Members of the project team measuring the length of the maize cobs in the SysCom field trial at Chuka, Kenya.
Photo: FiBL


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In a long-term project in Kenya, the Swiss-based Research Institute of Organic Agriculture has examined the potential of organic and conventional agriculture regarding soil fertility, the occurrence of pests and diseases, and profitability. Initial results make a strong case to implement policy measures necessary for supporting the adoption of organic management practices on a large scale.

About 80 per cent of Africa’s population depend on agriculture as their primary source of livelihood, and it provides employment to around 70 per cent of the continent’s poorest people. The main form of farming in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is simultaneous multispecies mixed farming. In East and Southern Africa, maize-based mixed farming is the most important food production system, but productivity is very low and is considered one of the reasons for the persistence of rural poverty in the region. The low crop productivity has been attributed to a number of factors that include low soil fertility and long-term soil degradation caused by deforestation, overgrazing, continuous and intensified cropping with inadequate replenishing of soil nutrients and a low take up of sustainable resource management strategies. There is a clear need to reverse the decline in soil fertility and the degradation of the natural resources.

The positive impacts of organic agriculture on soil fertility and biodiversity, but also on productivity and profitability, plant health, resource use efficiency and climate change mitigation, have already been established in temperate environments.

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