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Organic Agriculture in the Tropics: Pioneering Effort with Long-term Trials

What can organic farming do to alleviate poverty and ensure food security in countries in the South? During the “Tropentag” (the Conference on Tropical and Subtropical Agricultural and Natural Resource Management) at the ETH (the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich) from September 14-16, 2010, the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) will present 2 of its long-term system comparisons in Kenya and Bolivia.

In Europe, the advantages of organic farming have been shown repeatedly, but how does organic farming perform in countries in the South? Can organic farming be successful under tropical and subtropical conditions? In 2007 FiBL began long-term system comparisons in Kenya, Bolivia, and India that should provide some answers. The trials compare organic with conventional farming systems and are expected to provide at least 10-20 years worth of data. The trials will give data on, among other things, the development of yield, fertility, and biodiversity, as well as nutrients and energy efficiency. The ultimate deciding factor for farmer families, however, is economic viability. In India, the FiBL trial is researching various cotton farming systems, in Kenya a corn-vegetable crop rotation is being tested, and in Bolivia the trial consists of cocoa in various agroforestry systems.

The trials are financed by BioVision, Coop Sustainability Fund, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and Liechtenstein Development Service. The scientific lead of this long-term system comparison is FiBL in Frick, Switzerland, which belongs to the world’s leading research institutes for organic agriculture.

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