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ROLE OF ORGANIC AGRICULTURE IN PREVENTING AND REVERSING LAND DEGRADATION By Sue Edwards Institute for Sustainable Development, Ethiopia Also representing.

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Presentation on theme: "ROLE OF ORGANIC AGRICULTURE IN PREVENTING AND REVERSING LAND DEGRADATION By Sue Edwards Institute for Sustainable Development, Ethiopia Also representing."— Presentation transcript:


2 ROLE OF ORGANIC AGRICULTURE IN PREVENTING AND REVERSING LAND DEGRADATION By Sue Edwards Institute for Sustainable Development, Ethiopia Also representing IFOAM

3 Land degradation Soil erosion and desertification are the physical expressions of land degradation, while the social and economic impacts are degraded lifestyles and pernicious poverty. An understanding of how to maintain healthy soil is essential to reverse and prevent land degradation. Healthy soil carries a good plant cover and enables rain water to infiltrate and recharge both soil water and underlying aquifers.

4 What is IFOAM? IFOAM, the (International Federation Of Organic Agriculture Movements) has its head office in Bonn, Germany Its mission is leading, uniting and assisting the organic movement in its full diversity The goal is the worldwide adoption of ecologically, socially and economically sound systems that are based on the Principles of Organic Agriculture

5 What is organic agriculture? Organic agriculture is a whole system approach based upon a set of processes resulting in sustainable ecosystems, safe food, good nutrition, animal welfare and social justice. It is more than just a system of production that includes or excludes certain inputs, particularly agro-chemicals, because it builds on and enhances the ecological management skills of the farmer, the fisher folk and the pastoralist. Practicing organic or agro-ecological agriculture requires ecological knowledge, planning and commitment to work with natural systems, rather than trying to change them.

6 Organic agriculture and mitigating climate change In 2004, IFOAM commissioned a scoping study on The Role of Organic Agriculture in Mitigating Climate Change. It looked at the possibilities of reducing greenhouse gases (GHG)

7 Organic agriculture is a systematic strategy, which may reduce GHG emissions and enhance sequestration of carbon The strategy includes basic principles to be followed, compulsory standards to be respected, suitable production technologies, and a system of inspection and certification to guarantee adherence to the process

8 Basic principles To encourage and enhance biological cycles within the farming system To maintain and increase long-term fertility in soils To use, as far as possible, renewable resources in locally organized production systems To minimize all forms of pollution

9 Emission Reductions Carbon dioxide through: –Avoidance of shifting cultivation –Reduction of fossil fuel consumption Methane –Soil management to increased oxidation of methane, also grasslands and forests –Compost and biogas –Animal husbandry, particularly locally produced and appropriate feeds, and controlling grazing –Paddy cultivation with aeration periods

10 Nitrous oxide – produced by all forms of nitrogen –No synthetic N fertilizer is used –Nitrogen comes from within the system thus avoiding overdoses and high losses –Animal stocking rates are limited –Diets for dairy cows lower in protein and higher in fibre, and use of crops (sunflower seeds) that reduce NO2 emissions

11 Biomass as a substitute for fossil fuel –Directly as a crop –Processing slurry in biogas Agroforestry –Shade trees in plantation crops –Fuel wood plantation –Trees in cropland –Living fences –etc

12 Can organic agriculture combat poverty? An example from northern Ethiopia Despite the fact that Ethiopia is also known as the water tower of the Horn of Africa, it is better known for the images of emaciated children and the high rate of soil erosion Can this be reversed?


14 The popular image is a desert – dry, with very little vegetation, and very large numbers of free-ranging livestock

15 Why the degradation ? Efforts at State building destroyed local organization in most of the country starting from in 2 nd half of the 19 th century Development efforts started only in the 1960s and largely ignored smallholder (peasant) farmers despite the fact that 90% or more of the food comes from them The 1974 revolution and its impact on land resource use The land was mined, and there were no inputs in technologies or ideas to help the farmers improve their productivity The Sasakawa-Global 2000 approach uses high external inputs, out of reach for most smallholder farmers both economically and ecologically

16 The existing strengths Farmers control their own seeds and there is still a wealth of agro-biodiversity and farmers traditional knowledge Traditional methods for managing and using land resources, e.g. grazing land, farms are still in place in many communities Local community members work together, and this is being strengthened through the present policy of decentralization

