Organic farming and urban farming are two areas that are poised to grow in the new century. In India organic farming is witnessing a phenomenal growth with increasing market share of retail goods.
In sync with the trend, the 3rd the Organic Farming Associations of India will be organising a National Conference on Organic Urban Gardening from January 25 to 27 in Chennai. In another novel step, the AP Chapter of the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) and Sompeta Paryavarana Parirakshana Samiti are organising the Mother Earth Festival in March which will showcase alternatives that will save the earth and her children from the current destructive paradigms of development — native seeds, natural farming practices, food stalls, but also all eco-friendly alternatives like handlooms, khadi, energy conservation and Rural Innovations that are useful in the day-to-day life.
India situation moves in tandem with the global scenario. Despite a slight decline between 2009 and 2010, since 1999 the global land area farmed organically has expanded more than threefold to 37 million hectares, according to new research conducted by the Worldwatch Institute). Regions with the largest certified organic agricultural land in 2010 were Oceania, including Australia, New Zealand, and Pacific Island nations (12.1 million hectares); Europe (10 million hectares); and Latin America (8.4 million hectares), write report authors Catherine Ward and Laura Reynolds.
Organic farming is now established in international standards, and 84 countries had implemented organic regulations by 2010, up from 74 countries in 2009. Definitions vary, but according to the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, organic agriculture is a production system that relies on ecological processes, such as waste recycling, rather than the use of synthetic inputs, like chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
“Although organic agriculture often produces lower yields on land that has recently been farmed conventionally, it can outperform conventional practices—especially in times of drought—when the land has been farmed organically for a longer time,” said Reynolds, a researcher with Worldwatch’s Food and Agriculture Program. “Conventional agricultural practices often degrade the environment over both the long and short term through soil erosion, excessive water extraction, and biodiversity loss.”
Organic farming has the potential to contribute to sustainable food security by improving nutrition intake and sustaining livelihoods in rural areas, while simultaneously reducing vulnerability to climate change and enhancing biodiversity. Sustainable practices associated with organic farming are relatively labor intensive. Organic agriculture uses up to 50 per cent less fossil fuel energy than conventional farming, and common organic practices —including rotating crops, applying mulch to empty fields, and maintaining perennial shrubs and trees on farms—also stabilise soils and improve water retention, thus reducing vulnerability to harsh weather patterns. On an average, organic farms have 30 per cent higher biodiversity, including birds, insects, and plants, than conventional farms do.
(Compiled by P K Surendran)