmail.com

References

ANDAE, G., & WANDATI, Z. (2019, October 21). Daily Nation [Nairobi]. Retrieved from https://www.nation.co.ke/news/Acidic-soils-deal-blow-to-food-security-efforts/1056-5319044-l3ln3y/index.html

FAO. (2011). Food Loss and Food Waste. Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/food-loss-and-food-waste/en/

Kniss, A. R., Savage, S. D., & Jabbour, R. (2016). Commercial crop yields reveal strengths and weaknesses for organic agriculture in the United States. PloS one, 11(8), e0161673.

 

 

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