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The sustainability of organic agriculture in developing countries: lessons from China

Sanders, R. and Xiao, X. (2010) The sustainability of organic agriculture in developing countries: lessons from China. Paper presented to: Sixth International Conference on Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, University of Cuenca, Cuenca, Ecuador, 05-07 January 2010. (Unpublished)

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Abstract: Concern over food shortages in recent years has made questions over whether organic agriculture can provide the basis for sustainable agriculture in developing countries ever more urgent. In China, organic agriculture - almost completely abandoned as a result of Maoist grain monoculture and Green Revolution technologies by the 1970's - is making a comeback, with the Organic Food Development Centre, China's principal organic certifier, winning full accreditation from the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements in 2003 and organic food being produced in China in increasing amounts, albeit from a low base, for sale in both domestic and overseas markets. But organic conversion for China's overwhelmingly poor farmers, as for poor farmers everywhere, is extremely problematic. Not only are there risks of lower yields in the first few years, ignorance of organic techniques, problems of obtaining sufficient organic fertiliser, back-breaking weeding, problems of handling the bureaucratic requirements as well as the monetary costs of certification and finding markets, but owing to the very small size of Chinese farms, farmers need to undertake organic conversion cooperatively. Promoting the necessary conditions for organic agriculture is therefore not easy, particularly in poor, out-of-the-way rural areas. However, the decision by China's largest and most important state liquor company -Maotai- to source its ingredients, primarily sorghum and wheat, from organic sources has led to the largest concentration of organic farmers in China - in rural Guizhou, one of poorest parts of China -providing farmers with the necessary security to undertake organic conversion with enthusiasm. My paper will present my research findings, based on visits to Maotai, Guizhou, in 2007 and 2009 and will point to possible lessons for other developing countries who wish to make organic conversion feasible and organic agriculture sustainable over time
Uncontrolled Keywords: Sustainable agriculture, organic agriculture, China, developing countries
Subjects: S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General) > S605.5 Organic farming. Organiculture
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions > HC79.E5 Environmental economics
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions > HC94 By region or country > HC427.95 China
Creators: Sanders, Richard and Xiao, Xingji
Faculties, Divisions and Institutes: University Faculties, Divisions and Research Centres - OLD > Faculty of Business & Law > Business and International Management (to 2010)
University Faculties, Divisions and Research Centres - OLD > Research Centre > China and Emerging Economies Centre
Faculties > Faculty of Business & Law > International Strategy & Business
Date: 6 January 2010
Date Type: Presentation
Event Title: Sixth International Conference on Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability
Event Dates: 05-07 January 2010
Event Location: University of Cuenca, Cuenca, Ecuador
Event Type: Conference
Language: English
Status: Unpublished
URI: http://nectar.northampton.ac.uk/id/eprint/2950

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