A long-term study in Kenya has shown that organic farming not only generates comparable yields, but also produces more income and health benefits for farmers than conventional methods. Findings from the 10-year study conducted in Thika and Chuka sub-counties in the East African nation demystified the widely-held belief that organic agriculture needs more space to achieve comparable yields to conventional agriculture. The survey, carried out since 2007 by the Swiss-based Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (or FiBL) in collaboration with local partners, involved field trials conducted on two locations in Kenya’s central highlands.
According to Dr. Noah Adamtey, the project’s coordinator, the study showed that yields of maize, an important staple food crop, under organic production are similar to those under conventional production in high input systems representing commercial large scale farming. “We have seen that comparing the conventional system to that of organic system, yields are similar after the third year,” he said.
“Due to the high yields over time from organic system – although it’s not significantly different from conventional system – these yields was able to offset the costs and therefore gave similar profit margins to both conventional and organic systems,” the Ghanaian-born agronomist added. With input costs lower for organic agriculture and higher prices on the markets, incomes for organic farmers start to be higher after five years of cropping and reach a 53% higher benefit in the sixth year, researchers said. Parallel studies carried out in India and Bolivia on the production of cotton and coffee respectively proved similar positive results for the organic methods. But Dr. Adamtey says a lot needs to be done to promote sustainable farming practices, especially among the small holder farmers in Africa. “The message I am giving to the small farmers in Africa is that organic farming needs to be improved if they want to make more profit and also leave the land for the future generation,” he said emphasizing that small holder farmers need to do extra efforts in the management practices to ensure that the labor input gives an equivalent output.