17 The components of the project, or basket of choices Making and using compost (ISD initiative) Trench bunds for catching both soil and water (BoA initiative) Planting small multipurpose trees – particularly Sesbania – and local grasses (ISD and BoA initiative improved by farmers) Halting gullies (at farmers demand) Making communal ponds (farmers initiative) Making and using bylaws to control access and use of local biological resources and control grazing (ISD initiative)

18 Adi Nefas in 1997 and 2003

19 Zeban Sas grazing area in 1996 – starting the rehabilitation work Zeban Sas grazing area in October 2003

20 Pond Adi Nefas All the components being used in October 2003 Rehabilitated gully Sesbania trees and long grasses Composted fields of tef, wheat and barley Faba Bea n


22 Training on Compost

23 Impact of compost on yields Sampling technique (FAO method for monitoring food security) Samples were taken with the farmers. Fields were selected and 3 one-metre square plots were cut and threshed, and the straw and grain weighed with the farmers. 10 Birr is equivalent to 1 Euro, or 8.5 Birr equals 1 USD.

24 Table 1: Grain yields (in kg/ha), expenses and returns (in Birr) for Adi Nefas in 2003 (7 years) CropInputYield Gross income Fertilizer costNet income Faba BeanCompost Check Finger MilletCompost Check MaizeCompost Check TeffCompost Fertilizer Check WheatCompost Fertilizer Check BarleyCompost Check

25 CropInputYield Gross income Fertilizer costNet income Faba BeanCompost Fertilizer Check Finger MilletCompost Fertilizer Check MaizeCompost Fertilizer Check Table 2: Grain yields (in kg/ha), expenses and returns (in Birr) for Adi Guaedad in 2003 (1 st year)

26 CropInputYield Gross income Fertilizer costNet income BarleyCompost Fertilizer Check WheatCompost Fertilizer Check TeffCompost Fertilizer Check Table 2: continued 10 Birr is equivalent to 1 Euro, or 8.5 Birr equals 1 USD.

27 Crops not usually given chemical fertilizer Finger Millet Faba Bean Field Pea These are usually not given much attention, but with compost, high yield increases have been obtained. It is interesting to see that the checks for faba bean and field pea in Adibo Mossa in 2002 were nearly the same as the compost treatment. They were growing on previously composted fields and were benefiting from the residual effect of the compost

28 Faba Bean with and without compost Yields have risen from less than 500 kg/ha on non-compost treated fields to around 2,500 kg/ha when compost is applied.

29 Yields (kg/ha) for faba bean, field pea and finger millet in 3 sites

30 Indicators of Sustainability Maintaining or increasing agricultural biodiversity: for example, Ziban Sas was growing only wheat and barley mixed together and a little teff, but now other crops e.g. maize and faba bean, are also grown. Reduced weeds: weed seeds, pathogens and insect pests are killed by the high temperature in the compost pits, but earthworms and other useful soil organisms establish well. Increased moisture retention capacity of the soil: if rain stops early, crops grown on composted soil resist wilting for about two weeks longer than those grown on soil treated with chemical fertilizer.

31 Disease and pest resistance: as seen through the problem of shoot fly on teff and root borer on faba bean in Tahitai Maichew and Laelai Maichew respectively, crops are more disease and pest resistant. Residual effect: farmers who have used compost for one or two years can obtain high yields from their crops the next year without applying compost afresh. Economic returns: farmers have been able to stop buying chemical fertilizer, but they still get even higher yields. Flavour: food is said to taste better.

32 Ethiopia and Organic Production In March 2006, the Ethiopian Government passed a law setting out a framework for organic farming. The results of the farmers in Tigray in producing and using compost indicate that the aim for Ethiopia having a substantial number of farmers producing organically could be realized.

33 Protection and promotion of sustainable livelihoods Developing bylaws has been an essential part of the community decision making and implementation. These statutes were developed by consensus to govern the activities of each member as well as that of the whole community in order to manage the land under the usufruct right of each member and the community so that the whole environment in which the community lives and its productivity are improved sustainably.

34 Other examples from Africa SEKEM in Egypt, led by Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish Organic cotton farmers in Benin NOGUM and EPOPA in Uganda and Tanzania >2% of production is organic Dried fruits and vegetables from over 600 producers, mostly women, Burkino Fasso

35 A farmer of the future

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