Organic farming could feed Africa, says UN report

Posted by Laura Grant on October 23, 2008
Posted in Food, Green News

The potential of organic farming to meet Africa’s growing food needs may have been underestimated. Britain’s Independent reports that a new study by the UN Environment Programme, which it says was released yesterday, shows that organic farming methods have increased crop yields by up to 128 percent in East Africa and provided much-needed income boosts for small farmers.

The UN’s findings provide a counterargument to increasing calls for genetically modified crops and industrial agriculture on the continent in the face of the global food crisis. Organic farming is seen by many as a Western lifestyle choice rather than a practical solution to feed Africa’s many hungry mouths. [See UK government’s former chief scientist David King’s remarks on the subject in the Guardian]

Read the full report on the Independent


One Response to “Organic farming could feed Africa, says UN report”

  1. New Leaf
    October 29th, 2008 @ 6:32 am

    I think that it is critical actually to overcome the polarisation of this issue and have more balanced debates about the options available, since there is clearly no single solution to feeding the world. The WHO tells us the global population will grow from 6 billion to 9 billion by 2050, most of which will be witnessed in Sub-Saharan Africa and SE Asia. To feed that increased population, we’re going to have to double or triple the amount of food we produce on the same land area with less water and also respecting the environment. This is no mean feat.

    Instead of pushing for one solution, there needs to be a realisation that we are going to need a number of solutions for the different production needs at different times and different places. We can’t afford to completely ignore the benefits that, for example, GM can bring in terms of yield increases with less water, as well as the potential health benefits of products like golden rice that contain higher levels of essential vitamins and minerals. Organic farming is great where that works best. Equally, there will always be a need for crop protection products, which are necessary but need to be used safely. There are other aspects that need to be seriously addressed in meeting global nutrition needs too – particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa – including availability of microcredit, improved transportation and storage infrastructure, as well as seed and fertiliser. Feeding our world is a complex issue requiring an equally multifaceted approach with recourse to a variety of solutions if the challenge is to be met. It is not constructive to approach this from a one-sided or polarised standpoint.

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