Saudi Arabia pushes for organic farming

organic farming
Dar Es Salaam. Certified organic farming has emerged as a market channel providing participating African small-holders with access to high value markets in Europe. Farmers in developed countries too are increasingly turning to the sustainable agriculture which has proved to be of greater benefits.
For Hammerle Andrea, organic farmer in Canton of Graubünden, in Switzerland, organic farming provides smaller output, but better price.
With over thirty years experience in ecologically based production systems, he said benefits include not only a guaranteed produce market, but also premium prices, and higher net revenues.
Andrea’s farm comprises about three acres of quality organic maize, which he said is animal feed, ten acres of organic wheat field and a working beef cattle farm. There are also trees on the farm where he practices bee keeping too.
Entire operation is a model of ecologically sustainable agriculture, everything is grown organically using only natural fertilizer from the farm.  Reclaimed water is used whenever possible.
He said in the market he sell the organic product at higher prices than the non-organic crops.
He said for instance organic wheat sells at between 30 and 34 per cent higher than the normal one.
He said most farmers of the Canton of Graubünden are dealing with sustainable agriculture, adding that with support from the Swiss government, farmers are getting better income from farming.
Switzerland is one of the pioneering countries of organic farming. Today it has one of the highest proportions of organic agricultural land in the world, eleven per cent.
The Swiss law requires all agricultural subsidies to be contingent on minimum ecological standards. This agro-environmental policy is based on a referendum from 1996.
The minimum ecological standards require crop rotations with at least four crops, measures against soil erosion, equilibrium in the nutritional balance and high biodiversity on seven per cent of the agricultural area.
“We believe that only organic farming can ensure a sustainable land use in the long term future. And farming practices must be part of a broader approach that includes environmental conservation, including tree planting, ecological buffer zones.”
“The government normally gives direct payment to organic farmers who maintain the set standards,” he said.
According to the organic farmer, in addition, Swiss farmers can choose from different special programs, e.g. for the maintenance of extensive areas such as hedges and fallow land, and programs for animal welfare.
Switzerland has a well-established organic sector with over 6000 organic farms, 200 biodynamic farms and approximately eleven percent of the agricultural land.
Like other European countries Switzerland it has more than five percent of their agricultural land in organic production.
Wheat yields in biodynamic and organic systems are 80 per cent or more of conventional systems; yields of potato tubers are 60 per cent or more of conventional.
Soil fertility has been greatly enhanced on biodynamic and organic farms, as indicated by numbers of earthworms and a number of biological activity measurements.
Diversity of organisms was increased in organic and especially biodynamic systems relative to conventional systems.
Soil organism activity continued to increase in organic systems for more than 20 years after conversion to organic. System performance continued to improve over this time.
Despite favorable conditions, the pest pressure is limited on farms due to a strict crop rotation and relatively small fields separated from each other by hedges and bush strips.
“In case the pressure becomes too big we use natural pyrethrum and Neem products. Copper is also allowed in limited quantities against fungal diseases.” said Andrea.
But according to the Swiss Farmers’ Union President, Hansjörg Walter, average per annum earning of a farmer in Switzerland is about 40,000 Swiss Franc while organic farmers gets higher than that.
He said a full time organic farmer earns at least 52,000 Swiss Franc per year besides government direct support.
“The government pays direct support to organic farmers to increase production of organic foods as well as maintain the environment,” said the chairman.
Organic systems were more energy efficient, using less than half the energy inputs to yield about 80 per cent of the grain of conventional systems.
The Swiss organic market is now 1.4 billion Swiss francs or 0.9 billion Euros. The sales of organic products have been continually growing in the past years, and the market share of organic products is now 4.9 percent.
Tanzania on the other hand has a lot of potential to boost agricultural production.
Although over 40,000 farmers in the country are organically certified, the country’s limited production volumes and underdeveloped brand lead farmers to receive below-market prices for their products.
Approximately three quarters of Tanzania’s population live in rural areas and rely on agriculture for their livelihood.
Organic agriculture offers economically viable, socially just and environmentally friendly solutions that if fully used may help to meet the countries agricultural and economic needs.
It is a particularly important way of farming for the most vulnerable, and poorest farmers in rural and peri-urban areas because it utilizes the limited resources that small-scale farmers have available locally at minimal cost.
But some efforts to promote organic farming in the country are on the increase, with various movements like the Tanzania Organic Agriculture Movement (TOAM) taking the lead.
Toam, the national umbrella organization for organic agriculture is one of many such umbrella bodies around the world, linked through the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), with the main role to coordinate and promote the development of the organic farming sector in Tanzania.
What is organic farming?
Organic farming works in harmony with nature rather than against it. This involves using techniques to achieve good crop yields without harming the natural environment or the people who live and work in it. The methods and materials that organic farmers use are summarised as follows:
To keep and build good soil structure and fertility:
• recycled and composted crop wastes and animal manures
• the right soil cultivation at the right time
• crop rotation
• green manures and legumes
• mulching on the soil surface
To control pests, diseases and weeds:
• careful planning and crop choice
• the use of resistant crops
• good cultivation practice
• crop rotation
• encouraging useful predators that eat pests
• increasing genetic diversity
• using natural pesticides
Organic farming also involves:
• careful use of water resources
• good animal husbandry
Why farm organically?
Organic farming provides long-term benefits to people and the environment. Organic farming aims to:
• increase long-term soil fertility.
• control pests and diseases without harming the environment.
• ensure that water stays clean and safe.
• use resources which the farmer already has, so the farmer needs less money to buy farm inputs.
• produce nutritious food, feed for animals and high quality crops to sell at a good price.
Modern, intensive agriculture causes many problems, including the following:
• Artificial fertilisers and herbicides are easily washed from the soil and pollute rivers, lakes and water courses.
• The prolonged use of artificial fertilisers results in soils with a low organic matter content which is easily eroded by wind and rain.
• Dependency on fertilisers. Greater amounts are needed every year to produce the same yields of crops.
• Artificial pesticides can stay in the soil for a long time and enter the food chain where they build up in the bodies of animals and humans, causing health problems.
• Artificial chemicals destroy soil micro-organisms resulting in poor soil structure and aeration and decreasing nutrient availability.
• Pests and diseases become more difficult to control as they become resistant to artificial pesticides. The numbers of natural enemies decrease because of pesticide use and habitat loss.
Choice of crops
Each crop and crop variety has its own specific needs. In some places it will grow well and others it will not. Crops are affected by:
• soil type
• rainfall
• altitude
• temperature
• the type and amount of nutrients required
• the amount of water needed
These factors affect how a crop grows and yields. If a crop is grown in a climate to which it is not suited, it is likely to produce low yields and be more susceptible to pest and diseases. This then creates the need to use agrochemicals to fertilise the crop and control pest and diseases.
The successful organic farmer learns to grow the crops and varieties which are suited to the local conditions. He should grow crops which are suited to his geography and climate. He should choose varieties which are suited to the local conditions such as local varieties.
Organic farming
An organic farm proudly advertises its eggs, using the white bud in a green circle under which organic food is marketed.
Switzerland lays great stress on environmentally friendly farming, although it involves greater costs.
Many Swiss consumers are concerned about healthy eating. As in other countries, the debate over genetically modified foods is in full swing. All food containing genetically modified ingredients has to be clearly labeled as such, with the words “genetically modified” spelled out on the packaging. Abbreviations are not allowed.
There was an upsurge in the number of farms producing organic food in the 1990s. By 2009 some 11.1% of all farms had been awarded the organic symbol: a white bud in a green circle. Organic farming is particularly popular in mountain areas. Figures issued by the Federal Statistical Office showed that in 2009 20% of mountain farms were organic. That year the Swiss spent 170 francs per head on organic produce, in particular vegetables, fruit and eggs.
Of all European countries Switzerland, along with Austria, has the highest proportion of usable land given over to organic farming.
In 1992 Switzerland announced that battery chicken farming was to be phased out – another world first. The addition of antibiotics to animal feed has been forbidden since 1998. Hormones are also banned. But such strict regulations put farmers under pressure when it comes to producing food at prices consumers are willing to pay.

