Organic Agriculture entails the production methods that employ organic factors of production and adhire strictly to the principles of organic agriculture for production  and   qualify for certification.Organic agriculture is a crucial step to attaining stable human health at the level of every inhabitant on earth. It promotes foods that are biologically convertible and non-damaging to human health. Organic agriculture has its basic feature as it relies on local, renewable resources, efficient use of solar energy and the production potential of biological systems. Maintains or increase the fertility of the soil, recirculation of plant nutrients and organic matter, does not use substances foreign to nature, maintains genetic diversity in farming system and surrounding areas, gives farm animal’s life conditions that correspond to their ecological role and allows them natural behaviour.

There have been different lectures on the importance of certification during the summit, but this trainning session is aimed harmonizing all that there is to know about certification. Certification is as an accreditation exercise carried out in an organic system to ensure that all organic standards are practiced. There are three (3) levels of certification in organic agriculture:

  • Third party Certification
  • Participartory Guarantee System (PGS)
  • Self acclaimed

Self acclaimed is a type of certification where it is only the farmer, farmer’s family and trusted friends that know that he is practising organic agriculture and patronizes him/her. Third party certification is a system of certification carried out mainly for the purpose of exportation. The standards for this certification vary with each country but they all have their bases from the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement (IFOAM) standards.  This system of certification is expensive and most peasant farmers can’t afford it. Certification bodies that certify for each country have their Internal Control System (ICS) in countries where they are not present that help to ensure that organizations maintain their exportation standards.

The Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) is a form of organic certification system of regulation which is designed to ensure that organic producers comply with standards, quality of organic production and processing, prevent fraud and promote commerce.  This Certification is for producers of organic foods and other organic agricultural products. Increase in the demand and popularity for organic produce and products has led to small farmers not only selling their produce to farmers market but also sells of organic produce in the supermarkets, exportation, etc. hence there is need for certification. Certification aids in giving a unified standard for production, processing, storage, labelling and marketing system. This helps in building the trust between the consumer and buyer and protect the genuine producer from unfair competition.

PGS is a type of certification and was implemented due to the cost implication of third party certification. This is a quality assurance system that uses its own standards which has its bases from IFOAM standards and these standards are adaptive to local conditions and inputs such as: communities, geographic area, culture, market structures, methods of exhibition, etc. This involves an agreement between stakeholders in the agriculture chain (the farmer, the certification body, the researchers the middle man and the consumer); members are guided with a set of rules and common vision which is based on trust (no cheating, timely delivery, worthiness, sharing of common ideas, respect and value). However PGS is not a substitute for Internal Control System (ICS) or third party certification.


Training and equipping participants with the knowledge, skill and how participants can form domestic trade and market initiatives in organic agriculture.







1.1 The Philosophy of PGS

Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) shares the same common goal with third party certification system which is to provide a credible guarantee system for consumers of organic products, however the difference in approach is that PGS allows for participation of all stakeholders involved from the farmers to the consumers while third party certification doesn’t.


1.2.      PGS Fundamentals

VISION: A common vision brings stakeholders in PGS together for goals to be achieved.

TRUST: trust involving mutual understanding, inclusiveness and balanced share division among members

PARTICIPATION: There is a direct involvement between parties and checking on what has been agreed on before anything is being carried out.

TRANSPARENCY: Stakeholders are transparent and open in all activities carried out.

LEARNING PROCESSES among the stakeholders to understand better what is involved in achieving the set goals.

1.3. PGS Key Element

The key element in PGS is the rule of HORIZONTALITY which implies that everyone in this group is on the same level; no one is superior to the other.

1.4. Features of PGS

  • Norms and values are conceived by stakeholders
  • This has a grassroots organization.
  • It is appropriate for small farm holders
  • Documentation of inputs/activities/farm practices/profits/ income and expenses (appropriate record keeping).
  • There should be a mechanism to verify farmer’s compliance e.g unscheduled visits to the farms.
  • Mechanism for supporting farmers for instance paying upfront for farm production.
  • Farmer’s pledge; a set of rules stated out which the farmer reads and appends his/her signature to it.
  • Seal/ label
  • Clear and previously defined consequences, for instance suspension/expelsion for a defaulting partner

1.5. Groups Involved in PGS

  1. Farmer’s family
  2. Local group- the executives among a group of farmers.
  3. Regional council
  4. National certification committee for instance National Organic Agriculture of Nigeria (NOAN).

