Wikipedia describes organic farming as “an agricultural system that uses fertilisers of organic origin such as compost manure, green manure, and bone meal and places emphasis on techniques such as crop rotation and companion planting.” In common man’s language, organic farming is a farming method that involves growing and nurturing crops without the use of synthetic-based fertilizers and pesticides. It is a system of farming and agricultural production that combines biodiversity with environmental practices and utilises natural resources while prioritising animal welfare.
Farmers started being compelled toward organic farming in the 1900s after Sir Albert Howard, F.H King, Rudolf Steiner and others introduced the use of animal manure cover crops, crop rotation, and biologically based pest controls resulted in better farming systems. According to several sources, the demand for organic food was stimulated in the 1960s by the publication of “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson, which documented the extent of environmental damage caused by insecticides. Popularity steadily increased in the 20th century as greater environmental awareness and health concerns started to become factors when purchasing food.
Organic farming area worldwide from 2000 to 2015 (in million hectares)
Benefits of Organic Farming
- Reduces exposure to pesticides and chemicals
- Pesticides and chemicals sprayed on crops contaminate the soil, water and air. harmful pesticides stick around for decades and in some circumstances, even longer.
- Pesticides allow disease resistance to build up in plants, weeds, plant-eating insects, fungi, and bacteria.
- Builds healthy soil and combats soil erosion
- Healthy soil is the key to growing fruitful and rich produce. Bombarding your soil with fertilisers, pesticides, and chemicals reduces its quality and disables it from thriving on its own.
- According to Dr Elaine Ingham,
“Just one teaspoon of compost-rich organic soil may host as many as 600 million to 1 billion helpful bacteria from 15,000 species. Ingham notes that on the flip side, one teaspoon of soil treated with chemicals may carry as few as 100 helpful bacteria.”
- Apart from promoting healthy soil, it also reduces soil erosion.
- Fights against global warming and promotes biodiversity
- Adapting organic farming culture reduces carbon emissions into the atmosphere which has a significant impact on the pressing issue of climate change.
- The low-input concept of organic farming also reduces transport and other threats to shrinking, and non-renewable resources such as coal and gas.
- Greater biodiversity protects farmers from economical catastrophes caused by damaged crops or falling prices.
- Healthy soil depends heavily on earthworms and fauna, organic farming avoids artificial means of fertilisers and promotes a healthy environment for wild species to thrive.
- Higher nutritional value
- As compared to chemical and fertiliser-utilised products, organic products are more nutritional, tasty, and good for health.
Where Pakistan stands in Organic Farming
According to a report published by The International Federation of Organic Agriculture (IFOAM), Pakistan is only 0.1% of total organic farms in the world. Founder of Pakistan Organic Association (POA), an unregistered organization, Qasim Tareen claims that there are approximately 5000 small organic farms in Pakistan. These questionable sources and figures translate Pakistan’s slow progression in the world of organic farming. There are several factors that influence this. Some include:
- Organic agriculture requires time and well-trained extension workers. Since organic farming is a new practice, it needs competent and reliable management.
- Lack of awareness and education amongst farmers. Most farmers are from rural areas with low literacy rates that are utilising outdated methods of farming.
- Lack of awareness amongst the public regarding organic foods.
- Organic farms spent more on labour for spreading manure. Organic farmer suffers due to high labour cost and labour scarcity.
- Urgent attention needs to be paid to poverty alleviation, sustainable development, food security, agrarian reforms, and appropriate technologies for better farm management
With the agricultural sector constantly evolving around the world with new technologies, terminologies and advancements and Pakistan being regarded as one of the top countries for producing abundant and high-quality produce for domestic use and export, it is about time we step a toe out of line and into the world of organic farming