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Introducing farmer group learning and development into organic small holder farming systems in the global south -including a case study from the state of Madhya Pradesh, India.

Jacobsen, Malene (2012) Introducing farmer group learning and development into organic small holder farming systems in the global south -including a case study from the state of Madhya Pradesh, India. .

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On most continents food production has surpassed the growth in population (Knudsen et al. 2006). Still it is estimated that approximately 1 billion people are undernourished (FAO 2011) and the greatest number of people suffering from chronic hunger are living in South and East Asia (FAO 2012a). More than half (3.1 billion people) of the developing world’s population live in rural areas. Of these, approximately 2.5 billion derive their livelihoods from agriculture (FAO 2012a). The majority of small scale farmers in the global south lack financial and natural resources to be able to improve production and food security (Knudsen et al. 2006).
A United Nations’ report on organic agriculture and food security concludes that organic agriculture increases the availability and access of food in the location where hunger and poverty are most severe (FAO 2007). According to UNEP (United Nations Environmental Program) non-certified organic practices in Africa outperforms conventional industrialized agriculture and provides improved soil fertility, retention of water as well as resistance to drought (UNEP 2008). The Millennium Development Goals are targeting sustainable agriculture specifically (United Nations 2009) and in the report by the IAASTD panel, focus on small scale farmers and the use of sustainable agricultural practices are recommended (IAASTD 2008).
Organic farming emerged in the 1920s with the concept of an inextricable link between soil, plant and animal health and of the composting process as an important element to obtain this. Hence artificial fertilizer was looked upon with great concern. In the 1960s and 1970s organic farming faced a turning point due to the negative consequences of industrial farming methods including the use of chemical substances. The work of many volunteers, heavily engaged in organic farming, led to the foundation of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) in 1972 (Kristiansen & Merfield 2006).
IFOAM has formulated four basic principles: Principle of health, ecology, fairness and care. They serve to inspire the organic movement, are the basis from where standards are developed and are presented with a vision of world-wide adoption (IFOAM 2005). According to IFOAM organic agriculture is: “A production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved” (IFOAM 2008).
Frequently, in the global south, the meaning of organic agriculture is confused with “farming without chemical inputs”, “traditional farming” or “certified organic farming for export purposes” (Vaarst 2010). In this assignment organic agriculture is defined by the above mentioned four basic principles and description of organic farming. This includes the use of agro-ecological methods in agricultural systems which do not necessarily have to be certified organic.
Agro-ecological methods include the use of compost and legumes to improve soil fertility. Mulching conserves soil moisture and suppresses weeds. Intercropping increases yields and keeps the soil covered, hence preventing soil erosion and promoting soil moisture. Crop rotation with high species diversity prevents pests and diseases from building up as well as contributing to a diversified diet. Agroforestry is less affected by drought (deep root system). At the same time it increases soil porosity, reduces runoff and increases soil cover leading to increased water infiltration and retention in soil (Nakasi et al. Unknown; Vaarst 2010).
Livestock are an integrated part of organic agriculture supporting biological cycles within the system, in particular nutrient recycling (Hermansen 2003). Another important aspect is that organic farming does not rely on input of costly artificial fertilizers and chemicals. High inputs can force farmers to borrow money from private lenders with high interest rates. Hence farmers are vulnerable if the harvest fails (Halberg et al. 2006). Also pesticides can lead to poisoning when applying it and through accidents (Pretty 1995 cf. Halberg et. al. 2006).
Conscious use of agro-ecological methods requires many skills, a lot of knowledge, assessment and planning (Vaarst et al. 2012). Therefore it is relevant to create a situation where knowledge can be exchanged, developed and debated (Vaarst et al. 2011). Organic farming is labour intensive, for example it requires labour to make compost, dig trenches, mulch and weed (Vaarst et al. 2011). Farmer Family Learning Groups (FFLG) creates a situation where farmers and their families go together to share their knowledge and experiences as well as help each other perform labour demanding tasks (Vaarst et al. 2011). Organic farming and Farmer Field Schools (FFS) is a way to assist vulnerable groups to empower themselves to claim their rights and have access to resource mechanisms (FAO 2007).
The objective of this assignment is to evaluate the benefits and barriers of introducing farmer group learning and development into organic small holder farming systems in the global south. The farmer group learning is exemplified by the concepts of FFS and FFLG. The first section describes the concept of FFS and FFLG. Afterwards benefits and barriers of introducing FFS and FFLG are presented. Finally a case study from three districts in Madhya Pradesh, India is reviewed and analysed in terms of introducing farmer group learning.

EPrint Type:Report
Subjects:"Organics" in general
Food systems > Food security, food quality and human health
Research affiliation: Denmark > AU - Aarhus University
Deposited By: Holme, Ms. Mette
ID Code:21130
Deposited On:01 Aug 2012 11:36
Last Modified:02 Aug 2012 06:55
Document Language:English
Refereed:Not peer-reviewed

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