Can organic and resource-conserving agriculture improve livelihoods? A synthesis uri icon

abstract

  • Organic and resource-conserving agriculture (ORCA) initiatives have been common in the tropics for several decades, but surprisingly few data are available on their performance. This synthesis examined 31 documented cases of African and Latin American farmers converting from conventional or organic-by-default systems to ORCA that assessed their impact on livelihoods. Yield improved in 19 of the 25 cases that reported on it, food security improved in seven of eight cases, and net income improved in 19 of 23 cases. However, it is not possible to generalize from these results due to the small sample, selection bias and inconsistent methods and definitions across the cases. The systems from which farmers converted (conventional or organic-by-default) and the degree of market orientation strongly influenced the gain in incomes. Successful ORCA initiatives do not occur spontaneously, but rather require a variety of skills from smallholders and their allies. These skills include adaptive farm management, effective producer organizations, entrepreneurship, capacity to innovate, value addition and boundary spanning. The challenge of acquiring these enabling skills is simultaneously one of ORCA's strengths, as they help smallholders to navigate changing environmental and market conditions

publication date

  • 2013
  • 2013