1.6 Role of Local Group in PGS

  1. This the local contact point for PGS.
  2. They coordinate the inspection of members.
  3. Local support network for members like sharing experiences and assistance.
  4. Decision making for certification.
  5. Action against fraud or non-compliance where the nature of punishment is dependent on the level of fraud.
  6. Ensures that individual farmers sign his/her pledge and it is collected and sent to the regional council.
  7. Tenders report on recent developments among the farmers periodically could be yearly.

1.7. Steps in Certification

  • Read the standards and pledge then sign.
  • Inspection among peers to ensure that practices are in accordance to standards.
  • Decision on appraisals.
  • Issuance of certificate and it is valid for one year and renewed annually.
  • Random pesticide sampling.


1.8 Feed Backs


  1. Can there be central certification system for exportation into all the country? By Mr. Musa Labaran
  2. Is there any exportation/importation standard for organic products in Nigeria? By Mr. Abara
  3. What is the difference between PGS and ICS? By Engr. Keyen Neol
  4. Can NOAN partner with ADP to train local farmers to form organic farmers group? By Mr Victor Edame
  5. How feasible is it for consumers to partake actively in PGS? By Mrs. Sadiq
  6. What is the qualification for people in peer inspection? By Engr. Keyen Neol
  7. How flexible in the horizontality that exist among stakeholders in PGS? By Engr. Keyen Neol


  1. All the organic standards are drafted from IFOAM but there are variations with respect to each country, therefore they can’t be a central certification body for all the countries. Mrs choima Okeke further explained that different certification per country is due to the specific needs of each country which may not be stated in IFOAM standard, stating that even in professional certifications different requirements are needed per country
  2. Yes there is thou it is currently under review.
  3. ICS operates under the third party certification bodies, it serves as an internal check if the organizations certified abide under the rules of third party certification, ICS doesn’t have the ability to certify for operation at any level but PGS does.
  4. Yes NOAN can that is why ADPs of participating states were invited.
  5. This is very feasible since pgs certification is mainly carried out within a locality, however it may not be all the customers that may be involved but may have representatives such as middleman.
  6. The peer inspector does not need any qualification, the peer inspector is usually one of the stakeholders used as an internal check to ensure that stakeholders adhere to the rules.
  7. Kate Kibarah of kates organics of Kenya explained this question with respect to what is obtainable in Kenya, stating that the flexibility of the horizontality of stakeholders is possible because most of the stakeholders are already members of the Kenya organic agriculture movement and they already understand what is obtainable in PGS. Therefore better knowledge of organic agricultural practices helps in easy involvement and defined boundaries.
  8. Kate kibarah suggested that if countries in west Africa come together to form a unified certification body for west Africa, exportation of organic products within in west african countries will be easy as this is obtainable in east Africa.


1.9 Conclusion

The PGS Training will assist in domestic trade in organic agriculture and bring about local network between farmers through local organic markets initiatives by training them on national and local standards. Farmer’s involvement may however increase if there is assurance of a ready market for their produce and consumers increase if they are sure they would get value for their money. Therefore increase in the awareness of the practice and benefit of organic agriculture is necessary increase stakeholders in the organic agriculture value chain in any geographical location.



BY Dr. O.O. AdeOluwa.

Organic Agriculture has various advantages over the conventional agriculture and the exponential increase in the demand for organic products therefore there are several business opportunities available to venture into in order to meet up with the demands of agricultural products and produce. Understanding the dynamics of any agricultural product in terms of best methods of production and identifying where it really needed enhances the lucrativeness of any agricultural enterprise. Meekness, credibility and years of exposure is required to sustain these businesses.

There are various business opportunities in organic agriculture among such business opportunities are;

  • Crop production
  • Animal production (domestic, aquatic and wild such as bee(honey and wax), mushroom, games, etc).
  • Handling of organic products (middle men)
  • Processing of Organic products such as use of orange peels to produce oil, cosmetics, food, drinks, clothes from organic cotton,etc.
  • Organic inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, etc.
  • Production of Machineries used in organic farms.
  • Use of crop waste in the production of oil e.g. orange peels for oil production.
  • Production of organic cosmetics.
  • Organic extension agents.
  • Organic teachers/lecturers/farmers.
  • Project/proposal development.
  • Participant in ECOWAS organic agriculture trade in West Africa.etc.
  • Organic tools and implement such as processing and storage facilities.
  • Certification and accreditation.


