Opportunities for Organic Farming in Developing Regions

Opportunities for Organic Farming in Developing Regions

Cocoa producer in Ecuadorian Amazon. Image: World Economic Forum

Written by Jessica Devous

With nearly 30% of the global workforce in agriculture, the impact of sustainable farming practices is crucial to the health of people and the planet. The organic food industry and growing agri-environmental practices across geographical regions provides immense benefits to environmental sustainability. Non-government organizations and food corporations are becoming more aware of the transparency of crop production from farm to kitchen. A collaboration between the United Nations Development Program in Ecuador and the Federation of Small Organic Agricultural Exporters of the Southern Ecuadorian Amazon (APEOSAE) is a leading example of the development of organic farming in lower developed areas with their product, The Other Bar. This chocolate bar produced from organic cocoa in Ecuador is one of many variations of sustainability in organic crops taking low-income countries by storm.

Organic farming is notable for reducing the impact of conventional farming, including the depletion of nutrients and minerals from mono-cropping. Instead of growing a single crop on the same land each year, organic farms grow crops under conditions that emphasize the health of the land and crop productivity. Practicing crop covering and crop rotation improves soil quality and increases organic matter while reducing the use of synthetic fertilizers. This reduces exposure to chemicals from pesticides, combating soil loss and erosion and improving water conservation. Since organic farms efficiently produce food while creating an ecological balance, programs like the UNDP of Ecuador and APEOSAE are working to promote organic farming in less developed areas. Their creation of The Other Bar is a step towards granting certification of organic farming, market availability, and reinvestment into the region.

Image: Amazon Rainforest, UNDP Ecuador

By offering traceability technology from crop to consumption, consumers are aware of the production of food and its impact on the local community. For instance, a portion of proceeds fromĀ each purchase is donated to plant cocoa trees in Ecuador to curb the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. By enforcing traceability and reinvesting in the environment which the bars are sourced from, consumer education on organic farming is rapidly spreading, becoming a key factor in the spatial development of organic agriculture.

While inheritance for organic farming practices is a primary effort to improve sustainability, not all regions are capable of cultivating organic crops. Countries must show favorable socio-economic and climatic conditions, such as lower poverty levels, high density of crop farmers, irrigation systems, and optimal soil and rainfall to organically farm.

Map of spatial distribution of farmers certified in organic farming. Map: Science Direct

Due to these favorable conditions, a high concentration of organic farms are spread across high income areas like the U.S. and Europe. While it is beneficial for these regions to produce organic crops, lower-income regions can also benefit from the same practices, both economically and environmentally. In less developed regions across Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa, organic farming is uncommon due to poverty levels, GDP, lack of irrigation, and larger rural populations. This challenges small area farmers to obtain certification for organic crop production, and further market availability. To feed the world while reducing the environmental damage of conventional farming, products like The Other Bar, and UNDP programs are raising awareness for organic farming in less developed regions. Increasing the desire for spatial development, countries can experience the benefits of organic farming both in economic opportunities and environmental conservation.

Sources: The World Bank, World Economic Forum, Science Direct, Organic Farming Research Foundation

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