Organic Agriculture and Food Security in Africa

Posted: 9 November 2008

Author: Rachel Hine and Jules Pretty, University of Essex and Sophia Twarog (UNCTAD). Free to download

A report published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) provides evidence that organic farming "could feed Africa".

Entitled "Organic Agriculture and Food Security in Africa", the study demonstrates that organic agriculture can be equal or better for food security than most conventional systems and is more likely to be sustainable in the longer term, as it builds up levels of natural, human, social, financial and physical capital in farming communities. It also favours the use of low carbon footprint production methods and local resources.

Among the many findings of the report, an important one is that all the case studies examined that focused on food production where data have been reported have shown increases in per hectare productivity of food crops, challenging the myth that organic agriculture cannot increase agricultural productivity. The report thus concludes, "Organic agriculture can increase agricultural productivity and can raise incomes with low-cost, locally available and appropriate technologies, without causing environmental damage. Furthermore, evidence shows that organic agriculture can build up natural resources, strengthen communities and improve human capacity, thus improving food security by addressing many different causal factors simultaneously."

The authors point to the need for enabling policy and institutional support in order to scale-up organic agriculture and its associated positive side-effects.

The report can be downloaded at http://www.unep-unctad.org/cbtf/publications/UNCTAD_DITC_TED_2007_15.pdf

Reviewer: John Madeley