Organic farming helps farmers increase their resilience to climate change
Bundelkhand (Madhya Pradesh): Mathuralal Patel is not sure why someone in New Delhi or Mumbai would prefer vegetables from his farm to his neighbour`s, but he knows that the way he grows crops is good for his soil.
Using organic fertilisers, he says, helps increase the fertility of his soil, while using too many chemical fertilisers degrades the land`s soil quality.
For Patel, a farmer in the Bundelkhand region of Central India, organic farming increases his resilience to respond to the risk of climate variability. Over 70 per cent of the population in this region relies on predominantly rain fed agriculture for their subsistence.
While the threat of drought has always loomed over this semi-arid region, farmers and scientific experts worry that climate change may make drought conditions even more common in the future thereby increasing food insecurity and migration rates.
From field trials conducted in arid, semi-arid, sub-humid and humid regions of India, Navdanya, a research organisation found that organic farming techniques can improve soil carbon levels by five per cent to 25 per cent and increase the water holding capacity of soils between two per cent to 17 per cent.
Soils with higher concentration of carbon content are better able to absorb and retain water because the organic matter acts like `sponge` absorbing excess water and retaining it in the soil. More moisture in the soil is particularly valuable for farmers in drought prone, dry regions.
Organic farming systems also increase biodiversity by cultivating different genetically diverse crop varieties.
Finally, the price premium that organic produce garners from the health and taste benefits perceived by city consumers allows organic farming to be financially more profitable than conventional farming.
Together with using adaptation strategies such as water efficient irrigation techniques and drought tolerant seed varieties, organic farming can help farmers cope with the impacts of the changing climate. By Nicholas Monzy Martin, Development Alternatives
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