Due to ever changing climatic conditions world over, it is fundamental to adhere to a farming system that is environmentally, socially and economically friendly. In this case organic farming has proved beyond doubt to meet the needs of our present generation without endangering the needs of future generations at the same time. Organic farming is said to be economically sound and sustainable and environmentally friendly.
The most outstanding fact is that organic farmers grow numerous crops and rearing several types of livestock at the same time on the same piece of land, which ensures self-reliance and provides food nutrients, food security, livestock feed, soil organic matter and energy. Also, the combination of livestock and crop production in organic farming makes it beneficial and it results in high yields, low costs of production, sustainable farm income, sustainability of soil organisms’ resource base, production of healthy foods, sustainable production, less or no poison to the living organisms and workers on the farm as well as the environment.
However, the point to note during the start of organic farming is that in the first year yields are likely to reduce; consequently, the yields increase due to buildup of soil living organisms and fertility. It has been proved that with a consistency of good practice, soil can be transformed within one year with some degree of difference in yields of some varieties of organic crops. The variation in yields is normally due to differences in nutrients requirements of respective crops.
At present Zambia has about 60,000 farmers who are practicing organic farming. However, the country is still in the process of developing organic standards in terms of policy formulation. In Zambia organic farming activities are being fostered by a non-profit organisation called Organic Producers and Processors Association of Zambia (OPPAZ) whose objective is to develop and strengthen organic industry in the country so as to contribute to national economic growth and poverty reduction. OPPAZ also provides extension services, specialized trainings in organic agriculture market information and linkages pre-certification advice and information dissemination, policy and advocacy.
Since its inception, OPPAZ members have penetrated and exported certified organic products to the European Union, USA and South Africa. Annually, certified organic products exports include fresh vegetables, honey, groundnuts, mushrooms and essential oils. There have been increases in production levels and export volumes for organically certified products for both regional and EU markets. Local citizens have also developed a strong domestic demand for organic products as a result two Organic Shops have been opened by OPPAZ Members in Lusaka for certified organic products.
This achievement is perceived as strong political support for organic agriculture for instance, government’s position of prohibiting genetically modified organisms (GMOs), Phytosanitary and Bio-safety regulations. Furthermore, government has liberalised the economy to allow a level playing ground for both private and public partnership.
With all the above achievement, the organic farming has shortcomings such as lack of an explicit organic policy to promote and protect the organic sector from widespread use of agro-chemicals. There is also no direct government funding and research to focus on organic agriculture sector, this has hampered the development of the sector. In addition, the excessive use of chemical fertilizers have in turn reacted in the soil to result in unproductive soils. The same soils which have yearly been robbed away of its nutrients- by deforestation, bush burning, etc – have not been replenished making them unproductive.
Green World Senior Consultant, Mulowa Shaka Byete says that chemical fertilizers have not only been reactive to the soils, side effects to human beings but also too expensive and uneconomical to the small scale farmers. Also, pests and vectors are becoming increasingly resistant to pesticides. She also disclosed that people are having strange diseases due to chemicals applied to crops; this has increased spending in the direction of health.
In order to fully develop organic farming sector in Zambia and Africa over, there is need for concerted efforts from governments, donors, and stakeholders to secure funding in the direction of research, extension services and empowering new farmers willing to venture into organic farming.
—About Clifford Malambo—
Clifford Malambo is a Zambian citizen who graduated from Evelyn Hone College of Applied Arts and Commerce where I graduated with a diploma in Journalism, Advertising and Public Relations in 2012. He has worked as a reporter at the Ministry of Agriculture and is currently an assistant public relations officer at Treatment, Advocacy, and Literacy Campaign (TALC).