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Organic farming in low rainfall areas

  Organic  Agriculture (farming) for  Socially and Ecologically Security  in low rainfall areas

Arun K.Sharma

Central Arid Zone Research Institute(CAZRI)


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In last few decades awareness about social  and environmental issues  has been increased. Agriculture is one of basic enterprise that has major role in these two issues . Organic agriculture is one of the agriculture production system that not only supportive to the environment but also sensitive to the social issues like employment, health, migration etc.  Definitions given by two international organizations also verifies this concept. These definitions are-

1.Organic agriculture: is a holistic management system ,which enhances agro-ecosystem health, utilizing both traditional &scientific  knowledge. Organic agriculture  systems rely  on ecosystem management rather than external agricultural inputs. (IFOAM,2006)

2.Organic agriculture: is an environmentally and socially Sensitive food supply system. The primary goal of organic agriculture  is to optimize the health and productivity of independent communities of soil life, plants, animals and people.(FAO,2002)

In simple words organic farming is the production system  with the optimum  utilization of local resources in such a way so that sustainability  of production and wellness of the society  & environment can be maintained for fairly long time.


Although organic agriculture is seems to be just the exclusion of synthetic external inputs  but  it  is the ideological differences with conventional farming that  makes OA ,friendly to society and environment. These differences are-

Organic farming

Conventional  (chemical) farming

Holistic approach

Reductionist approach.

Decentralize production

Centralize production

Harmony with NATURE (Harness the benefit)

Domination on NATURE  ( Exploit for profit)



Input optimization (save more)

Output maximization (spend more)











According to the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement (IFOAM) the objectives of organic farming are as follows:

  • To produce food of high nutritional quality in sufficient quantities
  • To work in harmony with natural systems rather than seeking to dominate them
  • To encourage and enhance the biological cycles within farming system involving microorganisms, soil flora and fauna, plants and animals
  • To maintain and increase the long term fertility of soils
  • To use, as far as possible, renewable resources in locally organized agricultural systems
  • To work, as much as possible, within a closed system with regard to organic matter and nutrient elements
  • To give all livestock, conditions of life that allow them to perform all aspects of their innate behavior
  • To avoid all forms of pollution that may result from agricultural techniques
  • To maintain the generic diversity of the agricultural system and its surroundings, including the protection of plants and wild life habitat
  • To allow agricultural producers an adequate return and satisfaction from their work including a safe working environment
  • To consider the wider social and ecological impact of the farming system

Essential characters of organic farming

The most important essential characters of organic farming are as follows:  

  • Maximal but sustainable use of local resources
  • Use of purchased inputs, only as complementary to local resources
  • Increasing crop and animal diversity in the form of poly-cultures,  agroforestry, integrated crop/livestock systems, etc. to minimize risk  and improve ecological balance and economic stability
  • Ensuring the basic biological functions of soil-water-nutrient-humus continuum
  • Creating an attractive overall landscape which gives satisfaction to the local people

Thus, to sum up mixed farming, crop rotation and organic cycle optimization are the three key principles of organic agriculture.

Advantages of organic farming

Some important advantages of organic farming  experiences worldwide are as follows:

  • It creates optimal conditions in soil for improved growth and physiological activities of plants and the higher crop yield
  • It improves soil physical, chemical and biological conditions
  • It improves soil carbon content (carbon sequestration)
  • Utilizing organic wastes as an input minimizes pollution
  • It mitigates environmental degradation
  • It is more resistant to diseases, insects and pests
  • Organically grown produce are believed to be nutritionally superior and good for health
  • Higher demand of organically produced food coupled with its premium price may improve economy of the farmer and the region

 Essential Components of the organic system

There are three major components of organic system that creates core environment for organic production system. There may be some minor components  of location specific.

Three major components are-

  1. Maintaining agro-diversity  through cropping system, integration of animals and other beneficial flora and fauna.
  2.  Conservation and efficient utilization of local resources with lest dependency on external inputs.
  3. Farness in production and utilization so that every stakeholder of the system gets his due share.