Feed Back


  1. How do you manage weed in a ginger farm?
  2. Can bees be raised in a house and be regarded as organic?


  1. Proper/deep tillage at the beginning of the planting season to break roots of stubborn weeds, reducing the planting distances also help: it may be difficult to weed with hoe in the first weeding but by the subsequent weeding the leaves of the ginger would have covered up and weeds would have been reduced by then.
  2. Bees may be raised in the house if the farmer can provide the bees with all its needs in it.


Some farmers shared their experiences and challenges among them were:

Mrs. ShonoiliSaidat from grenskill enterprise said that an animal nutritionist by training, when she had discovered the harm in consumption of the conventionally raised birds she decided to look for alternative situations.  She discovered that why people that buy chicken in large quantity like hotels do not patronize local chicken breeds is that they are small, take time before they are properly cooked and seasonings do not penetrate them on easily. Understanding the dynamics of the business, she decided to order for foreign organic breeds which are big and soft then compounded feed from organic sources for them with organic antibiotics and still obtain the same results as gotten from the conventional in eight weeks and she was able to sell those birds as organic birds. She also raises this birds in a semi intensive system exposing these birds to a variety of organic herbs for them to feed on. She has an organic shop and this made her meet with various farmers and consumers who are willingly to go into organic agriculture.She also suggested that an organic storage facility should be provided in the country at different locations to encourage better storage of organic farm produce and this will encourage many farmers to venture into organic agriculture as done in china.

MrsSadiq also said that she is a poultry farmer that raises local birds in a semi intensive system of agriculture. She practices preventive agriculture by using neem and bitterleaf extract as antibiotics to boost their immunity against disease outbreak and ginger to keep them warm.

Mr. Oladopo hatches day old chicks organically and says that he sells those chicks for about three hundred naira each. He also practices semi intensive agriculture, though sometimes they may be attacked by hawk but someone must always be around to check them. He uses Fulani cock to mate the hen as they have the ability to mate many bird.

The major challenge perculiar to them is insufficient sources organic feed ingredients and antibiotics  as lack of organic herbicides do not make more farmers want to go into the production of maize, soyabeans, ginger etc.

NOABS2017 PRESENTATION – How to go Organic



1.0 What is Organic Agriculture?

According to the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement (IFOAM) Organic Agriculture (OA) is defined as a holistic production management system which enhancesagro ecosystem health utilizing both traditional and scientific knowledge. It is a system that relies more on available inputs. Organic agriculture is usually misunderstood to be natural/traditional farming but OA is more than that because it does not only relies on local inputs but also relies on scientific knowledge implying that innovation and external inputs is allowed.

Organic Agriculture has standards and they are various rudiments of organic agriculture for crop and livestock production. There is a manual on standards of organic agriculture production which was reviewed four years ago and will be reviewed again next year.Organic agriculture must be gotten right from the start to avoid use of preventive methods; ignorance in organic agriculture is not an excuse. Summary of items on this manual were discussed.


Organic Agriculture is premised on four principles:

  • Principle of Health
  • Principle of Ecology
  • Principle of Fairness and
  • Principle of Care.

These principles are the foundation of any organic agriculture practise.

2.1 Principle of Health: These principle point out to the fact that health of individuals and communities cannot be sepreted from the health of the ecosystem: Healthy soils produce healthy crops for healthy humans and health. In Nigeria this is the sellling point of organic agriculture because organic foods contains more antioxidants which deetoxifies the body. Organic agriculture aims at producing high quality food that contribute to nutritive health and well being, in view of this it should avoid the use of synthetic fertilizer, pesticides, food additives that may have adverse effect on health.

2.2 Principle of Ecology: Organic agriculture must be ecology friendly. Production should be based on recycling, that is most of our fertilizers used should be products of recycling/natural processes. OA should attain ecological balance via design of farm, establishment of habitat and maintainance of genetic and agricultural biodiversity.agricultural practises should not dwell only on adoption of recommendations but must adapt based on the ability of any ecosystem. For instance in switzerland importation of organic products into the country must be shipped not air-lifted because when air lifted it is believed to contain more Co2 gas which may lead to further depletion of the ozone layer.

