Many people are aware of the fact that organic food means you can avoid pesticides and GMOs, and is better for the soil. But organic agriculture can also be a part of the solution to other global issues – such as climate change and food security. In this article, we look at how organic can contribute to eliminating food insecurity.

What is Food Security?

The World Health Organization has defined food security as “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.”

The UN Sustainable Development Goal 2 is to “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.”

Goal 2 seeks sustainable solutions to end hunger in all its forms by 2030 and to achieve food security. The aim is to ensure that everyone everywhere has enough good-quality food to lead a healthy life. Achieving this Goal will require better access to food and the widespread promotion of sustainable agriculture. This entails improving the productivity and incomes of small-scale farmers by promoting equal access to land, technology and markets, sustainable food production systems and resilient agricultural practices. It also requires increased investments through international cooperation to bolster the productive capacity of agriculture in developing countries.

About 800 million people are hungry and another two billion people suffer from life-threatening disease related to under-nutrition and contamination from pesticides. At the same time, 1.9 billion people are overweight, and nearly half of our global food supply is wasted.

This situation has not developed in a vacuum. Our food security campaign challenges the policies that have led to this crisis: the policies that subsidize industrial food and agriculture systems.

Combating Pests, Disease and Desertification

Many parts of the world are experiencing a decline in yields despite the increased use of chemical inputs. In contrast, organic agriculture has proven to be effective in increasing and stabilizing yields, particularly in marginal lands. This means it is a system that empowers farmers to restore and uphold food security.

In addition, “green revolution” agriculture often makes wasteful use of water, destroying soils and leaving the land unsuitable for food production. Organic agriculture can combat desertification by decreasing erosion and improving water uptake and retention.

Organic agriculture also helps to increase resistance to pests and diseases, which is crucial to building food security. Recent analysis suggests that organic farming offers a way to reduce the use of synthetic pesticides for the management of animal pests and pathogens without increasing their levels of infestation.

Empowering and Feeding Communities

Organic agriculture provides farmers with a premium return on investment. It is also a low-input farming system. This means that farmers do not have to invest heavily in chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which often pushes farmers into debt and generates a vicious cycle from which it is hard to break free. By increasing returns on the labor farmers invest in their farms – and reducing the cost of inputs – organic agriculture can help to battle poverty.

Building on local management skills and resources and enabling local communities of farmers, fisherfolk and pastoralists to be food self-sufficient and combat poverty. Providing diversified, healthy and nutritious food for farming families and communities.

Because organic agriculture is a viable option for family farms and smallholders, it supports food sovereignty, and therefore food security.

Advocating for Policy Change

At IFOAM – Organics International, we advocate for the inclusion of organic agriculture in national governments’ policies on addressing food security and poverty.

To increase the use of organic agriculture as a tool for food security, we call on:

  • Governments around the world to provide focused support and appropriate policies, including local market promotion for organic products by raising consumer awareness about nutritional benefits.
  • Donors and major development agencies, particularly the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to support and help accelerate the uptake of organic agriculture and other agroecological systems as they are crucial to ensuring healthy food for all in the 21st century.
  • Research and extension institutions to focus their work on agroecology and organic agriculture and to develop long-term solutions and promote and exchange successful techniques amongst farmers and technicians.

We have developed a Global Policy Toolkit on Public Support to Organic Agriculture, which includes policy guidelines, a decision-aid to guide readers to the most relevant policy measures based on their country’s situation, policy summaries and tip for organic advocates on how to raise political awareness of the need to support organic agriculture.

Putting Organic and Food Security on the Agenda

In 2004, Tunisia developed its first national organic action plan with funding support from FAO. This plan, implemented from 2005 to 2009, was rooted in the country’s broader Economic and Social Development Plan. After a review of the sector situation at the end of the first action plan implementation, a second national organic action plan (2010-2014) followed. Again, this plan was linked to the broader Economic and Social Development Plan for that period.

In particular, it referred to objectives related to food security, increasing exports of agri-food products and conserving natural resources. To achieve those objectives, increasing organic production volumes, diversity, quality and value addition was the particular focus of the organic plan. The action plan had clear annual targets such as areas under organic management.

The plan was backed up by a series of support measures including budget allocations to organic institutions, subsidies for operators and investors, and governmental projects.

To see a summary of the role organic agriculture can play in food security in a handy factsheet:

download the Policy Toolkit
download our PDF ‘Organic Agriculture & Food Security’