Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved. (IFOAM 2009)
The practice of organic farming is not only relevant for soothing the bad conscience of wealthier societies, but it plays an important role in preserving croplands from degradation that is often caused by conventional intensive methods of farming. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recognised this need and set up the Organic Agriculture Programme. Its objective is “to enhance food security, rural development,sustainable livelihoods and environmental integrity by building capacities of member countries in organic production, processing, certification and marketing“. With a still growing world population and the rising demand for food, more sensible (and thus sustainable) ways of agriculture are needed more than ever to stop damage to the world’s arable lands.
In a joint paper published last year in the European Journal of Social Sciences (Vol. 24, Issue 3) John Paull and I presented a new world map of organic agriculture that presents countries as proportional in size to their share of the total of world organic hectares (data sources are described in the paper, reference see below):
In the paper we conclude that the World Map of Organic Agriculture illustrates the great unevenness of the global uptake of organic agriculture. The map is dominated by the presence of Australia which appears especially bloated, and this reflects its world leadership position in terms of its number of organic agriculture hectares. South America has a strong presence accounted for in large measure by three countries, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. Europe collectively has a strong presence with substantial contributions from many states, and led by Spain, Italy, Germany, UK, France, and Austria. China and India dominate the Asian representation. Africa has an eviscerated presence, Russia appears anorexic, and the Middle East is emaciated, in each case reflecting the poor diffusion of organic agriculture into these regions – and perhaps the great opportunities for future organic penetration into these territories. The map presence of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) reflects their recent commitment to the adoption of organics (BFA 2009) and the newfound status of the Falkland Islands as a current world leader with 36% of its agricultural land classified as organic (Paull 2011).
These are the full bibliographical details of the paper:
- Paull, J. and Hennig, B. (2011). A World Map of Organic Agriculture. European Journal of Social Sciences 24 (3): 360-369.
Article as PDF; Journal issue online (EJSS);
High-resolution version of the map (Oxford University Archive)