2.3 Principle of Fairness: This ensures fairness at all levels of production for all the stakeholders in the value chain from producer to consumer. For intance goods are bought/sold at fair prices with no cheating.

2.4 Principle of Care: organic agriculture practises preventive agriculture rather than responsive agriculture,implying that extreme care must be considered. Preventive is the key concern in management and technology choice in OA. Organic agriculture should prevent significant risk by adopting and adapting appropriate technology and rejecting unpredictable ones especially genetic enjineering. Any product one cannot trace the source should not be used.


 3.0Crop Production

3.1. Land

Land that has been fallowed for at least three years is recommended for organic agriculture production but if the land is still in cultivation with in organic inputs, then it must be cultivated with natural inputs for at least three years for conversion to an organic farm. During the three years of conversion the produce gotten from such farms is regarded as natural produce. This principle on land is applicable to both arable and plantation crops, but if it is a virgin land there is no need for the conversion period.

3.2. Buffer Zone.

A buffer zone must be set of about forty meters (40m) radius round your farm to avoid contaminations/pollution of inorganic inputs from neighbouring farms except the farmer is surrounded by organic farmers.Cultivation of crops must not be carried out within the 40m radius thou if carried out cannot be regarded as organic produce. This gives the differencebetween an ecological farm, a home garden and an organic farm. It is advisable for organic farmers to buy land together to reduce the amount of land used as buffer zone compared to when it is an individual farm.

3.3 Land clearing: land clearing should be done manually or with machineries that have been used in cultivating organic farm only. Bush burning is not allowed because of its adverse effect on the soil ecosystem through the loss of soil microrganisms and rapid volatilization of nutrients. Organic agriculture encourages maintenance/sustenance of soil inherent properties than use of input for maintenance.

3.4. Seed Sources

Seeds used for organic agriculture must not be gotten from Genetically Modified Plant or any other inorganic sources. However seeds gotten from inorganic sources (except GMO sources) can be cultivated naturally for at least three(3) years before it can be regarded as an organic seed, implying that by this type the influence of inorganic inputs on the seeds would be no more.

Locally untreated seeds can also be cultivated for a while and then used as an organic source for seed.

There are natural ways of cleansing treated seeds and turning it organic:

  • Soaking seeds in warm water for about thirty minutes then rinse seeds with water.
  • If it’s a plant that can be raised in a nursery, choose the nursery to be on trays or pots where the soils can easily be discarded before it is transplanted into the field.

Wood ash can be used to treat the seeds organically against fungicide.

3.5 Manure

The source of farm manure must be from organic farms. Fertilizers should not be applied from fourteen days before the harvesting date. Fresh poultry manure must not be used as a source of manure except it is used as one of the materials for composting. Poultry manure should always be used when it is cured. Human/pig/dog/cat droppings cannot be used as an organic source of manure because they have a complex digestive system and if inorganic substances were consumed it may take a very long time for it to be broken down/digested, therefore it is advised for it to be totally avoided.


3.6 Pesticides and Herbicides

Local adaptive methods are used to control pesticides, there are organic pesticides such                neem plant where extracts from parts of these plants are used as pesticides:Neem leaves/tree back are soaked in cold water for days such the active ingredients in the leaves/ tree back are extracted into the water (1 kg of plant part to 10 litres of water) or the leaves/tree back can be put into boiling water and cooked for thirty minutes then the extract is used as pesticides. The extract is more effective if grinded dry chilli pepper is added to it. However neem seed oil is more efficient than the other part because it contains higher concentration of the active ingredient at 10ml to 1 litre of water. There are no organic herbicides in the country but proper management practices can be used such as intensive tillage to remove roots of stubborn weed before planting, hoe/hand weeding, use of weeding machines such as weed slashers, cover cropping, inter cropping, increased planting density for crops that can tolerate that, use of plstic mulch, etc. it should be noted that implements used in an organic farm cannot be used in an organic farm.

4.0. Organic Livestock Production

The major constraint of organic livestock production is that most sources of antibiotics, vaccines and feed are from inorganic source. In organic poultry production extracts of moringa leaf, bitter leaf, aloe Vera and marigold are used as sources of antibiotics and there are also other indigenous knowledge of poultry vaccines. Due to the physiology of birds, for optimum and organic production management systems must allow for free movement of birds to stroll and fly. Farmers can raise feed ingredient organically. The use of methionine and mycine as a source of fish feed serves as a constraint to organic aquaculture as there are no substitute organic inputs discovered.

