The contribution of organic agriculture to sustainable development
This report provides a comprehensive synthesis of the scientific findings of the SysCom long-term project in the tropics. The findings address the differences between alternative (organic and agroforestry) and conventional production systems in terms of productivity, profitability, soil fertility and quality, and other indicators. The report also includes an overview about the results and recommendations for policy related stakeholders.
There is substantial evidence that carrying on business as usual with the prevalent agricultural management practices is not a sustainable option, particularly when considering the issues associated with climate change, biodiversity loss and depletion of natural resources. Several alternative production systems, including agroecology and organic farming, are proposed for their environmental and social benefits.
It is, however, legitimate to question whether alternative farming practices can contribute to sustainable development as they are often perceived to be based on ideology. Studies conducted under temperate environments (mostly in Europe) have established the benefits of organic farming practices over conventional practices. Nevertheless, several questions remain open regarding the performance of organic systems under tropical conditions.
The SysCom program has addressed this gap with twelve years of successful participatory and production systems research dedicated to the development of sustainable agricultural systems in the tropics.
In 2021, the SysCom team published a comprehensive synthesis report of the scientific findings of SysCom, It is written in an easy to understand form for an ‘educated non-expert’ audience. The findings address the differences between alternative (organic and agroforestry) and conventional production systems in terms of:
- Productivity: yields of main and by-crops
- Profitability: gross margins and return on (economic and labour) investment
- Soil fertility and quality: nutrient availability, soil organic carbon and other soil physico-chemical properties
- Other indicators: pesticide residues and nutrient content, biodiversity, resource use efficiency and agroecosystem resilience
The report includes an overview about the results and recommendations for policy related stakeholders and is available for download.
Gurbir S. Bhullar, David Bautze, Noah Adamtey, Laura Armengot, Harun Cicek, Eva Goldmann, Amritbir Riar, Johanna Rüegg, Monika Schneider, Beate Huber (2021).
What is the contribution of organic agriculture to sustainable development? A synthesis of twelve years (2007-2019) of the “long-term farming systems comparisonsin the tropics (SysCom)”.
Research Institute of Organic Agriculture, Frick, Switzerland.
Main results and publication download
About: SysCom – Farming Systems Comparison in the Tropics
The project "Farming Systems Comparison in the Tropics" (SysCom), implemented by the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), aims to establish a scientific basis for discussions on the performance and potential of conventional and organic agricultural production systems in the tropics. It has been running since 2007. In three tropical countries – Bolivia, India and Kenya – long-term farming systems comparison field trials have been established in concert with participatory on-farm research focusing on a different cropping system in each country.