Organic farming is an integrated method of farming that strives for sustainable production in agriculture, enhancement of soil fertility and biological diversity while prohibiting, with rare exceptions, synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, genetically modified foods and growth hormones.
The key characteristics of organic farming include the following: protecting long-term fertility of soils by maintaining organic matter levels, minimum mechanical operations on soil and encouraging soil biological activity; providing crop nutrients using relatively insoluble nutrients by action of soil micro-organisms; ensuring nitrogen soil self-sufficiency by growing legumes, biological nitrogen fixation and effective recycling of organic materials like manures; and a holistic management of livestock through addressing their natural adaptations, behavioural needs and animal welfare in relation to their nutrition, housing, health and breeding among others.
The other key characteristics of organic farming include weed, disease and pest control using natural means such as crop rotations, diversity, natural predators and resistant varieties as well as paying attention to the impact of farming on the environment, wildlife and natural habitats. Food that is produced from such farming systems is organic.
Organic farming is made necessary by the fact that the era of “Green Revolution”, which saw the intensification of agricultural production through high yield inputs and fertilizers to meet world food security has resulted in contamination of produce with chemicals injurious to health, negative effects on soil fertility and environmental and habitat pollution. In short, modern conventional farming as opposed to organic farming is based on fossil fuels and other non-renewable resources, meaning it is not sustainable.
Potential, Benefits and Rationale for Organic Farming in Kenya
Currently, the organic food produced for the export and domestic markets totals at least five million tonnes annually. There are at least 250,000 consumers of organic produce comprising of local citizens and tourists mainly in Nairobi. The organic food consumers have been identified as such from being regular customers at the organic markets and outlets.