According to Dr. Fahd Bin Abdul Rahman Balghunaim, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Agriculture plans on educating its countrymen of the benefits that organic farming can provide to both humans and to nature. Organic agriculture will be promoted so that end users will know more of the significant values that farming organically (environmentally and economically).

Organic farming in Saudi Arabia

Farming by nature’s way entails less use of insecticides, particularly products that may contain harmful chemicals. With this in mind, organic crops are developed using less of the said products, and more of the natural alternative methods. Although organic farming is already being practiced in Saudi Arabia, few are still involved in such a program. The availability of organic crops is still scarce in the country. And given that there are still crops for sale, not much is acquired due to the expensive pricing. But the Kingdom is continuously looking for ways to provide solutions to this kinds of situation.

How will the Ministry of Agriculture bring forth its ‘message’ to the consumers?

The Ministry of Agriculture’s goal is to make sure that more organic crops are made to be more available and to be more reasonably priced. Dr. Saad Bin Abdullah Al-Khlail, who’s been tasked to manage this specific endeavor, will make sure to ask the media’s help for this undertaking. Dr. Al-Khlail will also use other resources such as giving talks, using of educational models (such as charts, illustrations, images, etc.), and distribution of fact sheets to help spread the word about the advantages of organic farming.

Going organic is always the best option

It is an inevitable fact that there will be several harvests that will contain excessive amounts of insecticides. Just take for example vegetables such as celery, lettuces, tomatoes, and fruits like grapes, strawberries, and peaches, (a peach can be applied with over 45 different kinds of insect repellant). This may be a gruesome fact, so it’s always best to know what goes into your food. The best crops are actually those that are particularly grown using only the healthiest and safest of options. So any kind of crop that has been greatly contaminated with pesticides will remain unhealthy, even if you wash it several times (the chemicals will not wash off since it has already been wholly absorbed).

A Unified Kingdom

It takes a unified idea to make a country such as Saudi Arabia to commit altogether. Most consumers in KSA have become more conscious of the quality for which their foods are being grown (in terms of nutritional value for instance). Thus the need to acquire more naturally produced yield. Now, there are several agronomic corporations in the kingdom that have already discontinued the use of fertilizers that use chemicals and other synthetic resources. Moreover, these companies have managed to solely concentrate on using other alternative methods for the better. Some of these examples would be the use of animal compost as a soil enhancer. Of course, if healthy plants are grown, there will be more healthy people in the world. And the better crops are grown, the more nourishment these goods will be able to provide to both humans and animals.


Related posts:

  1. The Organic Seed Conference focusing on organic seed systems
  2. Organic Fertilizer for Root Crops


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