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Research needs for development of organic agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa

Ssekyewa, Charles; George, Francisca and Müller, Adrian (2013) Research needs for development of organic agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa. In: Halberg, Niels and Müller, Adrian (Eds.) Organic Agriculture for Sustainable Livelihoods. Routledge, London and New York, chapter 11, pp. 247-270.

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World population is about 7 billion in 2010 and is expected to grow much more. The expected growth is highest in parts of the world that are vulnerable to hunger and adverse climatic conditions, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). This then translates into the likely need for more food in these regions.
The situation is exacerbated by the lack of appropriate farming technologies and the many constraints limiting production and productivity of major commodities. Apart from hunger, unless the situation is addressed through a holistic approach to research, there is a very real danger that environmental
degradation will escalate. UNEP (2009) found that the recent food crisis could even exacerbate in the next decade if there are no explicit answers to the growing new problems, such as declining agricultural production, faltering distribution network and worldwide environmental deterioration. It concluded that food production, processing and consumption across the globe needs to change and that such changes can both lead to food security for the world’s rising population and assure the environmental services that are the foundation of agricultural production. Organic agriculture is one of the most promising approaches to this situation (IAASTD, 2008; FAO, 2008; ORCA, 2009). In addition, organic agriculture is a promising option with regard to further aspects, such as climate change adaptation and mitigation (see Chapter 5). Unfortunately, research funds for organic agriculture are still very low, and only very limited research is going on to enhance the best practices used in organic agriculture. This chapter discusses the research needs to support organic agriculture as a livelihood strategy, thereby using Sub-Saharan Africa as an illustration. Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the biggest lack of direct research involvement, financing and infrastructure for organic agriculture in the world. While we will partly focus on those aspects relevant for this region, there are clearly many important aspects that are of relevance for organic agriculture research on a global level. Research in the context of this book has the main aim to improve livelihoods – not to provide fundamental insights on the world. Linking this discussion to the livelihood framework presented in Chapter 1, and accounting for the particular characteristics of agriculture, we identify five broad areas into which research activities can be grouped. First, there is the physical basis: how best to grow various crops and rear livestock organically. In addition, one may ask how best to react to external changes, such as increasing water scarcity. This physical basis has to be understood in a broad sense, also covering the questions related to the farm household, community and landscape seen as sustainably managed systems, decidedly going beyond the level of single crops and practices and their costs and returns for the single household. This point in particular is also stressed by the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD, 2008) report, which talks about moving from focusing on increased productivity alone to holistic integration of natural resource management with food and nutritional security. Second, there is the social basis, which has a farming household focus but takes into account aspects of all the different realities, spaces and capitals beyond the physical basis, such as emotional and cultural aspects, the relation of the individual to the community, etc. (see Chapter 1). Third, there is the institutional context. This addresses questions such as which policies would be optimal for the support of organic agriculture, which certification approach is most adequate in a certain situation, and also information provision, education and communication. This includes a focus on how optimally to communicate research findings such that they are actually implemented at the farm level, for example. Fourth, trade and sale of the products is important. This also covers how optimally to process and store the produce. It also covers consumer acceptance of new, pest-resistant varieties, for example. Fifth, a particular focus needs to be put on power relations and inequalities, e.g. in the context of various certification schemes and valuechain types (see Chapters 6 and 7), but also on a within-household level, e.g. regarding gender issues and how income is distributed in the household. While discussing these research needs, we do not want to merely report or copy the results from earlier initiatives to compile research needs, such as TP Organics (2009, 2011) or ORCA (2009). Those documents are very broad, highly valuable and should be consulted. There are nevertheless some topics that are not addressed at all or that we propose to address differently. It is those topics we are most interested in. This chapter therefore complements existing work. In the next section, we briefly present research networks, initiatives and institutions of organic agriculture already present and active in SSA or of general relevance also for this region. We then assess research needs and offer a synthesis of this assessment in the final and concluding section.

EPrint Type:Book chapter
Keywords:Food systems, socio-economics, Sozioökonomie, Agrarpolitik, Policy
Agrovoc keywords:
sustainable livelihoods
Subjects: Knowledge management > Research methodology and philosophy > Research communication and quality
"Organics" in general > Countries and regions > Africa
Research affiliation: Switzerland > FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Switzerland > Society
ISBN:978–1–84971–295–8 (hbk)
Deposited By: Grand, Mr Gregor
ID Code:25626
Deposited On:29 Jun 2014 10:45
Last Modified:06 Apr 2022 14:29
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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