Organic farming is an agricultural system that uses farm inputs of an organic origin such as compost manure, green manure, bio-pesticides and places emphasis on farming techniques like crop rotation.
It is also cost-effective and environmentally friendly compared to conventional farming, according to Envirocare Project Manager Amos Mbwambo.
It is essentially a farming practice that excludes the use of synthetic farm inputs such as chemical fertilisers, insecticides, pesticides and fungicides. Crop rotation is a farming practice that involves changing the type of crop grown on a farm from year to year to maintain soil fertility and control crop diseases.
Speaking to The Business Wiz in Dar es Salaam recently, Mbwambo said organic farming was ideal for optimal crop yield as it withstood the effects of climate change and improved soil structure, soil fertility and soil cover.
He also said it enabled ecosystems to better adapt/respond to the effects of climate change and it reduced soil erosion caused by rainwater.
“Organic farming reduces greenhouse gas emissions and is an enviable environmentally friendly practice especially today because it is in line with commitments to increasing food security, reducing exposure to chemical residues in foodstuffs, environmental protection and conservation and to reducing greenhouse effects.”
Mbwambo pointed out that while conventional farming used chemical fertilisers and pesticides that increased the risks of chemical contamination, organic farming used non-chemical fertilisers and pesticides as effective pest management techniques that kept plants and crops free from chemical contamination.
“Farmers who practise organic farming produce crops that are free from chemical residues and people who consume foodstuffs which are free from chemical residues hardly risk non- communicable diseases. Crops that are free from chemical contamination are in high demand both inside and outside the country. So, organic farmers are in a better position to sell their crops at a profit inside and outside the country.”
He said in organic farming farmers managed fungi, bacteria and insect pests through the use of bio-pesticides prepared from medicinal plants such as chilli pepper, chives, garlic, neem tree, Utupa (tephrosia vogelii), animal products like cow dung and ashes. When asked in which regions Envirocare had implemented organic farming projects, Mbwambo said they had implemented organic farming in six regions: Kilimanjaro, Tanga, Morogoro, Ruvuma, Mbeya and Songwe.
Presenting a similar viewpoint, a new study from the University of Vermont in the United States published in Scientific Reports suggests that certain plant scents repel insects and pests.
Researchers argue that garlic, spearmint, thyme, eucalyptus lemon and cinnamon bark are most effective repelling insect pests.
Study lead author Chase Stratton says “although it is hard to get away from using insecticides because they are good at killing insects, plants have been naturally defending against insect herbivores for millions of years.”
He says in particular garlic appears to be one of the most promising plant repellents.
In areas where farm inputs are inaccessible farmers can shift to organic farming and still grow crops that meet their food and economic needs, provided they follow good agricultural practices.
This is shown in another study, which links organic farming to food security and a feasible solution to decreasing biodiversity.
The study, published in Ecology Letters, was conducted by researchers from Xi’an Jiaotong- Liverpool University, the University of Liverpool, University of Göttingen, Wageningen University, Centre for Ecological Research, and China Agricultural University.
The authors have developed a method to help farmers and policymakers decide if switching from conventional to organic farming will increase biodiversity while maintaining productivity,” according EurekAlert, a reliable online scientific research source.
Mbwambo said Envirocare encouraged farmers to grow repelling and medicinal plants for controlling pests and diseases on their farms.
“We also encourage farmers to adhere to good agricultural practices which will help them in routine farm management such as farm cleanness, pruning, shading and mulching,” he explained.
He added that they encouraged farmers to use greenhouse technologies although the technologies were expensive to the majority of smallholder farmers.
When asked whether organic farming was more effective in terms of optimal crop yield than conventional farming he said he understood that organic farming was more effective in terms of sustainable crop production.
“In organic farming soil fertility can last longer and can produce crops for many years compared to conventional farming.”
He also said organic farming was suited to both large- and small-scale farming. “What matters is
the availability of organic inputs.
Therefore, farmers who practise organic farming are encouraged to engage in mixed farming – that is to start nurseries for botanical gardens and keep livestock.
He touted organic farming, saying it was free from chemicals and synthetic pesticides. “It is healthier to our bodies, produces more income and preserves the environment. Small-scale farmers should direct their efforts towards producing organic food products for human consumption and marketing. There is high demand for organic products across the world. So, farmers need not to be worried about the organic farming market,” he emphasised.