Does certified organic agriculture increase agroecosystem health? Evidence from four farming systems in Uganda

Templer, N and Hauser, M and Owamani, A and Kamusingize, D and Ogwali, H and Mulumba, L and Onwonga, R and Adugna, B T and Probst, L (2018) Does certified organic agriculture increase agroecosystem health? Evidence from four farming systems in Uganda. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability (TSI), 16 (2). pp. 150-166. ISSN 1473-5903

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Over the past decades, the number of certified organic farms have increased significantly in Uganda. One assumption is that certified organic agriculture contributes to economic, social and ecological health of agroecosystems. In the literature, however, there is thin empirical evidence to support such claims. We therefore developed health indicators and contrasted data from four Ugandan farming systems with principles and objectives of organic agriculture. We identified four health patterns (ecology-driven, economically struggling, socially-driven, and hanging in) demonstrating the impact of farm management on agroecosystem health and trade-offs between health domains. Ecological farm health is strengthened only if the conversion goes beyond ‘organic by default’. Market-oriented specialization can create lock-in situations if production strategies cannot be changed easily. Food shortages occur when additional income from certified production does not compensate for the reduced area and effort devoted to food crops. We conclude that the positive effects of organic certification on agroecosystem health cannot be taken for granted. Interventions promoting organic agriculture should acknowledge risks smallholder farmers take by converting to cash crop-oriented certified organic farming. A challenging question will be how aspects of wellbeing and social health can be translated into certification standards and thus product attributes.

Item Type: Article
Divisions: Research Program : East & Southern Africa
Research Program : Innovation Systems for the Drylands (ISD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Organic agriculture, agroecosystem health, farming systems, Uganda, Social health
Subjects: Others > Soil
Others > Farming Systems
Others > African Agriculture
Depositing User: Mr Ramesh K
Date Deposited: 19 Apr 2018 06:22
Last Modified: 19 Apr 2018 06:22
Official URL:
Funders: This work was supported by Austrian Commission for Development Research; Biovision Foundation; Karl Kahane Foundation
Acknowledgement: We used first-last-author-emphasis to determine the order of authors. The other co-authors are ordered by relative contribution. We are grateful for the funding received for this research by the Austrian Commission for Development Research. The International Training Course on Organic Agriculture whose participants collected the data was supported by the Biovision Foundation and the Karl Kahane Foundation. The donors did not influence the research process at any stage.
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