Organic agriculture is a holistic production management system which promotes and enhances ecosystem health, including biological cycles and soil biological activity. Organic agriculture is based on minimizing the use of external inputs, avoiding the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, growth regulators and livestock feed additives. It mainly depends on crop rotation, organic manures, bio-pesticides and organic pest management. Organic farming technique combines scientific knowledge and modern technology with traditional farming practices based on thousands of years of agriculture. Organic agriculture has a significant role to play in addressing two of the world’s biggest and most urgent issues: climate change and food security. Climate change mitigation and adaptation and food security are inseparable and inherent beneficial characteristics of organic agriculture. Today climate change is considered one of the most urgent environmental problems. Even though it has been scientifically accepted that the earth’s climate has always been constantly changing with a steady rise in average global temperature, modern life style, gas emissions from vehicles and industries, burning of fossils fuels, inappropriate farming practices and the destruction of forests have raised the existing level of green house gases to alarming rates, thus making the current rate of the climate change much more rapid than any time in the last 10,000 years.
Global temperature has increased by 1.5 degree C over the past century with most of the rise occurring in the last 40 years. If no action at a global level is taken to curb this trend, then scientists predict that the average global temperature will increase by 1.4 – 5.8 degree C over the next 100 years, which may lead to consequences more drastic than all the natural calamities that have been documented over the last 100,000 years (NRCS, 1995).
According to the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), agriculture contributes to 10-12 % of global green house gas emissions and this figure is expected to rise further. Moreover, agriculture intensification has had major detrimental impacts on the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem of the world. The doubling of production during the last 40 years was associated with a 6.9 fold increase in nitrogen fertilizations, 3.5 increase in phosphorous fertilization and a 1.7 fold increase in irrigated land, according to Tilman, 1999. Agriculture however is not only contributing to global warming, but is also affected by it to a major extent. According to Burdick (1994) increasing global warming will shift cultivation zones polewards, plant growth and production being jeopardized by change in the distribution of rainfall. There will be increase of UV-B radiation, and change in the chemical composition of the atmosphere. In regions with continental climate, soils are subject to desiccation, meaning climate change will aggravate problems of salinity, erosion and desertification. Extreme climate event will occur more frequently; threaten fresh water sources, change delicate ecosystems such as mountain flora and fauna. Farming, fishing and forestry will be disrupted and pest and disease favored by a warmer climate will continue to proliferate. All these factors will have negative impacts on agricultural yield.
In conclusion organic agriculture is affordable, eco-friendly, socially sensible and economically viable. It has well established practices based on local resources that simultaneously mitigate climate change, build resilient farming communities, reduce poverty and improve food security. Organic agriculture is the only one approach or measure among many others, even though if every single country in the planet go organic and if the international cooperation is strengthened to review and implement responsibly the commitments made right from the Rio Earth summit to Cancun there is a possibility in making a significant difference to curb global warming in favor of future security.
The Author is the Chairman of Organic World and Fair Future (OWF) Pvt. Ltd. Katmandu and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org