Rearing/cultivation of organic honey bee entails keeping a buffer zone of about three kilometers (3km) radius around where the bee hives are kept so that when the bees go to get their food is still within the organic field.



4.1. Ranch Management

The ranch in which animals graze or their feed is gotten from must be organically managed from sources of planting material to harvest to ensure a complete organic animal production. Varieties must be used

5.0. What Makes a Farm Organic?

A farm is considered organic after taking into consideration all that is discussed above and also acquiring a certification for identification and trust of the produce gotten by the consumer. Therefore what makes any product/produce organic is standards/certification and when this is gotten right there are labels attached to this product for easy identification. Certification of an organic farm comes in three (3) levels:

  • Individual certification
  • Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) certification and
  • Third party certification

Individual certification entails being recommended by people as an organic practioner, it could be neighbors/people in the same community or locality, friends, acquaintances, etc.

PGS is a form of certification in which there is an agreement between all the stakeholders in the agriculture chain (the farmer, the certification body, the researchers the middle man and the consumer) who are bonded by rules and common vision. PGS helps in improving the farmer’s production capacity, advocacy, marketing and certification/standardization.  An example of PGS certification group in Nigeria is National Association of Organic Practitioners (NOAN) which has been in operation since 2009 has her head office in Ibadan and has the capacity to operate throughout the country. PGS also makes third party certification easy for the farmer. The third party certification certifies farm produce for exportation purposes.

6.0 Feed Back


  1. How do NOAN ascertain the quality of a flowing water used in organic farm? Mrs. Udonyah
  2. What if a farmer has issue with his source of water and goes for an alternative which is contaminated, how does NOAN identify that?By MfonOnunkak
  3. Could brewery waste be used for fertilizer seeing that it has been synthetically processed? By Mr. Abara
  4. How long can poultry manure be kept to cure before used as fertilizer? By Victor Edame
  5. Is organic certification different from NAFDAC and SON certification? By MrBakare
  6. What if a farmer has fence round the farm, is the buffer zone still necessary? By MrBakare
  7. Composting human waste and sawdust obtainable in organic agriculture? By Mr. Abara
  8. Neem seed oil, are there methods of extracting it locally?


  1. The water is analysed from time to time during inspection, however flowing water is preferable to be used in organic agriculture than stagnant water.
  2. The farmer must always show the certification body its alternate source of water, however if emergency cases comes up the farmer must be careful on his alternate sources of water because if discovered during inspection, his/her certificate will be withdrawn. Ignorance is not an excuse.
  3. Brewery waste is seen to be an effective organic fertilizer source when composted, because the process of composting helps to break down pathogenic and synthetic contaminations. However, any fertilizer that has nitrogen content more than 5% cannot be used as an organic fertilizer.
  4. Poultry manure should be kept to cure for eight weeks or composted before using it. Fresh poultry manure if applied immediately releases more nitrogen but decreases the storability of such product due to excess No2.
  5. Organic certification is different from NAFDAC or SON certification because these institutions are more concerned about hygiene certification than health or ecosystem sustainability, there are products imported into the country with NAFDAC number that are not health conducive for consumption. National organic standards are higher because when this standards were drafted the SON and NAFDAC were represented and part of their standards are included in the organic standards.
  6. If the fences are high then it may be permitted because the essence of the buffer zone is to avoid pollution with inorganic inputs by any form of erosion.
  7. Human, dog and pig waste is not allowed in organic agriculture because the metabolism of their digestive system does not allow for easy breakdown of chemical contaminants even after three months.



  • Victor Edame defined organic agriculture as the non-use of organic fertilizer
  • Organic agriculture ensures the safety and health of soil, plants, humans and animals – Mrs. Benedict.
  • Sadiq defined organic agriculture simply as a form of agriculture that uses non synthetic inputs.
  • Abara suggested that NOAN should make a list of all inputs that are seen as organic and make them available to members to avoid members defaulting the standards.
  • Mrs suggested that neem extracted can also be used to soak planting materials such as cassava stems to prevent termite attack when planted.
  • Mrs Benedict said that neem oil can be extracted locally, farmers blend them, cook them till the oil settles on the top of the water, the oil is then extracted and dehydrated of water. Then the oil is fit for use.




