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Aug,2021

Sustainable Farming Part I

Organic farming

It was during world war times that chemical pesticides were widely and heavily used for the first time. Later, in the post-war era and also during the green revolution, synthetic fertilizers were widely used too. Concepts like 'Healthy body' and 'healthy environment' subsided because all eyes were on the 'production numbers'. Survival and security were priorities then. However, today, in these different times, the awareness about health and the environment has led us to the concept of safe, hazard-free, and nutritious food. Organic farming is something that takes us closer to the kind of food we need, we seek.

Organic farming as a 'concept' was discovered in the 1900s by US scientists, but in India, organic farming as a 'practice' is being followed by many generations together. It was only during the green revolution that India shifted to inorganic or conventional farming, and has reaped benefits as well as has suffered losse.

Status of organic farming

Surprisingly, organic agriculture and organic food are back in vogue across the globe. The global organic food market has reached USD 81.6 billion in 2015 from USD 17.9 billion during the year 2000 and most of which showed double-digit growth rates (Willer and Lernoud, 2019). As per the study conducted by the Associated Chambers of Commerce & Industry in India, the organic food turnover is increasing at about 25% annually and thereby will be expected to reach USD 1.36 billion in 2020 from USD 0.36 billion in 2014 (Willer and Lernoud, 2017). The consumption of organic crops has doubled in the USA since 1997.

A consumer prefers organic foods in the concept that organic foods have more nutritional values, have lesser or no additive contaminants, and are sustainably grown. The popularity of organic foods is due to their nutritional and health benefits and positive impact on environmental and socioeconomic status (Chopra et al., 2013).

Going back to organic

We are going back to organic farming now. Mainly because organic farming is based on four principles, namely, the principle of health, the principle of ecology, the principle of fairness, the principle of care. This all-inclusive concept makes the ecosystems work in sync and emphasizes sustainable ecological well-being.

We are going back to organic farming now. Mainly because organic farming is based on four principles, namely, the principle of health, the principle of ecology, the principle of fairness, the principle of care. This all-inclusive concept makes the ecosystems work in sync and emphasizes sustainable ecological well-being.

Hurdles in organic farming

The main constraints that stop the adoption of organic farming are lack of technical expertise, lack of market linkages, and lower yield or higher yield variability.

go4ftresh intervention

We at go4fresh along with the Krishi Pragati Foundation are encouraging our farmer members to go for organic farming. Eliminating the aforementioned hurdles and equipping these farmers with expertise to sustainably reap fruits from organic farming is the goal. The same food that our farmers grow in the back end with organic practices, is being sold to our consumers in the front end. This solves the problem of market linkage for the farmers, they get the best prices for their yield. While encouraging our farmer members to shift from conventional farming to organic farming, we are providing them with regular training so that, with time, they acquire technical expertise. The two constraints were thus, solved. When it came to the third constraint-lower yield or higher yield variability, many studies suggest that the yield variability can be reduced with the use of green manure and enhanced fertilization. Thus, soil with higher levels of organic carbon might give higher yield and lower yield variability. Organic farming improves soil organic carbon year after year. Lower yields may last only for the short term. We also help these farmers with organic certification procedures.

Quantifying social impact

A study was conducted in 2018 to quantify how 87 of our farmer members are benefitting by shifting from conventional farming to organic farming. This study of social impact quantification was done during their second year of transition from conventional to organic. During this study, a social impact matrix was defined that could quantify the impact, and this matrix was based on four components namely, the increase in their income, increase in their labor days, increase in their dignity, and reduction in pesticide use.

  • Increase in income

    After interviewing these farmers, the average cost of production per acre for 14 crops (that were regularly grown in their fields) reduced by over 47% and the organic produce fetched a market premium of over 60% on an average, which led to an average of 71% increase in the profit per kg of the farm's produce.

  • Increase in labor days

    When labor days increase, non-money fetching and criminal activities decrease. Organic farming keeps our farmer members on their toes; this can mainly be attributed to the improvements in the crop cycle and cropping patterns. Activities like weeding become manual when weedicides are eliminated, thus add to productive days.
    It was observed that the number of labor days increased to 312 per year from 120 per year when conventional farming was replaced by organic farming due to go4fresh's intervention.
    Also, farmers who were growing only 3-4crops per year per acre were now growing 7-8 crops per year per acre

  • Increase in dignity

    This social component cannot really be quantified; however, it only gives an intangible perspective as to how an association with a marketing platform like this by a farmer may enrich his or her life. The three main reasons why these farmer members felt dignified were increased purchasing power (due to more returns), enhanced skills and expertise (due to regular workshops and training), association with a brand name like go4fresh and Krishi Pragati Foundation gave them an edge over other farmers.

  • Reduction in pesticide use

    This component of the social impact matrix focuses on food safety as well as environmental well-being. It also checks the health of farmers or laborer dealing with pesticides. During the study, it was observed that the average money spent on pest management chemicals reduced by 91% when they shifted to organic farming.

Organic farming and future

The way we look at the picture of organic farming in the future is that it will reap as much yield as or more yield than conventional, once the soil is well nourished, the supply will surge and even the middle-class people would easily buy this healthy and safe stuff at lower rates, the farmers will stay healthy and away from hazardous chemicals. We may sound utopian right now but we see that in the future, organic farming will be a default and normal form of agriculture.

10 years of conventional farming 10 years of organic farming
Higher yields upto first 4-5 years Lower yields upto first 3-4 years
Higher cost of production Lower cost of production
Decreased soil quality or carbon sequestration over the years leading to decreased yield Improved soil quality or carbon sequestration over the years leading to increased yield
Decreasing market demand Increasing market demand

Contributed by Vedangi Kunkikar, summer Intern 2nd yr student of MANAGE,Hyderabad (Period - April to May 2018 as a part of Summer project )

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