Background and rationale of the conference
In tropical countries there exists an enormous divide between industrial high input models of agriculture and smallholder farming systems that are often subsistence farming. While smallholder farmers often grow crops without external inputs, this does not automatically imply that they work along the principles of organic farming, and they are often confronted with serious problems of soil degradation. In the case of crops with high added value, notably vegetables, also smallholder farmers use excessive amounts of external chemical inputs which also lead to a reduction in soil quality in the long term. During the last years, increasingly initiatives of organic farming are developing in tropical countries, which often come as a reaction against problems of soil degradation, pollution of waters by leaching of pesticides and nutrients, or direct health impacts of pesticides on farmers, resulting from inappropriate (conventional) farming techniques.
In western industrialized agriculture yield levels in organic farming are on average 20-30% below yield levels in high input conventional farming, but this is not necessarily true in the tropics. There are well documented cases of higher production levels in organic farming than in conventional farming, one notable example being paddy rice. The fact that there is not necessarily a yield gap opens up enormous possibilities for organic farming in tropical countries. While organic farming has become an important way of agricultural production in industrialized countries over the past 2-3 decades, with e.g. a market for organic products in the EU-28 valued at EUR 22.7 billion in 2012, it is still in its infancy in tropical countries.
There is an urgent need for more research, both fundamental and applied, on organic farming practices in the tropics, and for a better dissemination of existing knowledge towards the practitioners in the field. Organic farming in the tropics presents a number of specific challenges that justify a dedicated conference. The aim of this conference is therefore to bring together scientists, policy makers and practitioners active in organic farming to present the latest research developments, and discuss how new and existing knowledge can be implemented in an efficient manner in order to foster further development of organic farming.
Why a conference in Indonesia?
Indonesia is a country where many crops are grown by default without external inputs, and hence where the step to true organic farming is often small. Moreover, there are numerous initiatives of organic farming in crops that are traditionally grown in a conventional manner (rice, vegetables). The Indonesian government is very supportive towards organic farming, including support for marketing and acquiring certification. Over the last 10 years, the Indonesian Soil Research Institute (ISRI) in Bogor, the Gajah Mada University in Yogyakarta and Ghent university (Belgium) have collaborated intensively in research on organic rice and vegetable farming in West and Central Java, and the organisation of this conference is a logical outcome of this collaboration. This collaboration was financially supported by the Belgian Development Cooperation through a VLIR-UOS (the Flemish Interuniversity Council-Development Cooperation) funded project.
Who is organizing the conference?
The conference is organized by 4 Indonesian universities and research institutes, namely Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM) in Yogyakarta, Indonesian Soil Research Institute (ISRI) in Bogor, Universitas Sebelas Maret (UNS) in Solo, and Universitas Pembangunan Nasional (UPN) in Yogyakarta, in collaboration with Ghent University (UGent), Belgium. It is co-organised by ISOFAR, the International Society of Organic Agriculture Research.