Ignorance in organic agriculture is not an excuse therefore good knowledge to organic agricultural practices is required for sustainable agriculture by enhancing livelihoods, income, export and foreign exchange earnings and reduced rural-urban migration. Any farmer going into organic production must have a ready market already for his/ her produce. The use of only organic approved methodologies must be used for handling and production in an organic farm.

Going Organic in East Africa


Organic farm and climate change

Organic Agriculture and Climate Change

Organic Agriculture and Climate Change
As global temperatures rise and weather patterns become more erratic, the intersection between climate change and agriculture is crucial to understanding the role agriculture plays in contributing to and mitigating global warming. Carbon sequestration, lower-input of fossil fuel dependant resources, and use of renewable energy all present opportunities for organic agriculture to lead the way in reducing energy consumption and mitigating the negative affects of energy emissions. Organic agriculture provides management practices that can help farmers adapt to climate change through strengthening agro-ecosystems, diversifying crop and livestock production, and building farmers’ knowledge base to best prevent and confront changes in climate.


Read more

clearing the ground for organic farming

Introduction to Organic Farming

Defining “Organic”

Organic farming is a method of crop and livestock production that involves much more than choosing not to use pesticides, fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics and growth hormones.

Organic production is a holistic system designed to optimize the productivity and fitness of diverse communities within the agro-ecosystem, including soil organisms, plants, livestock and people. The principal goal of organic production is to develop enterprises that are sustainable and harmonious with the environment.

The general principles of organic production, from the Canadian Organic Standards (2006), include the following:

  • protect the environment, minimize soil degradation and erosion, decrease pollution, optimize biological productivity and promote a sound state of health
  • maintain long-term soil fertility by optimizing conditions for biological activity within the soil
  • maintain biological diversity within the system
  • recycle materials and resources to the greatest extent possible within the enterprise
  • provide attentive care that promotes the health and meets the behavioural needs of livestock
  • prepare organic products, emphasizing careful processing, and handling methods in order to maintain the organic integrity and vital qualities of the products at all stages of production
  • rely on renewable resources in locally organized agricultural systems

Organic farming promotes the use of crop rotations and cover crops, and encourages balanced host/predator relationships. Organic residues and nutrients produced on the farm are recycled back to the soil. Cover crops and composted manure are used to maintain soil organic matter and fertility. Preventative insect and disease control methods are practiced, including crop rotation, improved genetics and resistant varieties. Integrated pest and weed management, and soil conservation systems are valuable tools on an organic farm. Organically approved pesticides include “natural” or other pest management products included in the Permitted Substances List (PSL) of the organic standards. The Permitted Substances List identifies substances permitted for use as a pesticides in organic agriculture. All grains, forages and protein supplements fed to livestock must be organically grown.

Read more

organic-food - Vegetables

Organic Agriculture and You

While neither there is nor formal or universal definition for organic farming, it can be defined as a production system that sustains the health of the soils, ecosystems biodiversity and people. It relies on ecological process and nutrients cycle adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of external inputs with adverse effects. Organic agriculture combines traditional knowledge, innovation and modern science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement (IFOAM, 2004)

It is also a system of production which do not use synthetic fertilizers, man-made pesticides, herbicides, growth regulators, antibiotics, hormone stimulants and/or livestock feed additives to grow crops and raise animals.


