Resource-conserving methods and organic farming is believed to yield better crops for small farms. A study also found that organic farming is linked to better income and food security. Although the study needs to be backed by extensive evidence, Steve Franzel, an agricultural economist working with the World Agroforestry Centre reported that, “The findings show at the farm level it [organic farming] appears to be very positive – more than many people think.”
The debate between conventional and organic farming
In an environment of rising greenhouse gas emissions and energy costs, the sustainability of the conventional farming methods is called to question. Chemical dependent farming leaves residual pesticides in the soil, reducing the biodiversity of the area and causing soil erosion.
A possible solution for this scenario would be to use sustainable farming practices including, conservation tillage, integrated pest and nutrient management, agroforestry, water harvesting, aquaculture and livestock integration.
The ORCA review
ORCA or Resource-conserving farming was reviewed through a case study that looked at 31 farms, each farm smaller than 7 hectares, in Africa and South America that switched to ORCA farming. The crop yield, food security and income rose in more than half the farms. The more mixed results came from farmers who switched from modern chemicals to organic products.
This switch from conventional to ORCA was more beneficial to farmers who had organic market access. With ORCA farming, farmers can easily adopt to the changing market and also farming conditions.
But Franzel is vary of advocating ORCA farming as he says, “What is missing is hard data on performance : there are so few case studies analyzing objectively what is going on.” While it is evident that organic farming may be holistically beneficial, the debate rages on without complete scientific data backing organic farming.