Health, employment , economic stability cooperation among the members of the society are some of the key components  that ensures the progress and wellness of the society. Organic farming based on  promotion of these components by following ways:-

1.Health:Organic production system prohibits the use of  synthetic chemicals  thus not only  field workers/ farmers  gets good environment but the consumers also gets chemical free food. This  minimizes health problems due to exposure of chemicals.

2.Employment:Since organic farming promotes use of local recourses and decentralized input supply therefore, there is good possibility of employment generation in input preparation, soil and water conservation work etc. Many state governments now using this opportunity  for employment under MNRGA scheme .

3.Economic stability:In organic farming use of external inputs is minimized therefore cost of production reduced to great extent. Further, due to quality production organic produce get 10-15% premium price. By these two  factors farmers economic conditions improve. This has been proved by a survey  of  organic farms all over the India ,done by Indian Institute of Soil Science, Bhopal .(Ramesh 2010).

4.Fairness:Organic agriculture ensures fairness and equality to all the stakeholders comes form production to consumption chain.


Practices that maintain ecological balance are, in other word securing the ecology of  and area or the earth as a whole. Organic farming  helps in ecological security by following ways-

  1. Conservation of biodiversity: Organic farming  avoids monoculture and promotes production system that follows crop rotation, use of  flora and fauna useful for production. This maintain ecological balance. Further, non chemical (synthetic)management of nutrition and protection of crops further helps in maintaining food chain and ecosystem balance.
  2. Mitigating effect of climate change: Worldwide 90 million tons of mineral oil or natural gas are processed to get Nitrogenous fertilizers every year. This generates 250 million tons of CO2 emission. On the contrary, organic farms returns 575 to 700 kg CO2 to the soil. Organic farming thus reduces CO2 emission by eliminating synthetic fertilizers, and at the same time reduces atmospheric concentration of this gas by storing in the soil, a win-win system(Niggli,2008). Further, soils with higher humus content can adapt to the adverse effect of climate change.


  1. Diversified farming system:Farming systems in the region are highly diversified in nature with crops, trees, animals, grasses etc. This system is scientifically efficient in nutrient recycling and restoration of soil fertility. In these systems 10-30 trees/ha are available and 2-5 animals are reared by a farm family. This integrated farming system minimizes pest incidence as well as favors organic farming and controls desertification.
  2. Rich traditional wisdom: Rich traditional wisdom in these areas for restoration of soil fertility and for pest control further strengthen  and provide strong infrastructure for organic system.
  3. Natural Availability  of inputs:Plants like neem, pongamia, calotropis etc. are the best sources of  biopesticides , are abundantly available in these areas. Minerals  like rock phosphate, gypsum and lime  are available in large quantity.  These are good soil ameliorator as well as good nutrients supplier. Further the farming systems are dominated by animals. Waste and product of huge animal population can be a best source .of balanced nutrient supply.
  4. Employment opportunities: High density as well as high growth of human resource remains underutilized through out the year due to erratic rainfall and limited irrigation facilities. Migration of human   resources during drought imbalances the development of the state. Since the organic farming is labour intensive and input supply made at local level, there is ample opportunity for employment and proper utilization of human resource.
  5. Soil improvement: Soils are poor in water holding capacity and deficient in most of these essential  nutrients. Addition of organic matter not only improves the water holding capacity but also make the soil to supply nutrients in balanced manner .This trend in soil properties improved  was observed by Ramesh in an all India survey of organic farms.

Therefore there are ample opportunities in arid areas for promotion of organic farming.


Considering the possibilities and to explore them through experimentation on organic production system for  low rainfall areas,  a 2.0 ha  model organic farm has been established in 2008 ,within the central research farm CAZRI, Jodhpur.The farm registered for certification and got status of “Certified Organic Farm”  in the year 2011. Presently experments  on development of package of practices for high value crops , soil health monitoring and climate resilience system  are being conducted in this certified organic farm.

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Please note that this is the opinion of the author and is Not Certified by ICAR or any of its authorised agents.