Read more

Evironmental Benefits of Organic Agriculture

Sustainability over the long term. Many changes observed in the environment are long term, occurring slowly over time. Organic agriculture considers the medium- and long-term effect of agricultural interventions on the agro-ecosystem. It aims to produce food while establishing an ecological balance to prevent soil fertility or pest problems. Organic agriculture takes a proactive approach as opposed to treating problems after they emerge.
Soil. Soil building practices such as crop rotations, inter-cropping, symbiotic associations, cover crops, organic fertilizers and minimum tillage are central to organic practices. These encourage soil fauna and flora, improving soil formation and structure and creating more stable systems. In turn, nutrient and energy cycling is increased and the retentive abilities of the soil for nutrients and water are enhanced, compensating for the non-use of mineral fertilizers. Such management techniques also play an important role in soil erosion control. The length of time that the soil is exposed to erosive forces is decreased, soil biodiversity is increased, and nutrient losses are reduced, helping to maintain and enhance soil productivity. Crop export of nutrients is usually compensated by farm-derived renewable resources but it is sometimes necessary to supplement organic soils with potassium, phosphate, calcium, magnesium and trace elements from external sources.
Water. In many agriculture areas, pollution of groundwater courses with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides is a major problem. As the use of these is prohibited in organic agriculture, they are replaced by organic fertilizers (e.g. compost, animal manure, green manure) and through the use of greater biodiversity (in terms of species cultivated and permanent vegetation), enhancing soil structure and water infiltration. Well managed organic systems with better nutrient retentive abilities, greatly reduce the risk of groundwater pollution. In some areas where pollution is a real problem, conversion to organic agriculture is highly encouraged as a restorative measure (e.g. by the Governments of France and Germany).
Air and climate change. Organic agriculture reduces non-renewable energy use by decreasing agrochemical needs (these require high quantities of fossil fuel to be produced). Organic agriculture contributes to mitigating the greenhouse effect and global warming through its ability to sequester carbon in the soil. Many management practices used by organic agriculture (e.g. minimum tillage, returning crop residues to the soil, the use of cover crops and rotations, and the greater integration of nitrogen-fixing legumes), increase the return of carbon to the soil, raising productivity and favouring carbon storage. A number of studies revealed that soil organic carbon contents under organic farming are considerably higher. The more organic carbon is retained in the soil, the more the mitigation potential of agriculture against climate change is higher.  However, there is much research needed in this field, yet. There is a lack of data on soil organic carbon for developing countries, with no farm system comparison data from Africa and Latin America, and only limited data on soil organic carbon stocks, which is crucial for determining carbon sequestration rates for farming practices.
Biodiversity. Organic farmers are both custodians and users of biodiversity at all levels. At the gene level, traditional and adapted seeds and breeds are preferred for their greater resistance to diseases and their resilience to climatic stress. At the species level, diverse combinations of plants and animals optimize nutrient and energy cycling for agricultural production. At the ecosystem level, the maintenance of natural areas within and around organic fields and absence of chemical inputs create suitable habitats for wildlife. The frequent use of under-utilized species (often as rotation crops to build soil fertility) reduces erosion of agro-biodiversity, creating a healthier gene pool – the basis for future adaptation. The provision of structures providing food and shelter, and the lack of pesticide use, attract new or re-colonizing species to the organic area (both permanent and migratory), including wild flora and fauna (e.g. birds) and organisms beneficial to the organic system such as pollinators and pest predators. The number of studies on organic farming and biodiversity increased significantly within the last years. A recent study reporting on a meta-analysis of 766 scientific papers concluded that organic farming produces more biodiversity than other farming systems.

Genetically modified organisms. The use of GMOs within organic systems is not permitted during any stage of organic food production, processing or handling. As the potential impact of GMOs to both the environment and health is not entirely understood, organic agriculture is taking the precautionary approach and choosing to encourage natural biodiversity. The organic label therefore provides an assurance that GMOs have not been used intentionally in the production and processing of the organic products. This is something which cannot be guaranteed in conventional products as labelling the presence of GMOs in food products has not yet come into force in most countries. However, with increasing GMO use in conventional agriculture and due to the method of transmission of GMOs in the environment (e.g. through pollen), organic agriculture will not be able to ensure that organic products are completely GMO free in the future. A detailed discussion on GMOs can be found in the FAO publication “Genetically Modified Organisms, Consumers, Food Safety and the Environment“.

Ecological services. The impact of organic agriculture on natural resources favours interactions within the agro-ecosystem that are vital for both agricultural production and nature conservation. Ecological services derived include soil forming and conditioning, soil stabilization, waste recycling, carbon sequestration, nutrients cycling, predation, pollination and habitats. By opting for organic products, the consumer through his/her purchasing power promotes a less polluting agricultural system. The hidden costs of agriculture to the environment in terms of natural resource degradation are reduced.

A critical review of the relationships between organic agriculture and the environment as well as other aspects is provided by IFOAM and is presented under the shape of a list of criticisms and frequent misconceptions about organic agriculture with corresponding counter-arguments.

Source: FAO