End Hunger, Achieve Food Security and Improved Nutrition and Promote Sustainable Agriculture
Organic Agriculture supports and enhances ecologically sound systems of food production that can achieve food security by increasing and stabilizing yields, and improving resistance to pests and diseases. Poverty can also be addressed by applying the Organic Agriculture Principle of Fairness – which ensures farmers are paid a fair price for their produce.
The Pacific Islands region is facing a steady rise in food and diet-related health issues, such as non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Recent reports stated that diabetes prevalence among adults in the region is among the highest in the world, followed by obesity and other related diseases, like cardiovascular diseases, micronutrient deficiencies (anaemia) and hypertension. At the same time, food insecurity, under nourishment and hunger are of growing concern, as consumption of traditional foods and methods of food preparation and preservation are slowly being replaced by imported foods and more convenient alternatives.
These are often of lower nutritional value and contribute to the rise in NCDs. Increasing dependence on imported food also leaves countries more vulnerable to external shocks, including international price volatility, and sudden changes in the availability of important staples, such as rice. The number of individuals undernourished in the region reached 1.3 Million in 2011, and is anticipated to be 1.4 Million in 2016. This situation may be exacerbated under climate change scenarios, predicting more extreme weather events, such as cyclones and droughts.
In 2015, Vanuatu and PNG, for example, faced the worst droughts since 1997’s El Nino events, leading to wide-spread crop failures, food shortages and, in some cases, starvation. Organic Agriculture can build resilience into farming systems by preventing nutrient and water loss through high organic matter content and soil covers.
This makes soils more resilient to floods, droughts and land degradation processes. For example, organic farms can survive cyclone damage much better than their neighbours, retaining 20–40 per cent more topsoil, and sustaining smaller economic losses. Organic systems also improve water uptake and retention, and reduce soil erosion, helping to overcome land aridity. A 2003 study found that, during drought years, organic farms can have yields that are 20-40 per cent higher than conventional farms.
While there has been concern about the potential of Organic Agriculture to meet growing food needs, a recent Berkeley analysis has shown that “The yields of organic farms, particularly those growing multiple crops, compare well to those of chemically intensive agriculture.” Increasing productivity and incomes without harming fragile Pacific environments can best be done by increasing the knowledge of how to farm organically and, in the Pacific context, by employing traditional mixed cropping practices.
By training farmers in organic farming methods and building on local management skills and resources, we can enable farmers to grow healthy and nutritious food, improve the variety and availability of local food and build resilience into food systems. This will combat hunger and improve nutrition in their communities. An example of this can be found in the impact on food security of organic Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS). PGS is an organic certification system that emphasises farmer empowerment and capacity building. A 2014 study noted that, 78 per cent of respondents stated that their farm performs better today than prior to joining the PGS; 92 per cent claimed that they now have access to sufficient food all year, while 84 per cent believe that their families have more diverse meals now than before joining the PGS.