The winners of the 2017 Organic Farming Innovation Awards (OFIA) were announced on 10 November 2017, at an awards ceremony during the Organic World Congress (OWC) in New Delhi, India.
The OFIA awards are designed to recognise and celebrate organic innovations by scientists, extension agents, and practitioners around the world.
An Alternative to Slash-and-Burn in the Rainforest
Slash and burn is a subsistence farming method used by millions of families in the tropics. Families cut down and burn a patch of forest in order to create an area of fertile soil on which they can grow their food. However, the bare soil is rapidly stripped of nutrients, so although slash and burn generally gives a good crop for the first year, by the third year crops often fail completely. This forces family who depend on slash and burn to keep clearing fresh areas of rainforest every few years.
The Inga Foundation helps to spread the revolutionary agricultural system of Inga alley cropping which Mr. Hands developed after years of scientific research into slash and burn farming. This system uses Alley cropping using nitrogen-fixing tree species from the Inga genus. Inga Alley Cropping is capable of maintaining soil fertility and good harvests year after year, thereby breaking the cycle of slash and burn and allowing families to gain long-term food security on one piece of land.
Through the Inga Foundation, Mr. Hands is now working closely with local communities to implement this new and sustainable alternative to slash and burn, growing crops like plantain, cucurma, and black pepper.
Using Cover Crops to Suppress Weeds in Organic Farms
The OFIA Science Prize (5000 US$) was awarded to Dr. Hiroshi Uchino from the Tohoku Agricultural Research Center, for his work on the use of cover crops for weed suppression.
Weed damage is one of the most serious causes of significant crop yield loss in organic farming. The use of cover crops is one method used to prevent weed damage, but sometimes cover crops damage main crop growth as well as weed growth.
Dr. Uchino conducted field studies for 10 years with soybean, maize, and potato to achieve stable weed suppression in organic farming. This included carefully studying the impact of vegetation cover ratio and seed weight, sowing dates and inter-seeding.
The research team has developed a non- agrochemical forage soybean production system using the cover crop technique. This production system is now being disseminated to forage production farmers in the Tohoku region, and the findings will help for organic farmers to use cover crops for weed suppression based on scientific knowledge not only in Japan but also in other countries.
Once every three years, at the OWC, IFOAM – Organics International and the Rural Development Administration (RDA) award great organic innovations and their discoverers to boost their uptake and to motivate other stakeholders to push innovation forward for the benefit of organic farming.
The next OFIA will be held in 2020. IFOAM – Organics International will publish a call for applications for the OFIA 2020 in 2019.