Natalia P. Hule, who writes about agriculture and development in India, had a great post a few weeks ago titled “My Tryst with Organic Farming,” in which she discussed how she tried to implement organic sugarcane farming in
Tamil Nadu Mandla, Madhya Pradesh as part of her work.
Natalia begins her story as follows:
When I was working in Mandla, I was keen upon the introduction of organic sugarcane production as many farmers near the town of Mandla have access to irrigation. The town is practically surrounded on 3 sides by the Narmada. I went about this in a thorough fashion and chose to do what is recommended by the Tamil Nadu Agriculture University for organic sugarcane production. Below is a description of how reality smacked me straight in the face.
And she concludes as follows:
Organic farming is difficult because
1. Adding the requisite amount of NPK is very difficult due to a lack of organic materials in necessary amounts and exactly when they are needed;
2. The non-availability of inputs for biological pest control in many locations as compared to the ease of access to chemical inputs; and
3. The high cost of organic inputs.
I know that organic farming enthusiasts will be offended by some or the other part above. I won’t even touch upon the part concerning the alleged higher nutritive values of organic food. I doubt that myself. It is pesticide-free but more nutritious? Haven’t got a clue. I continue to harbor the hope that there should be some way to practically implement organic farming on the farm, outside control conditions. I continue to hope that WorldWatch is right and Dr. Borlaug was not. What is to be done? Many are sitting on the fence. I’ve jumped from the “enthusiast” camp to the ‘on-the-fence’ camp. Paul Neate on CGIAR Climate is right that organic farming needs more debate. If it is organic, it needn’t necessarily be right.
Natalia’s post is long, but it is well worth reading in full because she came at it from the position of someone who was a true believer, only to realize that for smallholders, organic farming might not be very practical.