Opportunities and constraints of organic agriculture: a socio-ecological analysis

Opportunities and constraints of organic agriculture: a socio-ecological analysis

Sustainable organic agricultural methods are one solution to food security

This article explores the opportunities and constraints associated with sustainable, organic agriculture. The focus of its investigation lies in exploring the social and institutional dimensions of such agricultural techniques.

Protecting soils and enhancing their fertility (land stewardship) implies ensuring productive capacity for future generations. Security of land tenure is, therefore, an extremely important factor in this respect. If land security is not guaranteed, there is little reason for farmers to invest in a method that will bring them income in the future rather than immediate rewards

Compared to large-scale mechanized agricultural systems, organic systems appear more labour-intensive. In many areas, labour is a critical constraint in agricultural production, especially when considered on a seasonal basis. Achieving high levels of labour use may not be physically possible or economically viable on small-scale farms in developing countries and may also add to household drudgery, especially for women

The single biggest constraint to the development of organic agriculture is that most people in all kinds of areas (including scientists, researchers, extension officers and politicians) strongly believe that organic agriculture is not a feasible option to improve food security

Empirical knowledge of natural processes takes a long time to consolidate itself. Traditional knowledge can be improved through selective introduction of results of modern science

Within organic agriculture, the use of locally available inputs is encouraged. The effect on the local community of such a form of agriculture is, therefore, likely to be greater than when inputs are imported from outside the community. In those cases where synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are imported, adoption of organic agriculture techniques means a decrease in imports, decreasing the need for foreign currency and credit. The site-specific nature of organic agriculture also means that indigenous species and knowledge, so often discounted, are of great value. In many places, this knowledge has been eroded with the introduction of high external input agriculture, promotion of monoculture, and selection of "improved products." Farmers may readily welcome a management system close to their own traditions and not driven solely by a production ethic. [author]

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