Potential of Organic Farming Practices as a Rural Development Tool – A Case Study on Vegetable Farmers in Southern Sri Lanka
Organic farming system promotes natural chemical and biological cycles that improve soil fertility and maintains an ecological balance. Sri Lanka is a developing country which focuses on increasing crop productivity. Many non-governmental organizations promote organic agriculture especially in remote areas as an economic development tool. Objective of this study was to examine the potential of organic agriculture practices as a rural economic development tool. Sixty five people who had participated to organic agriculture projects for over two years in the Weeraketiya area of Hambantota district were selected based on stratified random sampling. Data analysis was conducted through SPSS package, and tabular analysis, and frequencies are presented. The farmers had adopted organic techniques such as incorporate compost, cattle and poultry manure to their lands, use of live fences, soil bunds to improve soil fertility. They also practiced crop covering to reduce the damage of cucurbit fly. Over 60% of the population mentioned that organic farming is labor intensive and yields less. There was 50% of the population using pest repellent plants in their home gardens. Even though they produce vegetables organically, there was no excess value for organic products. It was observed that there were very little niche markets for organic leafy vegetables around Colombo. Opportunities seem remote for expanded markets for exports of organic vegetables. Productivity of organic cultivation (Grains, Potato, and vegetables) was less compared to traditional cultivation. Ultimately Farmers revolved within the vicious cycle of poverty continuously due to low income for their products. Though organic farming provides enormous environmental benefits, it was not sufficient to fulfil the demand. Combination of organic techniques in to conventional farms was good to improve their lands and productivity. Organic vegetable farming was not a viable practice as an economic development tool to uplift the farmers’ economy in developing countries. In the absence of market infrastructure assuring a premium for organic farming, it could act as a poverty trap for developing countries.